Knowing your product is one thing.
When to use that knowledge is another.
Editor’s note: This is the second of a three-part series.
This month we look at how to apply product knowledge on the sales floor.
For obvious reasons the foundational element and focus of sales training for most consumer products is the product itself.Sales associates can’t intelligently speak about products they don’t know and understand, much less sell them effectively.That’s especially true of mattress sales. More so than any other home furnishings products, selling mattresses requires a superior command of product knowledge, which includes not only the specifications, but also the features and benefits, with benefits being the most important to shoppers.
Knowing product knowledge is one thing, using it effectively is another. Knowing is a state of being (remembering information); applying it means actively using that knowledge in a beneficial manner. Mastering product knowledge should not be intimidating to your sales associates. It’s actually a skill that can easily be learned and put into action through training.
This article will give you some great ideas on how your sales associates can become more proficient in that worthy endeavor of effectively serving shoppers, thereby turning them into satisfied customers.
A great analogy is to think of product knowledge as tools to a mechanic. While one may possess the proper tool for every situation, knowing how to assess the problem, which tool to use and how to use it is the challenge. It is the same with product knowledge and selling skills; each is dependent on the other so there needs to be a balance.
Top mattress sales professionals assimilate a huge database of information from which to draw upon. But like a surgeon, they intuitively learn when and skillfully know how to apply that knowledge.
What’s the point?
First, the main benefit of supreme command of product knowledge is that it provides the foundation for the competence that instills confidence and trust from shoppers.
The main purpose is for sales associates to impart pertinent information to shoppers which will help them make the all-important decision to invest in quality products for their benefit.
One of the best uses of product knowledge is to overcome objections by adding value rather than stepping down in quality and price.
Most mattress shoppers want some justification for spending their dollars. They want to be able to compare models within your store as well as models they have seen elsewhere. I’m sure you can understand the confusion shoppers have when they see some mattress sets at $399 and others at more than 10 times that amount when they don’t look that much different.
Being able to explain the differences in a manner the shopper understands dramatically increases the odds of making sales.
Here are a few suggestions using do’s and don’ts. This is an effective list because the don’ts are common mistakes frequently made by under-equipped sales associates.
DO use follow up questions
If a shopper asks about the coil count in a mattress they are looking at, by all means answer the question, but follow up with: “Do you know how many coils your current mattress has? What coil count have you seen elsewhere? What’s important to you about coil count?”
DON’T overuse knowledge
Once someone has strong command of product knowledge, there’s a tendency to want to flaunt it. Have it at your disposal, but use only as needed. Imagine, someone comes over for dinner and says they like the dish you prepared. You then stop them from enjoying it to read the recipe you used to make it. Silly, I know, but that’s the equivalent of what sales associates do who may be armed with product knowledge, but lacking in the knowledge of how to apply it.
DO focus on benefits
It’s not what the mattress is made of that’s important to people; it’s what it does for them.
Example: There is an anecdote about a little old lady who wanted to buy a space heater. After the salesman describes every detail, he asks: “Do you have any questions?” She replies: “I just wanted to know if it would it keep me warm?”
DON’T use difficult language
Lots of companies have a copyright on terms they use for proprietary materials or features. If you use these terms, be sure to explain what they mean. Do the same if you use a generic industry word like helical. If you don’t, your shopper might be wondering what a helical is and not listening to you as you move on to your next point.
Example: “This mattress has a soft fiber-like batting for a plush feel, kind of like grandma’s feather bed but with better air flow and it doesn’t clump. It’s called Pillo-Fluff.” I think it works better to cite the benefit (better air flow and no clumping) before the feature (Pillo-Fluff).
DO use knowledge to show value
If a shopper likes the comfort of a mattress but raises a price objection, rather than discounting the price or stepping down to another model, use your product knowledge to add value.
For example: If the shopper balks at a mattress because of price, the sales associate might say, “I understand that it seems expensive, but let me show you a few things about this mattress that make it worth the investment.”
I’ve never had a customer tell me they wish they had bought a less comfortable mattress.
DON’T pitch a model too soon
I once had a couple respond favorably to my pitch on a bed with a layer of latex, but they said the bed was just too thick. It was the only model I had with latex.
DO focus on the shopper
It’s not just the mattress you should be focusing on. Redirect your customer’s attention to themselves by having them spend time lying on the product.
Instead of asking the shopper how the mattress feels, ask, “How do you feel on this mattress?” “How do you think you’d feel after sleeping on it at the end of a long day?”
DON’T focus solely on comfort
Most mattresses feel comfortable to shoppers compared to the worn-out beds they may be replacing. People perceive comfort when they first lie down. To establish the value of your products, you must explain support and durability. Support comes into play over the course of the night, durability, over the course of years.
Most people understand you get what you pay for. With mattresses, you have to tell them what they are getting.
DON’T sabotage the mattress
When shoppers are comparing one model to another, be careful what you say. You want people to feel reassured about their buying decision. Here’s how you go about doing it:
When stepping up to a more expensive model maximize the differences to add value. For example, you might say, “This model adds a comfort layer that helps alleviate pressure points and allows you to lie in one place longer.”
When stepping down maximize the similarities to give reassurance. You might say, “Yes, this model is great too; it has the exact same support system with a little less cushioning. You can always add that yourself. It may be just the right one for you.”
Product knowledge is the foundational element upon which all other sales training elements are built. If you or your sales people don’t know and understand the products, no degree of selling skills can make up the difference. By learning your product knowledge and how to use it, sales can dramatically increase.