Product knowledge is core to becoming an effective salesperson – sales reps need to know how a product or service can benefit the prospect and make their pitches more relevant to the individual. However, at the same time, this is often a stumbling block for many salespeople who have a basic understanding of the product or service but don't know everything about it.

For businesses, this can lead to embarrassing situations where salespeople can't answer prospects' questions, which may even cost otherwise solid leads. That said, in a business that is constantly developing and stocking new goods, it can often be difficult to keep up. What can businesses do to help their salespeople gain more knowledge about the products and services they are selling?

Product certification

Michael Nelson, the leader of ON24's global sales organization, suggests that one possible solution is a virtual quiz or sales certification. This ensures salespeople – particularly over a broad spectrum – stay up-to-date on their product knowledge, thereby solving the problem of companies not being sure whether salespeople are accurately pitching their goods and services.

Additionally, tools such as online quizzes are easy to create and access, which enables companies to send these materials to everyone in the sales force, regardless of whether they are established veterans or new hires.

The pop quiz

If businesses are in need of a more short-term solution, pop quizzes could be the answer. Different prizes could be offered to salespeople for passing the evaluations, which should consist of approximately 20 to 25 questions that vary in difficulty, from relatively easy to very in-depth.

"Aside from avoiding questions that mainly elicit yes/no or single-word answers, formulate your questions so that they challenge everyone from your newest salesperson to your top-performing veteran," Selling Power adds. "Afterward, follow up by providing in-depth answers to the questions so that your sales team has a permanent reference. And offer prizes, such as a day off or dinner for two at a local restaurant, to those who achieve scores of at least 90 percent."

Sales coaching and training can also help representatives learn other ways of improving their skills, creating a more effective sales team overall.