By Paul Reilly

In a recent seminar, an experienced salesperson was complaining about the internet. He explained that his customers seemed to know everything. He used a recent meeting to illustrate his point. He explained, “I showed up to an appointment and the buyer had been researching our products online. He knew more about the product than I did.” If a customer knows more about your products than you, it highlights your ignorance, not the customer’s knowledge.

Who knows more about your products and services, you or the customer?

Knowledgeable expertise is critical in a value-added sale. Our best practices study indicates it is the number-one attribute customers look for in a salesperson. Customers expect you to know the answers to their questions. If you’re not the expert on your solution, then you are missing an opportunity to add value.

According to an Accenture study, 94 percent of purchasers conduct online research before buying. Researching products has become easier. Buyers can easily find answers to basic questions, but they also have in-depth complex needs. As a value-added salesperson, dig deep to uncover the information they are looking for. If you want to create more value, answer the questions that Google cannot. Answer the questions buyers don’t think to ask.

In another seminar, a salesperson demonstrated how he provided this type of information to his customers. Any time his company launched a new product, this salesperson would demonstrate the product to several loyal customers and ask their opinions. He would then share their opinions and substantiate their claims with internal testing. He shared the information they couldn’t find online.

Knowledgeable expertise goes beyond just product knowledge. Customers expect you to know their business and how they use your solution. A study that appeared in a Sales Management Association blog, showed that customer knowledge was the most common characteristic among top performers. The more knowledgeable you are about your customer, the better your sales performance.

For rookie salespeople, this presents an opportunity to improve. When you are new to an industry you are not expected to know everything. However, customers value knowledgeable expertise. Your lack of knowledge should motivate you to become a better student of your industry. Research products, industry applications, and learn from your customers. Work with your managers and partners to attend product training. Shadow your customers and your top salespeople.

What you don’t know has great power over you. When was the last time you reviewed product manuals or requested training? Become a student of your profession. Take the attitude of a beginner and realize there is always more to learn.

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