Product Knowledge is Key

Adam Hankinson, Managing Director at Furniture Sales Solutions, talks about why knowing your products inside out is key when selling.

There are many key skills that all great salespeople possess – Confidence, the ability to ask great questions, listening, a consistent positive attitude, as well as many more. However, I think that most of these skills are built on a solid foundation of product knowledge.

Selling like a Doctor

I imagine it like the difference between a snake-oil salesperson and a doctor. The snake-oil salesperson might have the gift of the gab and all the confidence in the world, but as soon as they come across a customer who asks a couple of the right questions their cover is blown. Whereas a good doctor doesn’t need to ‘sell’ anything. He asks some good questions to build an in-depth picture of their patient, before he even gets close to prescribing anything. Then, when the patient needs answers for themselves, he is able to answer them confidently and thoughtfully. 

Confidence is a salesperson’s best friend. It’s what allows us to start up a conversation and begin that journey to building the customer’s trust before we ever try to ‘sell’ anything to them. One of the primary sources of this confidence is a deep knowledge of the products they’re selling. When a salesperson knows their product inside and out, we can respond to customer inquiries with ease, showcasing our expertise and establishing trust.

How much is enough?

Many stores I come across consistently deal with their lack of product knowledge by deferring to the store’s ‘font of all knowledge’, that one salesperson in their store who just seems to know everything about every product. However, this should be avoided. If we keep telling the customer “We’ll just ask Steve”, the customer is going to end up thinking “well, I’d rather just deal with Steve directly”.

So, how much product knowledge is enough? The answer lies in having sufficient information to answer most questions with confidence. You don’t need to be a walking encyclopaedia of product details, but you should have a well thought-out list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) that you know customers are likely to ask. 

I believe there are five key questions that we need to cover:

Combination – Which combinations are available?

Comfort – Which comfort levels are available?

Colours – What colours are available?

Cover options – What fabric or leather options are available?

Lead time – What is the lead time?

Knowing the answers to all of these questions for all of your most popular models will put you in a great position to cover the majority of queries from most of your customers.

Honesty is the best policy

If the odd customer happens to ask you a question that you don’t have the answer for it’s much better to admit it and commit to finding the information rather than making guesses. I’ve worked with salespeople who, trying to save their own embarrassment, have given the customer incorrect answers to their questions, which can not only lose you the sale but also damage the customer’s trust in your company. Honesty, on the other hand, can build trust with customers and convey that you prioritise accuracy over a rushed response.

Product Champion

A valuable strategy, which will get your store’s product knowledge up to speed as quickly as possible, is to designate a ‘Product Champion’ for each popular manufacturer or model in the store. This person becomes an expert on that particular range, learning the answers to the five FAQ’s that we discussed previously. Then gradually the whole sales team will be able to learn from one-another meaning that everyone is well-equipped to answer questions and provide guidance effectively.


So, remember, you don’t need to know everything. It can be very overwhelming to sit down and try to memorise pages and pages of product features. Instead, commit to learning the answers to those 5 key questions – Cover options, Combination options, Colours, Comfort and Lead time for your most popular products before moving on to others. I guarantee that this solid foundational knowledge will make you a more confident salesperson, less reliant on the ‘font of knowledge’ in your store, and more likely to gain trust from your customers.

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