Do your employees know your product?
Like, know know.
Could they describe not just the product’s features and functions, but also the vital information surrounding it? Do they have a firm understanding of how and why your product exists, and the value that it brings to the world?
(And yes, we’re talking about all of your employees.)
If you’re unsure of how to answer those questions, you don’t necessarily need to panic.
But you probably do need to rethink your approach to product knowledge training.
What is Product Knowledge Training?
Product knowledge training is a type of employee training that instills in the learner everything they need to know about the product(s) your company sells.
The key part of that sentence:
Everything they need to know about the product.
Product knowledge training covers a broad spectrum of training initiatives, and is used for a variety of purposes. As we’ll discuss, everyone within your organization — and many external members of your community — can benefit from knowing more about your products in some way or another.
That said, know that product knowledge training is more than just a one-off, compartmentalized task to check off your list. Rather, it should be an integral part of your approach to employee training, overall.
Main Aspects of Product Knowledge
Before we dive into a discussion on product knowledge training, let’s make clear what we actually mean when we talk about “product knowledge”.
(Note that, while some information might be more pertinent to certain teams and employees, you’ll ideally want everyone to know as much as they can about the products you sell.)
The key components of product knowledge are:
- Product Features and Specs: From knowledge of basic features to a more advanced understanding of the technical aspects of the product, this info is vital for most every member of your team.
- Price and Pricing Tiers: Your product’s price points, pricing tiers, and other price-related info are important product knowledge for your employees to have on hand and committed to memory.
- Use Cases: What does your product do? What goals do your users have for using it? What features and benefits support these intended goals? What, exactly, is your product’s purpose?
- Customization Options: Knowledge of product customization options (combined with the above info) will allow for more personalized marketing and sales efforts.
- Frequently Asked Questions: Whether from your customers or your team members, the answers to commonly-asked questions about your product should be common knowledge throughout your organization.
- Troubleshooting Info: To varying degrees, team members should know how to troubleshoot common (and not-so-common) product malfunctions. At the very least, they should know how to find the solution required.
- Related Products and/or Services: Product knowledge doesn’t end with that product. Rather, it should involve all related products (e.g., accessories) and services (e.g., installation) your brand offers, as well.
- Product Policies and Regulations: This includes info on product-specific, brand-instituted policies (e.g., returns & exchanges, warranties, etc.), along with any legal specifications the product must adhere to.
- Customer/Audience Info: Which audience segments and/or customer personas is the product targeted to? What do you know about these audiences?
- Competition Info: Relating to the specific product, this includes anything you know about your competitors that they do better, worse, or differently than your brand.
- Industry Trends and Other News: Updates from around the industry can keep your team informed of the value your product brings to the table.
Again, while certain product knowledge will be more valuable in certain situations for specific team members, it just makes sense to set the bar as high as possible. That way, you can be doubly sure that every one of your employees knows what they need to know about your products to put their best foot forward.
How Do Teams Use Product Knowledge Differently?
As we said earlier, all teams within your organization can benefit from having more product knowledge.
But, in looking to optimize your product knowledge training initiatives, it’s crucial to know how each team will actually use the knowledge they glean.
Obviously, the teams that interact directly with your product need to know everything there is to know about it.
Developers, for one, need to have this info in hand before they even start designing the product. Without a clear understanding of what the product is for, who will be using it, what features to include — and more — they simply won’t be able to create the product you’d intended.
Your quality assurance team will also need to understand the technical aspects of your product, along with all possible use cases for it. That way, they can conduct comprehensive QA testing — and will be able to catch any potential glitch that may exist within your product.
Finally, your IT staff will need to be able to solve any problems your other employees may have when using your product. Similarly, they may need to provide specific product info to customer-facing teams without delay — meaning the knowledge needs to be top-of-mind at all times on their end.
Again, as obvious as it is to say:
Your product-focused teams absolutely need comprehensive product knowledge training.
Speaking of customer-facing teams…
Your marketing and sales teams need to have an in-depth understanding of your product and your audience — and of the value your product brings to said audience. They need to know which features are most valued by which audience, how to best present the product and deliver information to prospects, and how to get said prospect one step closer to converting.
Your customer service and support teams also need to have complete technical knowledge of your product, and a true understanding of the individuals they serve. More than just solving the customer’s issue, they need to be able to see things from the customer’s perspective in order to take the most effective approach to an engagement.
For these teams, effective product knowledge training is vital to keeping customers engaged, informed, and comfortable as they move through the sales funnel.
Other Internal Teams
Even your backend administrative teams should strive to learn as much as they can about your product and the context surrounding it.
Though they may not necessarily “use” this knowledge while on the job, it can certainly play a role in strengthening alignment and motivation throughout these backend teams. As we’ll discuss, this can not only lead to increased productivity, but also potential opportunities for growth.
From investors to retail partners (and more), your external stakeholders can benefit from a “crash course” version of your product knowledge training sessions.
Basically, you want to give them enough info about your product, etc., to be able to make an informed business decision — one that hopefully lands in your favor. As this will vary depending on who the other party is, you’ll need to be able to quickly put together tailored product knowledge training sessions accordingly.
Key Benefits of Effective Product Knowledge Training
The main message to take from the previous section is that proper product knowledge training enables your entire team to do their job well — which will in turn put your company on a clear path to success.
Still, it’s worth taking a closer look at the more specific ways in which product knowledge training will benefit your business.
Alignment Around the Product Improves Team Alignment
Product knowledge training serves to keep all team members in-line and moving in the right direction.
On a functional level, teams that truly understand their product can communicate and collaborate more effectively with each other on matters related to said product. In contrast, if their knowledge differs (or is nonexistent on either end), effective collaboration can be quite difficult.
(This is why product knowledge training for all employees is essential: Without it, your cross-team collaborative efforts might never get off the ground.)
Thinking “big picture”, product knowledge training helps keep employees focused on the company’s mission and vision for the future. More importantly, tailored product knowledge training will allow individual team members to understand the role they play in getting your valuable product into the hands of your customers.
On both levels, this increased alignment will lead to higher levels of productivity, profit, and overall growth for your team.
Increases Marketing and Sales Effectiveness
Effective product knowledge training will almost certainly have a positive impact on your marketing and sales efforts.
In fact, Harvard Business Review found that sales associates increase their average sales numbers by 1.8% with every product knowledge training module they take. Those who regularly attend product-focused training make an average 46% more sales than those who abstain from training.
It’s one part confidence, one part efficiency: Product knowledge training ensures your marketing and sales teams always know exactly what their customers need to hear about your product — and are always able to deliver the info as needed.
If they can make that happen, your sales numbers will just keep on growing.
Optimizes IT and Customer Service & Support Efforts
As we’ve established, your IT department, along with your service and support staff, obviously needs to possess detailed product knowledge in order to do their jobs.
Intentional, focused product knowledge training, though, will allow them to thrive in their respective position.
For one, they’ll have a more robust working knowledge of your product — allowing them to quickly solve most issues their users come to them with. Secondly, they’ll be able to take a more informed, strategic approach to each service engagement they encounter.
Overall, product knowledge training makes for knowledgeable and friendly service and support — which is a top priority for nearly one-third of consumers today.
Enhances the Customer Journey and Experience
We’ve hinted at this a few times already:
Strategic product knowledge training on your end will lead to a better overall experience for your customers.
Your marketing and sales teams, for one, will always have exactly what the customer is looking for at any given time. Be it more informational product content, a laser-focused product promotion, or an offer for additional services, it’ll be in your customers’ hands before they even realize they need it.
(With 62% of B2B buyers agreeing that content plays a major role in their purchasing decisions, the ability to make the above happen is crucial.)
On the service and support side, your teams will be able to create more proactive means of assisting your customers over time. From comprehensive user onboarding to self-service options, equipping your users with the ability to use and troubleshoot your product with autonomy is key to retaining them over the long-term.
Collect Insightful Product Feedback
As your various team members go through your product knowledge training, each will begin to form their own unique understanding of the product and the surrounding context.
This will include their likes and dislikes, their successes and frustrations in using it, their understanding of the product’s application…and much more. Multiply that by the amount of employees on your team, and that’s a whole lot of insight to help you make improvements to the product in question.
What’s more, you’re likely to get a wide spectrum of feedback from those with different backgrounds and competencies. This can help you identify feature gaps, points of friction, and other trouble spots within your product’s user experience.
Similarly, there’s always the chance that insight from an unlikely team member or stakeholder will lead to the “A-ha!” moment that takes your product to the next level. Better yet, those interested in digging deeper with your product might develop more focused and intentional communities of practice within your organization.
In any case, the insight your employees glean from your training sessions can end up sparking massive improvements for both your product, and your brand as a whole.
Turn Employees Into Advocates
Whether operating in an official capacity or not, your employees should always feel comfortable advocating for your organization.
And they can’t truly be comfortable doing so without proper knowledge of your product.
With proper product knowledge training, your employees will be better equipped (and more willing) to discuss your product:
- During regular social interactions
- Via their social media channels
- On discussion boards and special interest forums
This additional publicity will often lead to more business for your company — and can even play a role in your employee recruitment efforts, as well.
Product Knowledge Training Best Practices
Of course, for your team to experience the benefits discussed above, there are a number of best practices to adhere to.
These, in addition to the more universal best practices of employee training and development, will all but ensure your product knowledge training initiatives bring massive value to your business.
Provide Ongoing, Intentional, and Tailored Learning Opportunities
First and foremost, you need to ensure you’re taking the correct approach to your product knowledge training initiatives on the whole.
For starters, understand that product knowledge training should be ongoing for all employees. As dynamic as the environment surrounding your product is, there will always be more for your team to know — and it’s up to you to make sure they keep learning.
As you provide these learning materials and resources, you need to ensure your employees have ample time to engage with them. Rather than piling product knowledge training on top of their other responsibilities, build learning opportunities into your employees’ current schedules and workflows that add to their development over time.
(And, when more intentional training sessions are necessary, make sure you prioritize it on your employees’ schedules accordingly.)
Product knowledge training sessions should be created with intention, as well. The goal isn’t just for your employees to learn about the product; it’s for them to learn about the product for a specific purpose.
Again, this purpose depends on who’s being trained:
- Marketing and sales teams need to know which features to prioritize when engaging with specific audiences, and how to best engage with them
- Customer service and tech support teams need to be able to quickly and confidently solve product-related issues their customers are facing
- Internal teams should understand the value your product brings to the world, and their role in making this happen
In any case, your training sessions should be tailored to these more specific purposes to ensure each learner can practically apply what they’ve learned in some way.
Finally, design your product knowledge training sessions to provide a dynamic, personalized experience to the individual learner. The more tailored the experience, the more engaged your employees will be in their learning.
Make Product Knowledge Training Accessible and Convenient
As we touched on in the last section, your employees should have ample opportunity to engage with your product knowledge training materials.
This means allowing them to engage with said materials when and how it’s most convenient for them.
Perhaps most importantly, allow for on-demand, self-paced learning whenever possible. Especially as the trend toward remote work continues to grow, it’s just a more convenient and logistically-sound way to deliver product knowledge training by today’s standards.
It’s also important for your employees to be able to engage with your training sessions and materials on the device of their choosing. On just the surface, this means ensuring your training content is responsive to mobile devices and tablets. You also need to ensure your employees can “pick up where they left off” in their training sessions, regardless of which device they decide to use.
Finally, you’ll want to inject automation into your product knowledge trainings however possible. Typically, this means automating the delivery of instructional content, activity prompts, performance assessments, and opportunities for further learning.
All this will serve to streamline the learning experience for your employees, leading to a successful outcome for all.
Make Product Knowledge Training Engaging and Interactive
Okay, so you obviously want to make your product knowledge training engaging.
But what does that actually entail?
At the very least, your training sessions should include a variety of multimedia content. Using video to complement text-based instructions and information is key to effective learning — especially when it comes to product demos and use cases.
(Video content can also more effectively communicate any tacit knowledge your employees need to know about the product.)
You also need to keep your employees actively engaged throughout their learning experience.
Some ways to do so include:
- Delivering quizzes, surveys, and other prompts within training sessions
- Allowing learners to communicate and collaborate with each other and other knowledgeable team members throughout product knowledge training
- Providing real-world, hands-on opportunities for learners to use the product in specific ways
As the individual continues on in their training, you’ll want to allow them to track their progress, along with their growing knowledge of your product. While this can provide intrinsic motivation in itself, you might also inject gamification into your product knowledge training experiences to maintain employee engagement over time.
Ultimately, you want to know that your employees aren’t simply sitting through your training sessions just to get them done — and are instead actively engaged with their learning at every touchpoint.
Bridge Theoretical and Practical Product Knowledge
To reiterate once more, each of your team members should understand their specific purpose for undergoing product knowledge training.
And it’s just as important to allow them to put this new knowledge to practical use. What this means will depend on the individual involved, and the material being learned.
For example, an employee might:
- Provide feedback to the development team on specific aspects of the product
- Create employee-generated content for marketing purposes
- Add to your knowledge base content related to the product in question
Now, your new learners will likely need some guidance in this area — and may also need a little prodding to get started.
So, just as you have specific overarching learning goals for your employees, you also need to have practical activities lined up for them to take part in throughout their training. And, as discussed above, you’ll want to automate the delivery of these prompts and activities to optimize engagement in the learner.
In using their new knowledge to complete actual, necessary tasks within your organization, your employees will come to truly understand just how valuable their knowledge is.
Measure and Improve Product Knowledge Training Initiatives
As with all other aspects of your business, continuous improvement is the name of the game in product knowledge training.
For one thing, your training material and content will need to evolve with your product (and other related factors). Needless to say, if your product knowledge trainings are out of date, they aren’t going to be very effective — and can actually cause damage to your business.
Moreover, you should always be looking for ways to improve the learning experience for your employees. Here, you’ll want to consider:
- Your employees’ engagement and success rates with your current product knowledge training
- The perceived impact the training has had on your employees’ overall performance
- The business impact of the training (and of any employee-led efforts that stemmed from it)
With this info in hand, you’ll be able to make laser-focused improvements to your product knowledge training initiatives moving forward. As you do so, it’s vital to document everything about the process — from performance data and business outcomes to knowledge gained and lessons learned.
This is where Helpjuice comes in.
Helpjuice’s knowledge base software allows you to create a Single Source of Truth for all things related to product knowledge training (and much more).
With all the necessary info stored in a single, accessible location, your teams will always have the product knowledge they need at their fingertips — and can essentially make product knowledge training an ongoing part of their working routine.
Ready to get started?
Sign up for a free 14-day trial with Helpjuice today.