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How to Effectively Develop Product Knowledge Training for Employees

When you think of sales or product knowledge training, you most likely think of your sales team. However everyone in your organization from human resources to programming to marketing should understand what you sell. Fully understanding the products or services you sell or buy is vital to gaining new customers and keeping your stake within the industry.

There are also additional benefits that extend beyond knowledge. Here are some of the other advantages.

Advantages of product knowledge training

Access to information

Training is usually at set intervals throughout the year. However when an employee needs to recall a certain product or a service that you sell, it can be challenging. No matter how good your memory is, it’s hard to retain everything you have learned. That’s why adding product knowledge training to your learning management platform is key. This ongoing training offers quick on-the-go information when it’s needed. And it can improve messaging whether an employee is writing a new customer handout or legal is working on a document about a new service offering. 

Reduces costs

The more product knowledge training you provide your organization, the less it will cost you in the end. If you can educate your employees on how your products work, what problems they are solving and how they differ from competitors, you give your company an advantage. It makes each team member more invested in the company and the key reasons customers should choose your company over another. 

Makes training fun

By taking the time to crease a robust product knowledge training platform, it will make training enjoyable. Many times product or service training is mundane and employees regret having to take it. But if you add creative features like assessments or gamification in training, you can make learning interactive and something employees look forward to taking. 

Better knowledge assessment

Even if you have a training program in place for your products or services, it’s hard to know how effective it is. But by creating a product knowledge training format, you can assess how well your employees really know what you buy or sell. Then after you begin rolling out the new training, you can use reports and feedback from both employees and managers to figure out what’s working and what’s not. This will only strengthen the overall company on how educated every team member becomes at product knowledge. 

Can be customized

What one department or team needs to understand about a product line very well may vary from the next. For example, the sales team may need to know about the inner workings of a product. While a marketing person may need to understand how a product differs from the competition. And human resources may just need a high level overview to better fit job candidates into open roles. By using a learning management system unlike an Intranet, you can assign which tracks employees are taking and which departments and keep track of who has completed the various modules. 

Improves retention

The more you offer training, the better the learning retention will be. For example, you could offer short mLearning modules, breakout sessions and group learning sessions all on product knowledge training. And when you offer detailed information often and in different formats, the better retention rates you will have for employees memorizing these key details. 

How to develop product training?

Now that you know how product knowledge training can help your organization, it’s time to develop a program that works for all your employees. In order to do this, it’s important to ask a few questions to pinpoint what training you will need. Here are a few questions to answer.

1. Who is the audience?

Everyone in your organization can benefit from product knowledge training. However what legal learns should be different from what marketing hears. So first establish each department or team who needs training. Then, create learning objectives for each of these groups. 

2. What does your customer want?

Next you want to define what your customer wants in your products and how you are solving their needs. This should include feedback from the customer service team on issues or concerns they hear from customers. It’s also important to look over any customer surveys to find out how they feel about your products or services. Once you have this information, it will help you better create product knowledge training. It offers background into why you have the products you do.

3. Who are your competitors and why?

Although most employees generally know who your competition is, they need to understand why your competitors are competitors. This includes why your products are different from the competition and why. Once employees understand this information, they can better talk to customers about products, write about products or design better products. 

4. What is the customer life cycle?

Every employee has a different role in a company. Some employees may not interact with customers on a day to day basis, but every team member does serve your customer base. So knowing the average customer life cycle helps in product knowledge training. For example, how many employees become repeat customers? How many touch points do prospective customers need before becoming customers? Key information like this helps employees understand their role in the customer life cycle.

5. How do your products work?

A big part of product knowledge training needs to be how your products function. By explaining each product or service and having employees mimic the role of a new customer, it helps employees better understand the customer. For example, if an employee is handed a manual on how to use the product and they still can’t figure out how it works, chances are new customers will have similar issues. It better integrates your customers with your employees. 

6. How will I measure the new training?

Using a system like a learning management system is a great way to create reports and track how well your training is working. It will also show how quickly employees are getting through training sessions and which ones are taking longer to complete. That way, you can make tweaks or changes where needed to make your product knowledge training more impactful.

What type of training to use?

Once you have a plan in place, it’s time to decide what type of training works best for product knowledge retention. There are a few techniques that work well with this type of training. Here are a few ideas to incorporate.

Scenario-based training

The best way to learn about new products is to act as if you are using them. In other words, use different scenarios to teach employees about the various products or services you sell. You can even ask customer service what common questions they receive and then have employees role play through these scenarios. Not only will they learn your product line better, but they will be more empathetic toward customer needs.

Just-in-time training

Just-in-time training is training when you need it most. Since learning happens at scheduled times, it’s hard to recall on the spot what you have learned months or even weeks earlier. Often a sales member is out in the field and they need a product answer immediately. This doesn’t require an entire training course but rather a quick lookup of that key piece of information. So create microlearning training available online and also across various devices especially mobile.

Bite-sized learning

Bite-sized learning is taking larger chunks of information and breaking them down into more digestible training sessions with a singular focus. The reason this training works well for product knowledge is it helps employees process and retain information better. This is especially important if you have complex products to understand. 

Videos and other visuals

Product knowledge training can become mundane and repetitive especially if you have similar products. One way to keep it fresh and interesting is by adding in multimedia. This could be anything from short videos to infographics to short webinars. 

Refresher training

Research shows 70 percent of what employees earning in formal training programs is forgotten one day after the training is completed. And even worse, this number increases to 90 percent being forgotten within 30 days of training. So the best way to counteract this is through refresher training. By adding in courses throughout the year for product knowledge training, you reinforce key points. Plus, new questions may come up from customers or new products rolled out. With refresher courses, you can always account for these situations. 

Use other departments

Every department deals with customers either indirectly or directly. Pull these managers together and ask what training employees need on your products or services. You will gain different perspectives that are valuable in different ways. For example, customer service may mention products that are difficult to use. And programming may mention software update glitches. The more brainstorming you can do on your product knowledge training, the more robust it will become. 

Case studies

Examples are helpful when understanding products. That’s why case studies are a great way to demonstrate important features and tools. The other aspect of case studies is they are not only learning tools but can become marketing tools as well. Sales team members can use case studies to gain new customers so case studies created either for marketing purposes or training purposes can be repurposed for both situations.

Film reviews

A film review is having employees listen to actual sales calls between customers and employees. Then, the learners provide feedback or comments as they hear the entire conversation. This helps with the learning process. Employees can hear questions, concerns or comments about products from actual customers. Plus, they can hear the responses given by actual customer service representatives. This process provides a better perspective for product knowledge training.

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Best practices worth noting

As you begin to develop your product knowledge training program, it’s a good idea to keep a few best practices top of mind. Here are a few to help.

1. Be consistent

As we’ve said, product training is meant for every employee in your organization. Not only sales or customer service can benefit from it. So be consistent with your training. While different aspects of the training will differ based on department or team, the general product information needs to stay the same. Using a learning management system is a great way to ensure this.

2. Keep it simple

Products can be complex and the way employees differ from one another. So keep your training simple. Every employee should know how to access the courses they need to take and have clear instructions as to what they are supposed to do within the training. It also needs to be simple for managers and admins who are responsible for assigning the training. 

3. Make it scalable

If you don’t have much product knowledge training in place, it will take some time to build up your program. However, you should make it scalable from the start. That way, it’s easy to add courses as needed over time. In addition, if your company grows or expands to different time zones, you’ll need to keep this in mind. A flexible system like an LMS can help you scale your course offerings or grow your company size.

4. Automate the process

By housing your training program in an online format, you better automate the process. It’s a lot easier to build out product knowledge training when you have courses organized. Plus, you can keep track of which employees have taken the training and new employees who need to be onboarded. And it helps remind employees who have yet to take assigned courses in a given time period.

What does product knowledge training look like for your organization?

Knowing your products inside and out benefits everyone within your organization. Training manuals are valuable, but it’s also necessary for courses in product knowledge. This learning creates better communication within your organization, better customer service for your customers and a more cohesive company culture. What this training looks like for your company may differ from the competition, but in the end, it will set you apart. And your customer base will appreciate that. 

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