Seller, know thy product

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TechLive revealed a stunning lack of product familiarity, says Billy MacInnes

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Billy

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26 February 2019 | 0

I had the pleasure of moderating a panel debate at the recent TechLive event – How the Business of ICT will be done – in Croke Park. This is probably not the time to reveal that it was my first panel moderation as I think I just about managed to bluff my way through it on the day but, in any case, there was all kinds of interesting and informative comment from the panellists involved.

Much of that will be covered in a longer article in the March issue of TechTrade but I’d like to focus on something that was brought up by Shane Hartigan, founder and owner of Integrated Media Solutions, during the discussion. Many managers of channel partners and resellers assume their staff have a good knowledge of the products their company sells, he said, but that can be a dangerous assumption to make.

Hartigan was very surprised to discover that many of his internal staff didn’t necessarily fully understand the products the company was selling. The issue for him was would they install the product in their own home, did they really believe in it and understand it? He felt that if they didn’t believe in it or wouldn’t have it in their home, they should stop selling it or the company should embark on an education programme with the vendors because “maybe they don’t have enough information to make an informed decision”.

So the company invited some of its best vendors, sat them in front of the team and said: “Tell us what you do.” Hartigan knew everything about them but soon discovered that the quite a few staff “really didn’t understand a lot of features they did”. The feedback was along the lies of “I really liked that and I learned loads about what that vendor does.” To which Hartigan’s thought was: “How did you not know that stuff?”

As he stated in the panel session: “My assumption about what staff members knew and what they actually knew was two different worlds.” As a result, he had to rethink things, “to blank my head about what I assume is true or not”.

Right fit

Hartigan decided the company needed to fit out its offices with the equipment it was selling. People in the business were very impressed by some of the features. Some remarked that it was “incredible” and Hartigan response was: “You sell loads of it, you install it all the time.” But even though they sold it, they didn’t know all the things it could do.

He described it as “a real eye-opener” but I’m sure this is a common issue for staff in many reseller businesses up and down the land. After all, you can sell a lot of different types of dog food, but there’s only so much of the stuff you can eat before it makes you sick. As with technology, the trick is to sell the right stuff. And that’s where the question of knowledge of what the technology can do is of real importance. The more you know about what a customer can do with the technology, the better the solution and service you can provide them. It’s not knowing about the nuts and bolts of a product’s innards but the features and capabilities it can deliver for your customers.

That’s what customers are interested in. And what people selling to them need to be aware of. It’s what the technology does, not how it does it that they want to know about. After all, if you were using the technology in your home, how much would you feel that you had to know about how it worked?

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