If you aspire to the title of professional salesperson, know your products and your services. To help others, there is a technical basis of selling that is important to deliver the information and the product performance your customer needs to complete the buying decision. If the prospective customer needs no further information to buy, then she doesn’t need a salesperson—any order-taker will do. Without product knowledge, a salesperson will sound incompetent at best and like a con artist at worst.

To learn about what you sell, take advantage of as many different resources as you can. Read the mill and yarn manufacturers’ product literature. Read your trade journals and attend product seminars. Understand your warranties. Ask questions of your experienced colleagues. Acquire knowledge in interior design. Be able to clarify any details about the features and terminologies that are presented on the face of every sample label. The list goes on. Just as any tradesman knows his trade, you should know yours; this is your livelihood.

For anyone, but especially for the younger student, never pretend to know something you do not know or completely understand. Do not fake it until you make it. Simply say, “I’m not sure, let me find out.” Your honesty and thoroughness will be respected. If possible, make it a point to find answers on the spot, showing the customer that your organization solves issues quickly. Otherwise, make a point to get back with the customer. A follow up call with the results of your careful investigation makes a nice touch.

Granted, product knowledge is not everything. In our business, people do not buy technical knowledge; they buy color and design. She came into your store looking for a beautiful home and not a trade fair on flooring. The problem with product knowledge is that as salespeople, when we become very knowledgeable, we have the human tendency to say way too much and become product knowledge junkies. Sometimes the salesperson says too much and over-complicates matters.

There is no need to use big words or technical jargon. Even a Ph.D. can appreciate simple language. Remember, your ideas of color, style and function are your most important messages. Use a straightforward, simple vocabulary that all will understand and appreciate.

Further, discussing technical issues before selecting the floor coverings that meet her fashion needs may put you in a corner. For example, you sold her on a certain yarn system, but it is not available in her color or style. So, where does she buy her floor covering? From another store that happens to have her fashion needs in the right color, style and yarn system that you sold her on. Before you discuss the fabulous features, benefits and the great price of your specials, make sure it belongs in her home.

Only after carefully understanding the customer’s needs can a salesperson decide which products offer the best solution for the buyer. Let the prospect express her needs first. Consider not only the reasons that prospects should buy, but why they should not buy.

Having product knowledge helps the professional head off quality and other performance issues that may occur during the sale or after the sale is completed. Product knowledge likewise enables you to speak effectively with other experts within your field and perform any essential tasks needed to execute or complete the transaction.

To be real, there are liability issues to your recommendations as well. This means you may be held liable for your recommendations, not necessarily as an expert, but merely as a person in the normal course and trade of your business. These recommendations may involve various manufacture requirements, such as proper adhesives, subfloor types and preparation of, recognizing moisture problems, etc. You make the wrong recommendation and the courts will side with the consumer every time.

Finally, you need product knowledge because it gives you self-assurance and enthusiasm. When used properly, product knowledge builds trust as well. Customers tend to trust those who understand and care about their craft. Good selling to you.