Product Training v. Sales Training


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In the November/December 2010 issue of SalesForceXP Magazine, there’s a short article that highlights the results from a pretty interesting McKinsey & Co. study. It polled US and European B2B Buyers, asking them to identify the “most destructive” selling activity.

Here are the results:

  • 35% – Too much contact (in person, by phone, or by e-mail)
  • 20% – Lack of knowledge about either their products or those of their competitors
  • 9% – Lack of business/industry knowledge about usefulness of their product or service to my business
  • 8% – Sales style is too aggressive
  • 8% – Forgotten and/or ignored after contract is signed
  • 20% – Other

That means that as much as 80% of the activities that bother B2B buyers the most have absolutely, positively nothing to do with product knowledge. And yet, most of the training offered to salespeople is [insert drumroll] product training!

See the missing link?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jeb Brooks
Jeb Brooks is Executive Vice President of the The Brooks Group, one of the world's Top Ten Sales Training Firms as ranked by Selling Power Magazine. He is a sought-after commentator on sales and sales management issues, having appeared in numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal. Jeb authored the second edition of the book "Perfect Phrases for the Sales Call" and writes for The Brooks Group's popular Sales Blog.


  1. Hi Jeb: Thanks for your perspective on the McKinsey study. I read it differently when I referenced it in an earlier blog, Three Myths about the Impact of Social Media on Selling. (see Myth #3).

    I lumped the two “lack of knowledge” categories together, and at 29%, found knowledge a significant opportunity for improvement. In addition, at 20%, lack of product knowledge is tied for second place among these deal-breaking annoyances. In my mind, that’s too big to dismiss. Anecdotally, there is much evidence that supports buyer frustration around this. “The sales rep didn’t bring any value to our decision process!” It’s been said about me when I was lax in my pre-call preparation.

    But anyone trying to draw insight from the McKinsey study should recognize that the study was a very, very broad brush for B2B buyers. When a salesperson is selling medical devices or replacement parts for aircraft engines, product knowledge holds a prominent place on the list of required competencies. For selling ERP systems, it’s impractical to know the minutia of every software application, so industry and strategic knowledge is probably more valuable. As with any selling strategy, situation matters.


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