Knowing Your Product

Jacquie Sundquist_

No matter what industry you are in, product knowledge is critical. How can you discuss your business with clients, customers or colleagues without knowing exactly what your product is?

Let’s keep this simple and use examples we can all relate to – food and clothes.

It is Saturday night; you are heading out for dinner with a group of friends. Unanimously, you agree to try the new restaurant everyone has been raving about because you have the opportunity to try a variety of items and get the full experience.

Typically, these group dinners are about sharing laughs, having a few glasses of wine, and catching up with some of your favourite people. You want to keep the night simple and seamless so you ask the server to take over and order for you – after all, they know their product better than you.

Regrettably, the reaction is not what you anticipated. Your server responds with a dumbfounded look as they tell you: “well, I don’t really eat here much but I think most people like this dish”, pointing to a random spot on the menu.

Do you trust this person’s judgement now that they admitted to not understanding their product? Probably not. Your experience quickly depreciates before you even have a glass of wine in front of you to soften the blow.

I want to make sure there is no doubt of the importance of knowing your product so lets look at one more example – a retail shop.

You walk in and begin to take a few steps towards a gorgeous sweater. Promptly, you are greeted by a smiling salesperson asking how your day is going and if you have ever been to the shop before – pretty good start. You begin to inquire about the fabric, the designs, the sizing, how to care for the garment – all standard questions made by consumers. Unfortunately, your salesperson is unable to answer your questions and you resort to searching for a garment tag. I recognize that checking tags is not the end of the world but I am more inclined to support a brand when the representative is able to answer a few common questions.

For me, the ultimate deal breaker is when they are not wearing the clothes. As a consumer, I have never looked at the size two, 5’10 tall mannequin and thought – yep, it will look exactly like that on me. If an employee is wearing the garment I can see how it sits as they move throughout the store. They will be able to describe the product from personal experience – how the garments fit, how to style each piece and how to care for them. It is not a difficult task; it is taking the time to know your product and believe in what you are selling.

What I am trying to get at is you do not have to be a chef to understand food and you do not have to be a fashion designer to understand the details of a garment.

I can personally attest to this because I am an owner of a fitness facility and not a personal trainer. I lack the instinctual knowledge of the personal training component of our business because I do not have the background. However, I know that I need to understand all of the products we offer at Blitz – whether I am responsible for them or not. I need to understand how each of our team members differ in their delivery of the product in order to confidently discuss the entirety of our company to clients, partners and employees.

How do I make up for the lack of certification? I go to the source. Recently, I spent time “researching” one of our products, aka being put through a 55-minute session by each of our trainers. When I woke up very sore multiple mornings, I was reminded how different these one-on-one sessions are from the group classes (HIIT and Spin) we offer and how they challenge one’s body in a very different way. I wasn’t left with a pile of sweat underneath me but my muscles felt a level of exhaustion that I was not as familiar with – it was horrible and absolutely amazing at the same time.

Not only did I want to be able to speak to our personal training product with more confidence but also our personal training team and their individual styles. As an owner who refers clients when they inquire about personal training – I make sure to recommend the trainer I believe will offer the client the highest level of success. Matching personality is equally as important as matching fitness goals and specialities. My referral needs to be on point and the best way to do so is to be put through a session with each of them – as sweat drips from my face, I reassure myself that it also boosts team morale as they get to “punish” an owner with a gruelling session.

I learned a lot about our trainers in those sessions. It reassured me that we likely have a trainer for everyone. We have trainers with backgrounds in sport specific training programs, some with very outgoing and bubbly personalities, and we have some that show no mercy.

This “research” not only made me stronger physically but it made me a stronger leader to our team because I am able to inform our clients with more certainty around the personal training programs and make accurate referrals based on clients goals and personality. It also provided me the tools to explain the benefits of using all of our products within their fitness regiment. As a result, I know our business better and I know our trainers better with respect to their styles and personalities.

This was the best “exercise” I could have done as an entrepreneur and business manager. In today’s busy and quickly changing society, it can be rewarding to take a step back and make sure you understand your product and the need it fulfills.

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