Initial Sales Skills

By Bill Farquharson, Sales Vault. Read Bill’s tip below or watch Bill here.

Good morning!

I had an interesting phone call with a client last week. She had just hired a new sales rep and was calling to discuss training options. “First, of course, I need to teach him about the industry,” she started. “Product knowledge is paramount.”

Is it, though?

I would argue a better place to start would be to teach the Rep how to ask qualifying questions. Teach him or her to be curious. I would much rather have a salesperson adept at the skill of uncovering need than knowing what the C stands for in CMYK.

Back in the day, we used to call this, “Learning the story behind the piece.”

Imagine someone handing you something to quote. From here, you have two choices. You can focus on the specs and ask questions about paper type, ink quality, size, and quantity. The other option is to focus on usage and ask questions which take you to another level:

  • What is the purpose of this document?
  • Who is your ideal customer?
  • How do people find you now?
  • Why do people buy from you?
  • What is your differentiator?

Think of it this way: A customer cares nothing about print. A customer cares about their world, their needs, and their challenges. Asking questions that get them talking helps you to uncover clues as to the right solution. From there, this solutions-based sales rep can head back to the plant and talk to someone who knows the ins and outs of print.

Is knowledge of the industry important? Of course. But is it the first stop on your training journey? I don’t think so. Focus first on communication skills, the questions to ask, active listening, reading the room, and how to look beyond the specs.

Product knowledge will come in time. Teach them first how to get the client talking.


As for training, there is no better environment than The Sales Vault. Get on Bill Farquharson’s calendar at or call him at 781-934-7036.


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