August 10, 2012 at 7:00 AM
This post is written for CEOs whose fate rests on the successful release of a new product in the next 12 months. Here is a question for you: What happens if the new product doesn’t sell?
If you’re a CEO who has bet the company on launching a new product, you can’t afford a failed launch. When you built your new product, you most likely did most or all of the following:
- Conducted market research to understand the problems of your customers
- Determined the product is a “must have” rather than a “nice to have”
- Validated the market will pay to solve these problems
- Launched marketing campaigns to generate interest
- Trained the sales force and channel partners on the new product
Did you forget about enabling the sales force? Where in your plan is getting your sales force ready to sell your new product? This is very different than product training.
To get an understanding of how prepared your sale force is for a launch, register to receive the Sales Enablement Gap Tool.
Who is responsible for Sales Enablement? It might be appropriate for product management to own this. If you leave it to the sales force, it won’t get done. They don’t know how to do it. They’ve never had to. They are focused on selling what’s in their bag today and making in-year revenues. Product managers are the experts. Start with them.
What should product management do to enable the sales force?
- Set territory revenue/unit goals by product
- Teach the sales force about the Buyer problems the new product solves
- Provide Messaging for reps to say on sales calls
- Create Customer-centric demo decks and business case examples
- Distribute Marketing campaign schedules
- Build out a Product launch team directory
If you don’t have these sales enablement tools to launch successfully, this is where you should focus your efforts. For example, consider messaging on how to beat the status quo. More often than not, sales are not lost to a competitor; they are lost to “do nothing.” The case for change is not compelling enough for the customer to take action. Some companies feel this is a moral victory: “We didn’t get beat by our biggest competitor. The customer isn’t doing anything. We didn’t really lose.” Yes, you did. You had a customer actively considering your solution who decided the pain of the current state was less than the pain of changing. Your message was not powerful enough to beat the status quo.
Sales must be able to articulate why your new product is better than the status quo. They need to be able to show the customer how deploying this new product will significantly improve the buyer’s life. A new button or feature will rarely improve your buyer’s life; providing a solution that makes your buyer more money and a promotion will. Your sales team needs this from you to make your product launch in 2013 successful.
Do your sales reps know what marketing campaigns directly impact their territories? They should. What if there is interest from someone in their territory? If I am the sales rep in San Francisco and the marketing team runs a campaign to companies in my territory, I should know this. I should know what marketing is doing well in advance so I can plan appropriately. Maybe I can participate or least be available to those prospects who are now interested in the new product. Enabling your sales force with tools like this will help make sure your new product launch is a success.
It’s easy to pick on Research in Motion these days. On their June 28th earnings call, the CEO announced the delayed release (again) of the Blackberry 10 until January, 2013. They cut 5,000 jobs. Many analysts are saying the future of RIM rests squarely on the success of the BB10. 2013 is around the corner. If RIM doesn’t do something differently to enable its sales force in the next 5 months, they will fall farther behind the competition.
The following quote from a Harvard Business Review article sums up this challenge:
“The biggest problem we’ve encountered is lack of preparation: Companies are so focused on designing and manufacturing new products that they postpone the hard work of getting ready to market them until too late in the game.”
If you are going to make your new product revenue goal next year, make sure you have the necessary sales enablement tools. Use the following as a roadmap for executing this in your organization:
- Assess – Use the Sales Enablement Gap Tool to determine how prepared you are to launch new products in 2013.
- Plan – Develop a plan to bridge the gap between product, marketing and sales in 2013. Don’t allow your team to stay at 30,000 feet with this. Highly tactical tools, information and training are required.
- Launch – Ensure your sales team is ready. Focus your 2013 sales kickoff meeting on sales enablement rather than product feature updates. Conduct regular reinforcement sessions with your teams focusing on your enablement tools, successes and failures.
I’m offering 3 free assessments of your current sales enablement process. You can reach me here to discuss how you can improve it heading into 2013.
Who should take me up on this offer?
- CEO whose success in 2013 depends on selling a lot of a new product
- VP of Sales who has been given a quota for a new product and doesn’t know how it will get hit
- VP of Marketing who needs to generate leads for a new product and is unsure how
Posted by Ryan Tognazzini