Launch into Success
New products and services are the lifeblood of organizations, offering the sales force a short-term competitive edge in a cutthroat market. Yet, most new products fail to achieve the desired results in the vital first months following their introduction. When launching new products or services, there are five steps marketing departments can take to ensure success for their sales teams.
1. Provide a strong value proposition. Weak value propositions are a leading cause of new product failures. Customers don’t buy phrases such as “increased productivity,” “more robust” and “reduced cost.” Quantification of the value gained is essential in today’s market. Be explicit. How much money is saved? What additional efficiencies are gained? What is the financial payoff of getting a product to market two months sooner? Specificity sells. Use beta tests to learn this information, and then make sure to write it up in case studies.
2. Deliver insightful competitive information. Salespeople need much more than a features comparison to be successful. They need to understand the competitor’s go-to-market strategy, their financial condition and any other newsworthy information. They want to know how their peers won the business when up against the primary competitors and the selling strategy their competitors employed. They need to know about losses, as well. Don’t just deliver competitive information at launch time—provide it for three to six months after you’ve introduced your new offering.
3. Create diagnostic sales tools. Providing diagnostic assessment tools to salespeople helps them uncover customer problems and understand the related issues more deeply. The audit process itself builds the relationship and keeps the focus where it belongs—on the customer, not the product or service.
4. Develop proposal and presentation templates. Preparing customizable proposal and presentation templates for your salespeople at launch time is an invaluable gift. For many sellers, creating these documents takes an inordinate amount of time, and quality is often mediocre. Additionally, if these templates are totally focused on customers’ needs, you can help salespeople be more effective. Plus, you ensure the consistency of your message.
5. Facilitate “how-to-sell” training. Most launch meetings are totally centered on the new offering—its capabilities, ordering processes and support. However, it’s also important to discuss how customers do things without your offering. Explore the difficulties caused by the current method and the business impact of these problems. Discuss positioning, questions to be asked and the logical next steps in the sales process.
Successful new product introductions require sales and marketing departments to work together prior to launch. Involve top sellers in beta site interviews to strengthen your value proposition. Get their input on what to include in diagnostic tools, the best structure for your templates and how to define good selling processes. Invite all salespeople to contribute competitive information and quickly disseminate it to others.
This makes all the difference between a new product’s smashing success and its descent into obscurity. Take the extra time to do it right and reap the benefits.
BY JILL KONRATH
Jill Konrath, author of “Selling to Big Companies,” is a recognized sales strategist in the highly competitive business-to-business market. A popular speaker at sales meetings, she helps her clients crack into corporate accounts, speed up their sales cycle and generate demand for their offering. Konrath publishes an industry-leading online newsletter and blog. To subscribe—and get a free Sales Call Planning Guide ($19.95 value)—visit www.sellingtobigcompanies.com. For information on sales training, call (651) 429-1922.