You’ve recently launched an amazing new product which blows the competitive offering out of the water. You’ve supported the launch with great sales tools and a fantastic marketing campaign. Despite this you start to notice that the sales team haven’t informed their customers, and you begin to wonder “what went wrong?”.
Your sales team is not engaged with the product.
Sales is a tough job. In the end, sales is mostly about relationships and these guys and gals spend weeks and months building up trust with their clients.
- They are afraid of getting questions about a product that they can’t answer and appearing stupid in front of the customer.
- They may have experienced problems with new products before and they would rather their client wasn’t the guinea pig (which could put the client relationship at risk).
- It’s usually easier to reach bonus targets selling familiar products, than having to put in extra effort to sell something new.
In the hectic last minute rush of a product launch it’s easy to throw the product over the wall to the sales team and expect them to drop everything else and start running with it. However, the sales team has many other things to do and promoting this fantastic new product might not be top of their agenda.
Your first customer is your sales team.
During a product launch, your most important customer is your sales team, treat them like it:
- Build the relationship.
- Sell them the product,
- Get commitment.
- Make them the hero.
1. Build the relationship
Like your sales colleagues, you also need to build trust with your key customer – them. Listen to their input when setting the development criteria, keep them informed about progress and get their feedback on prototypes.
Build credibility within the organisation. An influential sales colleague who had a successful pilot project at his customer will persuade other sales colleagues about the benefits much better than you can.
2. Sell them the product
Awareness: Make sure you sales team know the new product is coming. Sending out advance emails and reminders closer to the launch is a good start. But, your email is probably buried under 4 angry customer complaints and 3 new business opportunities. Don’t assume they’ve read the email – pick up the phone.
Benefits: What’s in it for them? Have you fixed an issue that was a source of customer complaints? Did you remove a delivery constraint? Can they grow their business at existing clients? Do they have a list of sales leads they can’t convert yet because they are waiting for this product?
Remember, sales is a tough job. Think about how this new product will make their life easier and tell them.
Knowledge: Make sure they have extra background information so they feel confident to answer customer questions. This means in-depth technical explanations, test results comparing to competition, price positioning vs own and competitor products, how to order, stock availability, etc. And most importantly – where the product doesn’t perform so well – they won’t trust you again if they have to find this out for themselves.
Ideally this should take place in a face to face meeting. If that isn’t possible try to keep online trainings to small groups so you have a lot of interaction (and reduce the risk that they get distracted by their email.)
3. Get commitment
You need to get commitment from your sales team to hitting growth targets. If the new product introduction is sufficiently important to the company success it should be included in the sales bonus structure. Make sure to have this discussion with the Head of Sales well in advance. If your product development cycle is predictable enough, try and do this before the bonus structure is agreed for the following year.
Sometimes it isn’t possible to include the new product in the bonus structure; perhaps the sales won’t come in the same financial year, or the systems simply cannot support product-specific sales bonuses. However, it is still important to get buy-in from your sales colleagues and sometimes an extra incentive can help motivate them. I’ve had success offering a dinner voucher for the first person to get 5 customers signed up for a trial or given away the latest gadget to the first person to sell 1000 widgets.
4. Make them the hero
Make sure the sales staff bringing in the first big wins on the new product get credited by the CEO in the internal newsletter. Getting recognition will spur them on to sell more and your sales team will become genuine product evangelists.