This guest post is from Janet Spirer, Ph.D., co-founder of Sales Horizons.
If your company is like most, you will launch more new products in the next five years than you did in the previous ten. These products will be expected to produce significant revenue and some may be “bet-the-company” entries to the market.
Yet history tells a scary tale. Many good new products are doomed from the beginning because they are not launched successfully to the sales force – they simply escape into the marketplace. In the rush to market, all too often companies provide salespeople with only marketing materials, product training, and pricing information.
Selling a new product requires more than just describing it and talking about price points. Talking about a product and selling a product are two very different things. In many cases the sales team needs specific sales skills training to adjust and adapt to selling the new product. And, the greater the extent to which the new product is different from the existing product portfolio, the greater the need for that training.
One antidote for assuring the future does not look like the past rests with providing sales skills training before the product launch. Let’s examine five success factors for implementing new product sales skills training.
- Collaboration.Sales training programs are usually purchased from outside vendors by Training Departments in conjunction with the Sales function. In the case of sales training for launching new products, there is an additional party involved in the collaboration – Marketing. Because there are three internal departments involved, collaboration takes more time but process shortcuts are ill-advised. Each of the internal departments plus the outside vendor is a critical piece of what it takes to drive success. The lesson is – start early, get all the players involved, and don’t cut corners.
- Early Wins. We all know that successful salespeople spend their time pursuing qualified opportunities. But qualified opportunities for the new product may differ substantially from good opportunities for the existing product portfolio. The sales training program needs to address what a good prospect profile looks like for the new product. With that information in hand, salespeople should be able to identify from their accounts those prospects most likely to be early wins.
- Qualitative Criteria. When organizations create a prospect profile, they too often just include quantitative criteria such as size or revenue – that generates only a partial picture. Qualitative qualification criteria are just as important. We’ve all been in situations where a prospect met all of the quantitative criteria but the real driver behind the sale was a qualitative criterion like receptivity to being an early adopter. A good product launch sales training program should help the sales team understand qualitative and quantitative qualification criteria.
- Customization.A typical customized sales training program will incorporate some industry- or company-based role plays and perhaps a special objection handling activity. However, to fully prepare the sales force, a product launch training program should be customized to a substantially greater degree. The entire program needs to be targeted to address the challenges, opportunities, and call points for selling the new product. For example, instead of some general company role plays, incorporate a customized simulation that requires modeling of the desired sales process for the new product.
- Teamwork.Today’s new products are more sophisticated than ever. Success depends not only on a competent salesperson, but a team of technical and support people who are actively engaged in the sales process. When it comes to the training for a new product, too often the full team is not included. Each group is too busy learning its piece of the puzzle; putting the puzzle together is left for another day. If you are going to play as a team, train as a team.
It is probably not an exaggeration to say that most companies spend a king’s ransom in the design, development, and marketing of new products. And, in some cases the new product has the potential to transform the fortunes of the company. All too often this potential is not realized. Lack of time and attention to doing a superior job in helping the sales team do what they can and need to do is one of reason for this gap in fortune. It is an avoidable problem – there is a body of knowledge about training your sales team to sell a new product.
©2011 Sales Horizons, LLC
Janet Spirer, Ph.D. is a co-founder of Sales Horizons which offers companies effective sales training programs that make a difference, yet are affordably priced. She co-wrote Parlez-Vous Business – a book that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully.You can see more of Janet’s posts on sales and sales training at the Sales Training Connection or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.