Prepping the sales team for a new product launch seems deceptively simple, at least at first. As the new offering gets ready for its debut, reps are trained on its core features and value proposition, given some spec sheets and other sales enablement collateral, then sent forth to spread the good news to customers and prospects.
If you want an incremental lift in revenue and gradual but steady adoption of your new product, there’s nothing wrong with stopping there. If, on the other hand, the new product launch is tied to a more ambitious sales target, or is designed to help the company reposition itself in the market (and perhaps attract entirely new kinds of customers) reps are going to need a lot more.
Most companies realize sales reps are far more than a glorified fulfillment service for bringing a new product to the front lines. That’s why they want reps to not only be prepared but excited about what the new offering will do to help make their customers happier -- especially the biggest spenders with whom they’ve nurtured strong relationships using CRM like Sales Cloud.
Accomplishing that, however, means thinking ahead about all the customer journeys that might lead to a discussion about the new product. Then, companies need to develop capabilities in their sales teams that make them agile enough to answer unexpected questions about it.
Beyond doing some competitive analysis, setting a quota and waiting for leads from the marketing team to come in, there’s a lot that managers can do to get the sales team off to a great start:
If the new product launch might appeal to any of your existing customer base (rather than something targeted at an entirely new market or segment), dig into CRM to look for one-to-one selling opportunities based on what you already know about business pain points, budget cycles and so on.
Don’t stop there, though. While you obviously want to look for those ready to make a purchase, you should also look to those customers who might have offered testimonials or case study interviews in the past. If they’re willing to do the same this time around -- even if it’s just adding a few lines about the new product to refresh an existing case study, for example -- it could drastically ease the process of swaying similar organizations who want a reference example among their peers.
Good sales reps will have already mastered the art of debunking myths about your firm’s existing products that might otherwise have prevented companies from buying in the past. They’ll also have found ways to address the most common forms of push-back from prospects who say they don’t have any money, time to listen to a pitch or even the need for your existing products. When you launch a new product, however, those rebuttals and counter-arguments may not necessarily apply.
Either through individual coaching or as a team, have some reps play the customer while others build upon the launch marketing materials by making a case for buying the new product. Encourage the team to come up with as many “Nos” as possible. Try the exercise pitching the product in isolation, but also have reps think about how they’d integrate the new product into a more integrated pitch to sell a suite of products to a major customer. How might the objections differ, or how many additional hoops might they have to jump though?
Customers may still come up with some surprise objections in real life, but your CRM likely contains a lot of knowledge that could be applied to the reps’ approach before news of the new product gets to them.
As we’ve noted in earlier posts about product launches, the marketing team will likely have developed a number of assets that tell a compelling story, not only focusing on the new product launch but how customers’ biggest business priorities make it relevant to their lives. That story will likely be told through e-mail, blog posts, video and social media -- in other words, the same kinds of channels sales reps will have to use to actually get customers to bite.
Rather than take those marketing messages and deliver them verbatim, consider how you might repurpose them to draw the attention of specific accounts and individuals. Let’s take social media as an example. A rep could use the boilerplate copy from the marketing team to introduce the new product to their LinkedIn network . . . or they could talk about the value it brings to their connections in a particular industry, those working in a company of a particular size, or those who are struggling with a certain business process. You could use the “@” symbol to tag specific people in your post this way, possibly starting a conversation that, even if those tagged aren’t interested, might trigger interest from others in their network.
Do the same thing for cold e-mails, call scripts or other things that tend to be overly templated in sales. If you’ve been using CRM, you’ve already made the shift to a more data-driven way of working. The new product launch represents an opportunity to take that data and drive it towards a sales process where everyone contacted feels unique and understands why the rep would have had them in mind.
Working this way doesn’t just benefit the sales team. It will also wind up providing valuable insight for the marketing team about what elements of their story resonate best with customers. It might make customers less ready to leap to a competitor and pave the way for more positive engagements with the customer service team.
Most of all, it turns a new product launch from a one-off event on the calendar into a strategic plan that will bring the entire organization closer to the issues customers care most about -- which is the best way to ensure the majority of them wind up buying it.