A recent Harvard Business Review article forwarded to me titled, “How to Sell New Products,” is packed full of powerful lessons for anyone wanting to launch any new B2B product. The article was based on research including one-on-one conversations and surveys of B2B sales people and early on reveals this gem of a quote:
“… found that people who excel at selling new products have traits and behaviors different from those of people who successfully sell existing product lines—and that the best companies develop organizations and cultures to support salespeople in rising to the challenge.”
They follow this with,
“Our research suggests that what usually passes for training when a product is launched is merely a product showcase in disguise; the main challenges that will arise during the sales cycle aren’t addressed.”
I want to encourage you to read that article, but just these two quotes reinforce a few central truths that I have been advocating over and over again (and we put into practice) as we work with B2B manufacturing companies around new launch initiatives.
- Some sales people just intuitively (or just because of sweat equity) figure out how to sell a new product you give them – period. They learn to connect the “what” and the “how” and “why” with customers.
- Many (probably 90%+) are not in that group – they need the content and training to “LIFT” them to a higher plane of sales effectiveness – you cannot just dump product “info” on them and expect them to know “how to sell” a product.
- A successful launch is going to depend on a framework or these key cornerstones –
- Launch content that provides not just the “what” but the “how” (e.g., battlecards, pre-written email pitches, scripted presentations they can adapt)
- In-depth and interactive training process – starting with a small group and then having them train in offices (partners training as well) – a train the trainer approach that can build expertise across the organization
- Required and measured target account identification during the sales training process – who are likely buyers and what is your plan? Where can we get early success and what do you need?
- Consistent and transparent measurement of launch progress (number of training events, how many trained, target accounts identified, how much potential identified, how much WON for new product) – visible from the field all the way to the top of the campaign launch – to create discussions that keep the launch top-of-mind.
Closing with one of the opening quotes from the article I am citing –
“To put it simply, companies that have invested millions to dream up new-to-the-world innovations need to become more adept at selling them to customers.”