Recently, we spoke with a company with what appears to be a common problem. Working together, their Sales and Marketing teams designed a new product launch and set realistic expectations and goals for its success. Collateral and messaging reached the sales team, and launch plans were in place for months. Yet, when the new product went to market, the launch didn’t meet expectations.
Months later, the company decided to reintroduce the product with a new approach.
What went wrong? Even with significant product planning, reps failed to carry the message into the market. Many reverted to their old way of doing things and didn’t present the new message at all.
This “last mile,” where reps bear the responsibility of passing messaging on to prospects, can often be the missing link that holds back your product launch. Reps want to sell and, given the right knowledge, share exciting new launches with their prospects. Yet, they often struggle to adopt complex new features, messaging, and solutions and place them into context in their messaging. With the pressure to sell constant, anything less than a formal, progressive learning curriculum will often fall short. While not necessarily your reps’ fault, they ultimately drive the new product’s fate.
Rather than wasting the investments made into the new product, finding a way to reintroduce it to the market and drive a stronger ROI is more efficient. Thankfully, returning value on a failed product launch requires the exact same process that can help ensure pre-launch alignment and success: a sales product and service go-to-market process.
The product and service go-to-market process pairs frontline reps and managers with the needed certification, benchmarking, and ongoing learning and engagement they need to effectively take new lines to market. When used as part of a launch, a firm process can help ensure that reps present effective messaging to prospects, become experts on the offerings and solution, and even effectively break the status quo.
Restarting a product launch parallels the process for a new product launch: since the goals are the same, the process is the same. The main elements are a cohesive, progressive curriculum, a targeted result, and a message that can be delivered and reinforced to the team.
The core of any product launch is a curriculum that ramps reps into experience and mastery of the message and product. Even before the message is developed, a strategic plan for rolling out the new features and messaging to reps is crucial for that message to actually be impactful. Deliberate practice, either virtual or in-person, allows reps to try the messaging on for size before they need to deliver it. Do you think your sales team will do something different in front of a customer if they’re not comfortable? Some will, but most unfortunately will not.
No product launch can truly be successful without a message that sales can take to prospects. Like core brand messaging, specific product messages relate the company and solutions to prospects in a way that starts with the problem that product solves…not with features and benefits. Successful reps are aligned and conversational in core messaging when they drive conversions, because they are both able to steer a conversation and leave a lasting impression. Even with a previous product launch, a review of existing messaging can be transformational in reintroduction of a line – reps will find more to speak to and more to relate to, and thus will do a better job of learning and applying the message.
Outside of the business results driving a product launch, Marketing (and thus Sales) has its own goals for a new line. The effectiveness of the messaging and the conversion rate on the new product are all common points, but the focus point of any new launch should be on message alignment. While message alignment alone may not indicate success or performance, “Marketing typically has a better handle on the overall battle plan,” according to the AMA, and can correlate rep impact with product success. When a firm alignment in place, it becomes easier for Marketers to know when to change course, if needed, and also to amplify investments where they work best.
While the actual messages and strategy will vary from company to company, all successful B2B product launches share one thing in common: reps were able to effectively sell them. When the team responsible for selling hits their goals, Marketing ultimately succeeds.