Published: February 22, 2016 | Comments
Marketing departments take product launches seriously, spending months preparing wildly compelling sales collateral, videos, presentations, demos, case studies, market intelligence, buyer personas and more—everything salespeople could possibly need to do their jobs. Then, together with the sales executives, they introduce the product, collateral and tools to the sales teams in a meeting, roadshow or webinar.
For the sales force, however, the experience is akin to drinking from a firehose. They’re able to swallow some of it, but most of it splashes away. And as always, it isn’t long before something changes and there’s something new to remember. Unfortunately, the remembering of all this information and applying it during the heat of a sales call is the hard part. It’s simply too much to absorb at one sitting.
Knowledge retention is a huge problem after a product rollout. And when reps don’t retain this information, they lack confidence and go back to old habits of selling what is comfortable. This puts product launch success at risk and impedes go-to-market speed. The good news is this can be addressed if you follow these practical steps: (1) pre-enforce, (2) answer the three “What’s,” (3) reinforce, (4) measure knowledge retention, and (5) coach.
You may have heard the term “pre-enforcement” being bantered about lately. It’s a relatively new strategy that’s gaining traction for major product launches. Pre-enforcement introduces high-level concepts, usually in the form of simple statements that are “dripped” out over the span of a few weeks to get the sales force excited about the new offering. Often, pre-enforcement tactics include short surveys and quizzes to capture the sales team’s mindset around the new concepts.
Pre-enforcement lays the foundation and establishes a baseline of understanding prior to the formal product introduction, priming sales to receive the bucket loads of new information they’ll have to learn and remember. Good pre-enforcement can also reduce the amount of expensive rep face-time required to introduce the new offering.
Answer the Three What’s
What? So What? and Now What? Answer these questions during your product launch and you’ll set the stage for sales success.
What? – Tell sales what they need to know. Marketing shines at doing this.
So What? – Tell them why they should care. What’s in it for them? The company? The customer? About half of marketers do a good job answering this question.
Now What? – Give them contextual, real-world examples of how they should apply this new information successfully during a sales call. Very few marketers even attempt to answer the Now What? aspect. Those that do typically engage with sales leadership to formulate the best answer to this question.
For sales reps to be successful selling a new product, they have to feel confident about it. Answering the three What’s sets the stage for that success.
Reinforce, Measure & Coach
It’s typical to deliver a lot of information over a short period of time to sales and then hope everyone remembers it and knows what to do with it. But when you actually measure understanding and comprehension to reveal the knowledge gaps, it’s surprising how little the sales staff has absorbed. That’s where reinforcement, knowledge retention measurement and coaching play key roles in helping salespeople become competent and confident.
Fortunately, software tools can easily automate knowledge check delivery to report back on what’s sticking and what’s not. Also, studies show when you break reinforcement content into small, digestible chunks spaced over several weeks, it is a far more effective approach to get reps remembering important details at the moment of truth.
Coaching is easier to say than it is to do. Sales managers have too much on their plates to figure out how well each rep understands the new offering. By measuring knowledge gaps using automated tools, you now have actionable information for front-line managers. Use these insights to create a one-page PDF for sales managers that shows them which knowledge gaps present the most risk for the launch and tells them specifically how to coach those gaps during sales meetings.
Few would disagree that the best way to improve revenue is to improve your sales reps’ confidence. There’s an art—or maybe it’s a science—to helping sales be successful selling new products or adapting to changes. Following this launch strategy of pre-enforcement, answering the three What’s, reinforcement, measurement and coaching will dramatically increase the likelihood that the knowledge assets you’ve prepared and delivered to your sales force will be competently leveraged and applied in the field.