Every National Football League season concludes with the Super Bowl, an event now hyped as much for the high-priced television commercials shown during breaks as it is for the game itself. Advertisers spend millions of dollars per spot, then try to outdo one another in order to create the most positive buzz for the longest period of time.
For product marketers, the launch of a new product is their Super Bowl, both in terms of its magnitude and the difficulty trying to draw attention from one of its key audiences: a jaded sales force busily selling other tried-and-true offerings. In this issue of SiriusPerspectives, we share the three phases of our SiriusDecisions Sales Adoption Model, a continuous approach to driving sales awareness of a new product or solution, and discuss best practices within each phase.
PHASE ONE: PROMOTE
The launch of a new offering isn't a one-time event; it's a progression that can take months in order for reps or partners to feel competent and comfortable enough to sell. Our Sales Adoption Model employs a curve similar to one that might be used to track customer adoption of an offering; the more reps that get on board more quickly, the more revenue will be generated.
Once an offering launches, product marketing must demonstrate that the risks of selling it are low and the potential rewards significant and achievable, gain reps' buy-in and motivate them to want to learn more. Product marketing must employ communication formats that integrate sight and sound to break through the clutter, and leverage informal communication networks in the sales channel via a viral approach. Representative tactics may include:
Videos. A one- to two-minute video that's 20 percent content and 80 percent humor posted to a corporate intranet or sales portal is a great first step. Your job is to create a buzz throughout the sales organization; the more entertaining the video, the more it will be passed among reps.
Insider tips webinars. These internal events feature real-world advice from colleagues who have closed the first deals connected to a new offering. Keep each webinar under 30 minutes, and leave plenty of time for questions. Highlight case studies to facilitate rep buy-in and build confidence, and make the format engaging; consider a talk show or news broadcast format.
PHASE TWO: EDUCATE
With reps now open to learning about a new offering, the next step is to teach them how to sell it. Work closely with the training organization to drive agendas and engineer instructional content; we recommend augmenting traditional e-learning with tactics that include:
Radio shows. Podcasts hosted on a sales portal or intranet that act as new product or solution infomercials are a great way to share selling tips with reps. Design the format to replicate the banter of a couple of radio DJs as they interview top performing sales reps about how they grew their accounts, won new business or overcame common buying objections.
Workshops/product road shows. In-person workshops that are one-third content and two-thirds application, relying heavily on exercises or role-plays are a great way to help reps learn via simulation. Jointly conduct the workshop using sales training and product teams in order to integrate the sales methodology with product or solution subject matter expertise. The content should not only focus on teaching product features and benefits, but also educating reps on buyer personas, competitive positioning and objection handling. The workshops can be delivered as a multi-city road show; if you have a global sales organization, prioritize the schedule by determining the most desired sales territories for achieving target.
Learning games. Games are fun, engaging ways for salespeople to interact with training content; design them in a way that requires players to answer questions correctly about a product or solution to win points. High scorers can win small prizes, and player ranking should be made visible on the corporate intranet or sales portal to foster competition and broader interest.
PHASE THREE: ENGAGE
With promotion and education efforts underway, product marketers must then formally align with sales to influence deals. This is accomplished by designing a series of programs that either accelerate deals moving through the pipeline or helping to drive better post-sale retention. Sample approaches may include:
Value review meetings. These meetings are conducted with customers to demonstrate the business value impact delivered from their purchase. Product marketing supports these programs by providing data or usage reporting, interviewing end users and gathering internal client testimonials, and helping account teams perform analysis and prepare for the meeting.
Deal stall intervention programs. These programs involve building a set of rules and customized reporting into a sales force automation (SFA) application in order to isolate deals that have stalled for an abnormal period of time in a given sales phase. Developing predictive indicators allows product marketing to take action on deals that might need assistance and support; over time, if common causes of stalls can be identified, standard toolkits and rep assistance programs can be created.
No matter what stage of the adoption cycle you're in, measurement of your efforts is key. In the promote phase, compare program usage metrics (page views and downloads) with traditional methods to understand if a larger percentage of the audience is being reached through viral promotion. During the educate phase, track attendance or participation, then determine if reps who participated have higher win rates. For engage, track participating accounts to determine if there are higher retention or win rates, or greater average deal sizes. Finally, a note. Budgets for ongoing efforts are usually not established as part of a normal launch. Assuming you won't get incremental dollars, you'll have to audit your current launch process to determine which components just aren't working; borrow these funds to innovate along the sales adoption curve, and show your organization why simply focusing on the big bang will likely wind up in a big fizzle.
About the Author:
SiriusDecisions, a leading source for business-to-business sales and marketing best-practice research and data. SiriusDecisions Executive Advisory Services, Consulting Services, Benchmark Assessment Services, Learning and Events provide senior-level executives with the sales and marketing operational intelligence required to maximize top line growth and performance.
©Sirius Decisions, 2010. Reproduced with permission.