You’ve seen that icy stare from your head of sales before. It’s been a bad meeting so far and it’s about to get a lot worse. His glare is drilling right through your forehead. “We’ve known about this for how long now – 11 months? You assured me we had everything buttoned-up. The comp plan, revenue targets, training – it was all covered.”
You glance down to your laptop at the new revenue data since launch. How could we have missed so badly? You swipe at the bead of sweat that sprung up on your brow. Your VP comes back at you as if reading your mind. “How did we not see this? Marketing says they were all over it. Product insists it’s what our customers want. What’s your explanation?”
Don’t let this story replay with you on the receiving end. Have your next new product launch covered and hit the target.
You collect your thoughts, take a breath and dive in. “Some of the sales directors are saying the sales goals were too high. Others are telling me we didn’t get the value proposition right. We haven’t gotten feedback from the field on why we’re losing deals. I’ve heard reps are struggling with who they should target.”
Your VP’s stare is back and it’s as cold as liquid nitrogen. “We bet a boat-load of money and time on this and it’s not working. We – you and I – are in this up to the neck. I meet with the Executive Committee tomorrow at 3:00 pm. You need to get a solid plan together tonight. If we don’t pull out of this free fall, the chopping-block is waiting.”
Plan the Work and Work the Plan
New product failure rates are high. The Product Development and Marketing Association put new product failure rates between 65%-85%. Even large, established blue-chip companies see failure rates above 65%.
It’s never a good day when you get verbally hammered by the boss. It’s even worse when your job might hang in the balance. Unfortunately, your boss may be right to direct his ire at you.
As a sales operations leader, you can have significant impact on product failure rate. Your planning or lack thereof can drive success rates up or down. Take charge of what you can to maximize opportunity for success.
New product launches represent large investments. Idea generation, prototypes and testing. Market research into opportunity identification and pricing. Sales training, compensation and lead generation. There’s a ton of money riding on your next new product release.
Some the key activities you can lead or influence to improve launch success rates include:
- Account Segmentation – Done well, segmentation supports in the identification of the opportunity and specific targets.
- Lighthouse Accounts – Support sales by tracking the identification of early adopter or “Lighthouse” customers. Capture feedback from these prototype users before full launch.
- Win / Loss Interviews – Early in launch, orchestrate the capture of immediate feedback on wins and losses. Why did or did they not buy? What were their early experiences? Did it deliver as promised? Having a 3rd party to do this will maintain objectivity.
- Revenue Targets / Quotas – Translate the initial Market Research data and Segmentation into achievable revenue targets.
- Compensation – Design a plan that a) drives the desired behavior and b) is clearly understood by all. Make sure reps know what’s in it for them far in advance of launch.
- Training – This is not an event and it’s not just about product features! New product training should focus on buyer Personas, Buying Process and Value Proposition. Follow-up through continuous reinforcement, certifications and ongoing rep testing for competence.
- Publish – Drive cadence in communications through a collaborative platform (Chatter, Jive, etc.)
- Gamification – Get individuals and teams competing for cash awards, recognition, perks, etc.
- Close the Loop – become responsible for capturing field feedback throughout the first year. Provide feedback on a regular basis to Marketing, Product and Sales Leadership.
Think to the future. What scene will you write for your company’s next new product release? Will it include the intense stare-down from your boss with words to match? Or, will you author a new future hitting revenue goals from a successful release? Was this new future due to your planning and focus? Reduce the uncertainty of new Product launches.