Can your sales force handle another new product introduction? New offerings open up profitable new revenue streams. But they also tax your sales talent. This post is for sales leaders and their HR business partners. It answers the question, “What will it take to enable our team to sell the new solution?” The post will explore the pressures on productivity and cost.
It all starts by assessing your team’s capability. Can they handle another new offering? There are 2 dimensions to consider:
- Does the team have the bandwidth to handle any more products?
- Does the team have the required knowledge and skills?
Bandwidth – The first hurdle If the current team can develop the competencies, do you have enough people? The new offering should enrich the opportunity in every existing territory. One option is to create new territories by scaling down existing ones. This is unpopular and causes customer disruption. But it can be the most practical alternative to ensure you Make the Number.
If the additional revenue offsets the additional headcount, it makes sense. The challenge becomes building equitable new territories. It may also require a revision the compensation plan or quota. New products mean new opportunities and new accountability.
Another option is to make the sales team more efficient. Reduce non-selling activities and implement sales force effectiveness measures. In short, free up your existing headcount to sell the new offering.
A third alternative is to supplement the generalist sales force with a Specialist. This is a quota-bearing sales resource who supports multiple sales people. The focus is specifically on opportunities for the new offering. This option is covered in more detail after the second question is answered.
Skills & Knowledge – Do we have what it takes?
Some skills and knowledge can be learned on the job. If the new offering is similar to others in the portfolio this is very straightforward. Simply add the necessary training to the launch program. In other cases, a sequence of learning activities may be required. Role playing, sales gamification and certification can ensure readiness to sell the new solution. The Learning & Development provides the training resources and structure. Marketing supplies the product and competitive knowledge content.
However, some new offerings require more. Specific industry or technical knowledge may be beyond the depth of your current team. There may simply be no way to make up for years of domain experience required. Customers demand that the sales person adds value to their decision-making process. This can’t be faked or ignored.
Start by assessing the demands of the new offering. Determine the gap between current capabilities of your team and those required at launch. It may be possible to start selling the new offering initially while ramping up skills and knowledge. But it may simply be impossible. Product Marketing can assist in defining the competencies required to articulate the value proposition. HR can help by comparing the existing job requirements to the new demands. Hiring profiles and scorecards must be updated.
The Solution Specialist Role
What are the options when the team lacks the required competencies and training isn’t the answer? Upgrading the entire sales force is expensive and time-consuming. A best practice is to add a Specialist to the mix.
The Specialist is an overlay position, providing support to a group of generalist sales people. This can be a cost-effective way to supplement the skill set of the generalists. The Specialist serves as a role model for selling the new solution. This boosts the new offering launch with dedicated resources. Over time the Specialist transfers essential knowledge to the generalists. The role is often funded by the product team or business unit responsible for the new solution. This converts some of the sales expense to a product launch expense.
Done correctly, the Specialist role can turbocharge the new solution offering. At the same time, it can build a bench of leadership candidates. It’s one more way to help you Make the Number.