Are you pitching the right thing to the right people?
Some products don’t make it, because manufacturers don’t always know who benefits most from their solutions.
Consider Listerine, a well known brand of mouthwash that was originally developed in the 19th century as a powerful surgical antiseptic. Later on it was marketed as a floor cleaner and a cure for gonorrhoea. It wasn’t until it found it’s niche as a cure for bad breath, that sales really took off. Can you imagine? (Check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Listerine if you want to learn more) Now, of course, not all stories are as drastic as this example. In many cases, companies are simply pitching the wrong value prop to the wrong people. Let’s have a short look at Top Hat, a Canadian company who wanted to make learning better by creating an interaction platform between students & professors. It wasn’t until they shifted their sales attention away from school administrators to students and professors that sales took of. (More on https://tophat.com/company/top-hat-story/ and https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/classroom-tech-company-gets-schooled-on-selling-direct/article33219363/). Aiming the right value proposition at the right audience, can make all the difference.
Do you weigh up against competition?
The second question to answer is a rather tough one; “Am I good enough?”. Of course you are! The real question is whether you solve a market need in a more appealing way than any of the other solutions out there.
Imagine you need to travel from Brussels to London. So many ways to achieve this; you can take a plane, drive yourself and use a ferry or Le Shuttle, take a train, take a bus or even swim.
More often than not, people only look at their own category when evaluating a market. They compare themselves to companies doing the same thing as they are.
The hovercraft people compared themselves to the ferries. It didn’t take long for them to go out of business when the channel tunnel was opened (read more on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoverspeed ). What would you have done to prevent catastrophe?
When competition outweighs you from a price-performance point of view, consider praying or start confusing the market. Don’t understand what I mean? Look at what mobile telephone & energy companies do to woe customers. Bring out tons of features, expand your offering, price differently according to the time of day etc. If you can’t convince, confuse. As good a strategy as any other out there.
Or you can of course offer meaningful differentiation.
Can your sales actually sell your product, without hurting themselves?
There is this strange notion in business. If a product doesn’t sell, management often think they have lousy sales people. They forget sales people are typically very intelligent people. They optimize a scarce resource, their time, to maximize their income.
If a product is more difficult to sell than others, sales teams will shy away from them. Unless you make it really easy for them or let rewards offset the extra risk, they will not move.
On a very fundamental level, leaving the beaten sales track, is always a risk. It is taking away active sales time, that brings in the revenue, and replace it with something uncertain.
This one medical company active in radiology equipment, created a fantastic new product for the surgical equipment market. However, this was a market their current sales team knew nothing about. After investing millions in developing a great new product, the company decided their existing sales force could enter the new market if they were simply properly trained. A lot of effort was made to close the knowledge gap. There was even an investment in extra sales support.
In the end however, the sales team didn’t have the necessary market inroads and didn’t want to waste time, creating them. The truth is, nobody likes reducing their income, not even the top executives. Needless to say the endeavour was not a success, even with a product that had a proven value proposition.
So make sure that your sales team is set up for selling. Make sure they understand the product, the customers and market. And don’t forget to align sales incentives.
So ask these three questions, and see how everything adds up. With the answers, you can run plan a great sales enablement program and solve your challenges.
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