Though many may not know, there is a process for properly introducing new products into your company and market place. It’s common to see a dealer select a new product based on a current client inquiry or because they see the latest “gee-wiz” product at a show and decide they want to sell it. Without any strategy or research, the new product is thrown into their sales department with gigantic promises of fame and fortune.
The shiny object is held up in front of everyone and everyone is told exactly how to sell it and why customers will buy it. Then the dealer says, “Everyone is going to make a lot of money with this new product. All you have to do is include the new gee-wiz in one deal per month and you’ll double your income!” Right?
With eyes glazed over and everyone doing the rah-rah dance, happiness takes the day. It’s like taking the opening shot on a pool table with your eyes closed. It’s exciting for a while, but after the initial deals fail you come back to reality and realize you need an ongoing plan for consistent sales. That’s the problem, isn’t it? Each product you sell needs that same consistency.
A few weeks ago on a conference call a dealer asked me, “when you say the word product, are you talking about our MFPs?” For the record, a “product” is anything that has value—whether a tangible object like an MFP or your Managed Services program. Both require a serious plan if you want to introduce them into your marketplace.
There are so many things to consider when adding new products or services, and it’s more difficult than you might think. I’m not saying you shouldn’t bring on new products. But I am telling you that you should have a solid reason for doing so and a great plan behind each product introduction.
It’s easy for a sales organization to over emphasize the success potential and timeline of their new “gee-wiz” product. If you’re not careful, this can injure your core revenues and or even slow the momentum around what keeps you in business. If you are an MFP dealer, you have to protect that business when bringing in other products. So how should you select and introduce new products properly?
Back when I watched the TV show Mad Men, almost every episode circled around the main character Don Draper saving the day as he pitched his ideas to potential clients. He often amazed both the client and his colleagues, as he seemed to always have the magic plan on how best to go to market.
But Don Draper didn’t rely on magic. He simply did his homework. Most of the presentations he did were based on weeks of research and discovery. His analysis often discovered major disconnects between the company’s marketing and their customers. He dug deep into the psyche and buying habits of the company’s target, until the answers on how to market their products became crystal clear.
While many believe that type of planning only exists on a TV show, I’m convinced that our industry is simply out of practice. We’ve relied on others for too long to tell us what to sell and how to sell it. For example, many dealers today are struggling to launch their managed print services program while trying to maintain their hardware sales. Most have not been successful! In order to be successful, you should become a Don Draper.
Research is the key. It’s paramount! But as I’ve mentioned in the past, few conduct market research of any kind. Very often they lean on the manufacturers for strategy development. The question is, should they? Manufacturers have their own success model, but it’s focused on selling to a reseller like you, not an end user.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but a lot of manufacturer’s go-to-market suggestions are conceptual. They don’t really walk in your shoes, nor do they know your marketplace as well as a Don Draper would. Don’t believe me? Ask one of your closest reps on a whim, which are the top 10 potential prospects in your marketplace that would benefit from their product. They won’t know. Don Draper would know! They’ll say it’s because they’re spread too thin and they can’t devote that kind of research to every dealer’s marketplace.
To be fair, it really ISN’T their job, but can you name the top 10 potential prospects in your marketplace? Could you walk into their door tomorrow and give them a presentation like Don Draper?
When products are thrown into the sales bag with no plan, it’s like the pool balls on a table. They crash, crack, and collide into chaos and often go directions you didn’t intend.
Here are a few things to consider when introducing new products:
- Probably the most important consideration is to make sure your company is ready and able to add new products. Honestly, most aren’t. They all say they are but this is one of the biggest rubs between sales and marketing. Sales want it now and believe they’ll work through the kinks. Marketing wants to plan for every possible scenario before releasing a product to be sold. The two worlds are constantly battling for control unless there is no marketing department, in which case sales runs the show.
The key point here is that most sales teams are driving less successful reps than successful reps and this leads us to the second question.
- Do you build a really successful sales organization first and then add products? Or do you believe adding new products will drive your success? It’s a serious question that must be addressed. If you could see what I see, adding new products to a sales organization where there are more failing reps than successful ones typically doesn’t produce a win. Fix your sales organization first, then add the products that will be most advantageous for your company.
- Evaluate each product for it’s possible contribution to your key business objectives. Is it a stand-alone product or does it complement existing products? Do your research. Where is it on its lifecycle? Is it a leading edge competitor or is it trailing? Does it complement your current business model? Within your marketplace, who would benefit from it and what would your decision maker’s title be?
Go to your current customers for advice, specifically to the decision maker and title you’ve called out as your target. LEAVE YOUR ORDER PAD AT HOME and do real research: ask them if the product you want to bring to market has value, take notes, and dig deep. Most of all, evaluate the amount of effort it will take your company to professionally sell the product and evaluate that against the number of targets you’d have in your marketplace. If it takes too much to get there and you only have a few targets to create a return, it may not be worth the effort.
- Target review and sweet spot. When doing the necessary research for a product introduction, especially when your company doesn’t have a marketing department, you have to zero in on the truest possible prospect and not talk your self into a product just because you have a big demographic of targets.
Recently, I was talking with a dealer who had jumped in neck deep with a software product built specifically for the medical vertical. His dealership happens to be smack dab in the middle of a metro filled with medical businesses. But as it turned out, his product only fits a small portion of the large medical businesses within his metro. He won’t see a return for his money, training, and effort until he sells 12 companies his software, not to mention the onboarding took SO MUCH of his attention and resources that his hardware business is suffering. Enough said.
- Finally, you have to honest. If you don’t have the sales talent to add this new product then you may have to wait until you do. Just look around in our industry at all of the dealers who say they sell MPS but really don’t. Truth be known, it’s not always a compensation issue that keeps reps from selling MPS. Very often, it’s the lack of talent in selling something that’s conceptual. You can’t make a zebra into a black stallion.
Let’s face it; there is enough chaos in most sales organizations just from the situations you run into every day. I believe that most product launches fail (like MPS) because they’re pushed into play without a plan.
I know right now some of you are saying, “That’s not me!” Aren’t you? Let me ask, of your entire marketplace, who are the top 10 MPS prospects that should be using your company to manage their fleet of MFPs and printers? What are the names of the executives who work there? What do you know about them? What challenges are they facing that MPS addresses directly? Why would they want or need you to manage their print fleet instead of doing it themselves? What values can you deliver that they need that your company satisfies? What are you waiting for? Go ask them!