Solutions Marketing Campaign Launch – Getting the Sales Force Ready to Sell Successfully

Many of the solutions-oriented companies we’ve worked with have finely-tuned processes to bring solutions to market.  But getting the sales teams and partners ready for that launch—and preparing them to sell the new solutions successfully -- are often overlooked as the marketing team focuses all of its time and money on the external marketplace.  What is often forgotten is that unprepared sales and channel teams can directly affect the customer uptake of the solutions.  On the other hand, preparing them to be the “tip of the spear” in a new solutions campaign can provide the early traction new solutions need to be successful.

Based on several recent solutions sales enablement projects, as well as a review of research by other leading marketing and sales organizations, the Solutions Insights team has identified several factors that are required to successfully prepare the sales force to play a pivotal role in any solutions launch.  Outlined below is a model for how to think about the launch of a solution from a sales perspective.  We also briefly highlight the ways in which the support of a solution is different or more complex than the same activity related to the launch of a product or a service.

A 3-STEP MODEL FOR A SOLUTIONS SALES LAUNCH

As the expression goes, “this ain’t rocket science” – but far too often companies don’t have a basic framework that guides them through this process.  We suggest a simple 3-step model:

  1. Develop a specific sales launch strategy and process
  2. Create the governance and metrics
  3. Execute the campaign

Sales Launch Strategy -- The sales launch strategy should mirror the key elements of the overall market launch, including market/customer research, a clear solution definition, and unambiguous launch accountability.   A successful solutions launch requires strong collaboration and alignment with sales and channel leaders from the outset.  This includes establishing clear responsibility and accountability for sales enablement.  A good basic tool is a RACI matrix where specific individuals or teams teams are designated as Responsible, Accountable, Consulted or Informed (RACI) for each major task.  The RACI matrix should cover not only what marketing is going to deliver to sales, but also the role sales leadership will play in disseminating and supporting the launch.

The solutions difference:  Since solutions often require product and services groups to work collaboratively on the new solutions, new strategies are also required to focus sales on the complete value of the solution.    When multiple partners are added to the mix, the strategic intricacies and complexities increase exponentially.

Governance -- The governance of the sales launch needs to have the same elements as an overall launch – for example, market-specific success metrics.  But for sales to be measured and held accountable for the launch, specific lead and funnel management metrics must also be established early to ensure optimum coordination and alignment between marketing and sales.

The solutions difference:  The same level of complexity that is normally encountered in developing the launch strategy arises when the launch governance issues are addressed.  What is different – and thus more challenging – is there are likely to be a much wider array of players involved in setting the governance strategy..

Execution -- Now we come to the meat of the sales launch – execution.  We have identified four elements that are key to executing a successful solutions sales launch:

1.  Content Creation– instead of just distributing or re-purposing marketing material for the education and use of sales, content (raw information and data) that is specific to the sales force or the channel must be developed.  At a minimum, any sales launch content should specifically identify and describe the buyers and their needs, detail the specific selling process, and detail the benefits of selling the solution—vs. the individual elements--to the direct or indirect sales teams (“what’s in it for me”).    Since sales people are generally “coin operated,” it’s also important to clearly outline to the sales teams how they will be paid for selling the solution.

The solutions difference:  Content for complex solutions has to be focused on the customer’s business issues and challenges, with Value Propositions and conversation guides that are very different from the standard features/advantages/benefits approach.  In addition, while marketers are used to developing content related to a single product or service, the creation of an understandable and compelling set of content documents that combine all the elements of the solution is far more difficult.

2.  Asset Development and Packaging – a common launch mistake is to skimp on the effort required to develop sales content that is easy to consume and apply.  Some common assets are playbooks, ROI calculators, targeted references and proposal templates. While each of these needs to leverage the core content -- (which is often developed by solutions engineers they need to be redesigned to be more user-friendly to a sales person who often has both a short attention span and many competing priorities..

The solutions difference: Similar to content creation, the challenge here is to package all of the key information in a way that is easily understood and applied.  Solutions typically add several levels of complexity to this task in comparison to the launch of a simple product or service.

3.  Launch Communications and Training – Great content is next to useless if it is not disseminated through well-designed and well-executed communication and training.  The solutions launch assets need to be easily understood and “consumed” by that critical core group of your most effective sales people.  This usually requires training them as part of the new launch.

The solutions difference:  Getting a product sales force to sell new solutions is often seen as an “unnatural act”.   It requires not only a new way of selling but also a new way of thinking.  But even experienced solutions sales professionals can find it difficult to learn about and be prepared to sell new, complex offerings because doing so still requires significant preparation and practice time – time that is difficult for them to set aside.

4.  Support and Follow-up – As anyone who has held a sales management job knows, once the solutions are launched, the job has just begun.  Especially in the early stages of the solution introduction, the sales activities have to be supported, nurtured and monitored.  In addition to the traditional activities marketing and sales managers can employ – for example, conference calls to share best practices, role playing and sales reviews – sales managers can now leverage additional collaboration and social media tools such as Chatter for Salesforce.com to communicate and quickly measure the effectiveness of launch assets and training. Launch teams should be monitoring their offers in the field and making any adjustments needed to content and assets that are necessary to increase sales effectiveness.

The solutions difference:  Here’s the one area where we haven’t seen a tremendous difference between product, service, or solutions support and follow-up.  Nevertheless, it is still one of the most critical sets of activities required for a successful solution sales launch.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

We’ve provided you with the key principles and key elements of our solutions sales launch process.  We are constantly refining our approach, so please review it, put it down for a few days and look at it again, compare it to what you’ve done and seen, and then give us your feedback!

Author: Matt Leary, Principal Consultant, Solutions Insights

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