All launch initiatives have one key ingredient for success in common—change management.
Sales enablement launches new initiatives all the time. From new products to new messaging, mergers and acquisitions to new processes. And let’s not forget the sales kick-off! While you may think that each of these initiatives are unique, the truth is that they have much in common.
Unlike onboarding new hires (existing information, new people) or developing the skills of a sales team (existing information, existing people), a launch can be defined as any initiative when you are getting new information out to your existing team.
The other similarity in all types of launch initiatives is that, though a lot of work often goes into each launch, the sales team rarely engages or adopts it. Why?
Launch Isn’t Just About Knowledge Transfer
Most sales enablement organizations think about launch in terms of knowledge transfer. You have information that you need to get out to hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals as quickly and effectively as possible. So, how do you do it?
Your launch initiative probably includes a webinar—which everyone is “required” to attend (but ultimately many find a reason not to). There, the product manager, marketing director, or enablement rep will present the new initiative in great detail. The line is opened for questions, and there is a bit of a Q&A session. The webinar is recorded and emailed to the organization for those who couldn’t attend and so people can review it. Maybe you go as far as providing a data sheet or a playbook, but that’s probably about it.
While these elements to a launch initiative are certainly necessary, they are not effective as a stand-alone launch program.
You need to recognize that the thing that ties all of these initiatives together are that they are really more of a change management initiative than a knowledge transfer initiative. In order to make them successful, you must incorporate ways to help the sales team change in some way that is minimally invasive on their “day job”.
Execute a Launch Change Management Plan
Sales managers and reps are under constant pressure to make the number. They are on a death march every month and every quarter to bring in the revenue. The last thing they want to do is stop and dedicate that precious time to doing something that will not—in the short term—get them to their goal.
That is why you need to launch your initiatives with a change management plan, not just a communications plan. Here are the elements to incorporate in your launch change management plan that will help you organize to crush your next launch initiative.
Be able to complete this statement: The company will benefit from this change because _______________________________________.
If you don’t have a specific, measurable, and relevant objective statement for your launch initiative, it is already a failure. Change for the sake of change is simply a waste of resources.
Once you’ve defined your objective statement, set measurable key results that will help you determine how you will know if the objective has been met. How will you measure if your launch is successful or if you have another failed product launch on your hands?
Demonstrate why it’s important for the sales team to change.
If you’re transitioning to a new sales process, explain how it is going to help your sales team close more deals faster by exposing the areas in the funnel where prospects are getting stuck so you can help improve it.
If you’re launching a new product, explain how it will help them upsell to their existing accounts, or how it will help them penetrate markets previously unavailable to them.
There are many reasons for change, and the WIIFM for those reasons will vary based on the type of launch initiative and what your objectives of the launch are. In any case, make sure you are communicating how this change will specifically help the sales team hit their goals.
Identify Stakeholders & Form a Coalition
Who will this launch initiative effect? Often, you have more than one group of stakeholders. They will likely include the sales team, but also marketing, account management, customer service, and potentially your product department. Identify early on the key stakeholder groups and then identify individuals who can be change agents for each group to form a coalition around.
These change agents will be just a few people who are excited about the change and will be able to communicate that excitement to their peers. You should also consider getting at least a few of them to be the mouthpiece of your communication plan.
The length and depth of your communication plan will likely vary depending on the type and scope of launch initiative you are working on. For example, a merger & acquisition transition will take a much longer and more detailed communication process than a more simple messaging change. The M&A affects more people, there is greater anxiety, and the details are often far more complex.
When creating your communications plan, outline what will be communicated, when, how, by whom, and to who. Also plan out who will be responsible for creating the communications and what approval process the communications need to go through.
Enable Behavior Change
Your communication plan can only go so far without a system in place that allows sales reps the opportunity to practice and certify that they can deliver the new messaging. Without a measurable approach to how well the sales team understands and can deliver the message, your launch initiative is still stuck in “feature dump” mode.
In my experience, the companies that do best with enabling behavior change focus on message certification for sales leaders and managers first, then sales reps. This way, every level of the sales organization knows what reps are supposed to be doing and can coach and develop their reps to continue working on and refining their delivery of the new message.
There are several different types of launch initiatives that need to be rolled out to the sales organization. While there are many differences in the details of managing a new product launch, sales transformation, M&A, and sales kick-off, the similarity is that they all need to be handled like a change management scenario. Develop your plan to communicate and enable behavior change, and you will be crushing your next product, message, or process launch like a pro!