Sales Assessments That Will Save Your Sales Kickoff

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Avoid the post-sales kickoff “thud” with observational sales assessments.

Planning sales kickoff and getting all your stakeholders, content, consultants and vendors in line is no small task. Nor is it a small item on the company income statement. You know that your goal is to create lasting impact that will provide a return on investment for your organization by transforming seller and sales manager behavior to produce revenue. What you don’t know is exactly how you are going to do that in the months following the hype and charisma exuded at sales kickoff. Observational sales assessments provide visibility and help ensure initiatives launched during sales kickoff live throughout the year.

Observational Sales Assessments

Sales Assessments-BaselineA sales assessment is the deliberate and systematic assessment of sellers selling in both mock and live environments based on a set of observable attributes which align directly to core selling skills and behaviors.

The reason assessment is so powerful is its ability to expose gaps in seller ability at the skill or behavioral level and accurately measure progress made in developing these skills over time. Without a structured assessment approach, you are relying on the “spray and pray” method to training and development—with sales kickoff being the place where you spray and the balance of the year you pray.

Many enterprise sales training programs today use traditional learning and development practices that disseminate knowledge and test a person’s ability to regurgitate that knowledge, mainly using quizzes. While this may work well in other functional areas of an organization, it is critical that your sales team not only represent that they have internalized the knowledge, but that their selling behavior in a live-call or demo setting have changed as a result.

Observing and assessing sellers selling has traditionally been difficult for organizations to do. Without the proper tools to do so, the main measurement for whether or not your sales launch initiative introduced during kickoff has taken root is to analyze lagging indicators, such as the number of new product units sold in its first quarter and year.

How To Use Observational Sales Assessments

Typically, a sales kickoff is a two-day PowerPoint parade where the heads of various programs present, a sales success story or a few are shared, and perhaps there are some breakout sessions for key skills or functional areas. But nothing is really accomplished. Let me prescribe how you can use sales assessments to not only accomplish behavior change in your sales team but also measure the return on investment of your kickoff initiative throughout the rest of the year—and into the future.

Calibrate and Baseline Sales Assessments to Gain Visibility

Sales Assessments-Team Report-BaselineBegin measuring your sales team’s behavior with baseline sales assessments. Do this by creating custom sales assessment maps for each area within your sales force that makes sense for your organization. For example, different regions, business units, and function often need to be assessed on different criteria.

The assessment map is the most important step in this process—it creates the infrastructure for your ongoing sales assessment system. Therefore, gaining buy-in from sales leaders and managers on the observable attributes that will be assessed is essential. If they suggest changes to the assessment map, it’s an excellent indication of buy-in.

The observable attributes and scoring used in your sales assessment maps help keep individual assessments consistent and unbiased. Use a five-point scale and define what each score means, one through five, to eliminate some subjectivity in the assessment scoring. Instead of asking a manager to assess if their seller conducted a discovery conversation (a sales skill), ask them to score how well the seller used first and second level questions to uncover and confirm a business challenge that the prospect believes is worth solving (an observable attribute). A score of one means no discovery occurred and the seller jumped right into demoing the product. Three means the seller did a sufficient job in asking questions but did not confirm that the business challenge is worth solving. And five indicates a best practice approach to discovery.

The combination of a five-point scale and observable attributes make sure that the assessment information can be easily analyzed and understood by all stakeholders, such as enablement, sales leaders, training vendors, sales managers, and reps. In other words, each stakeholder knows that everyone was assessed based on the same criteria and can make decisions based on the baseline sales assessment report.

Enablement, sales leaders, and training vendors are likely going to be more interested in the aggregate results, so they can understand which specific selling behaviors are most important to focus coaching efforts around in order to get the greatest “bang for their buck.” While sales managers and reps are going to be more interested in individual results, so they understand specifically who needs coaching and what they need to be coached on in order to improve their sales results.

Use Visibility to Coach and Develop More Effectively

Sales Assessments-Coaching MethodologySales assessments alone won’t improve seller behavior. Sellers must next be coached and developed on those areas that need improvement. This means that sales managers must be able to effectively coach and develop their sellers using the information provided to them in baseline sales assessments.

The beauty of using sales assessments to develop your sales team is that they create a sort of choreography to coaching discussions. Armed with sales assessments, busy sales managers become empowered with a prescriptive coaching methodology that integrates ongoing seller development into their daily and weekly meetings and is focused on impacting behavior to influence results in the business.

Progression Sales Assessments

Sales Assessments-Progression

Once your sellers have had the opportunity to go through additional coaching—and, perhaps, more learning and practice—to develop their knowledge and skills, they are ready for another assessment. In this round of assessment, we are looking to determine where progress has been made. Compare baseline sales assessment scores with new scores to determine how well individuals and the team as a whole have picked up the new information and are using it in the field.

Progression sales assessments should be run in the same manner and measure the same observable attributes that were used in the baseline assessment. This ensures that you are comparing apples to apples and are measuring sellers based on those specific behaviors you need to change in order to make your kickoff initiative a success.

Why Are Sales Assessments Important?

When you and your team have invested as much as you do into your sales kickoff, you want to know that your sales force is actually going to use the information to improve their performance. You want to know that you are impacting your company’s revenue goal attainment and make the sales kickoff the beginning of an ongoing development effort that directly impacts selling results as opposed to a jolly event to build camaraderie.

Simply stated, sales assessments provide visibility into the strengths and weaknesses of your team, allowing for more effective and precise development of your sellers. A doctor would not operate on a patient without first conducting a thorough diagnosis to identify what and where needs fixing, right? Then why would you coach and develop your sellers without conducting a similar diagnosis?

 

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The #1 Thing Most People Get Wrong With Sales Kickoff

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Create a behavior-based sales kickoff reinforcement program that will keep the kickoff energy alive all year.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—when sales kickoff planning shifts into high gear. New products are rolled out. New messaging. New training. And while everyone is concerned with what to do during the event, sales kickoff reinforcement is always treated as an afterthought.

Everyone gets together, the energy is high, emotions are elevated, you’re at the center of a grand ‘ol party and you get to roll out your latest and greatest initiative that is going to change the world…

…And one week later, it’s all but forgotten. Noses are back to the grindstone and salespeople are back to operating exactly the way they were before. Their behavior has not changed.

Don’t get me wrong, I know as much as anybody how important it is to have the right theme, get a great keynote, and create valuable breakout sessions. But if you want your sales team to leave kickoff with more than just a hangover—and have the energy last all year—you also have to be prepared with a behavior-based sales kickoff reinforcement plan.

Planning for Sales Kickoff Reinforcement

sales-kickoff-reinforcement-calendarReinforcement is defined as the process of encouraging or establishing a belief or pattern of behavior, especially by encouragement or reward.

Driving some kind of change, whether it is a new product or message, skills development, or a sales organization transformation is likely at the center of your sales kickoff. You and your team are going to put a ton of work into making it happen, so don’t let all that hard work go to waste. This is your time to shine—use it!

Help your sales force actually retain and use all your great content by putting a post-event reinforcement plan into place. There is no one-size-fits-all sales kickoff reinforcement program, the length and details will vary broadly depending on the size of your sales transformation. At a minimum, it should include three elements:

1. Sales Leader and/or CEO Communications

The more involved the authority figures are in communicating and driving post sales kickoff reinforcement, the better. Plan out and draft communications to come directly from the sales leader, using personalization tags to make the emails look one-to-one as often as possible.

Take a secret from marketing’s playbook and use automated workflows to tag those people who have not completed their work with a note from the boss. Give compliance emails that “I know you’re not doing what you’ve been told” vibe, rather than “If you haven’t done so already…”

Also, include sales managers in your reinforcement initiative early on. They can be your daily and weekly enforcers, as they already meet with their teams consistently. Consider running a contest with sales managers—the team with the highest participation rate each quarter gets a happy hour party or special outing.

2. Make It Relevant

Relevance is so simple in theory, yet surprisingly difficult for many enablement teams to pull off. With so much energy going into planning and creating content for the actual sales kickoff event, it’s easy to overlook post-event reinforcement content. But the basics are simple: don’t make the sales team do something that is not going to directly improve their ability to make money.

If you’ve done the important work of making sure your sales kickoff theme and content are relevant to the sales organization and business objectives, you’re halfway there. Make sure the information in your sales kickoff reinforcement curriculum is relevant to what everyone learned during the event, and what you expect them to apply in the field.

What do they absolutely need to know in order to make them as productive as possible? The magnitude of change that your initiative represents impacts how much post-kickoff reinforcement needs to be done. Don’t make people do any more work (or spend any more valuable time) than is absolutely necessary.

3. Make It Interactive

sales-kickoff-reinforcement-interactiveIt’s pretty rare to find a company that has created a comprehensive, behavior-based sales kickoff reinforcement program. There are some real gems that I can think of, but most of the time post-event communications look something like this:

  1. A “required attendance” webinar provides a “PowerPoint Parade” overview of information and highlights from sales kickoff
  2. A pretty boring email campaign, maybe three emails deep, to “remind” people about the new messaging and/or process unveiled during the event

These are good things, but when it comes to working with sales teams, they just don’t stand up on their own. There is nothing here that lets them try the content on for size. They can watch the presentations, go through the eLearning and perhaps answer a few questions on the quiz, but they don’t have the ability to practice and respond in a sales context.

Transformation happens when you can not only deploy your content across your sales team, but also encourage them to practice that content themselves, view and score their peers, and receive feedback. Take it one step further and build this into your event by telling them there will be a highlight reel of the best performers and watch the interaction unfold.

Behavior-Based Sales Kickoff Reinforcement

Prior to and during sales kickoff, your sales force is being presented with information and, hopefully, are practicing new skills while you are all together. But how do you know if they are actually going to take new information and skills back to the field?

This is what I mean by behavior-based sales kickoff reinforcement. The Kirkpatrick Model defines behavior as “The degree to which participants apply what they learned during training when they are back on the job.”

To keep the initiative launched during sales kickoff going throughout the year, you need a behavior-based sales kickoff reinforcement program that actively encourages and measures actual behavior change. In sales teams, the best way to do this is to implement a process and the tools to observe and assess the behaviors salespeople are exhibiting when they are “back on the job” and coach them on how to improve those behaviors based on consistent, relevant observable attributes.

Only through a structured, behavior-based and enabled reinforcement plan will your sales kickoff become a continuing success for your business stakeholders.

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3 Secrets To Engage Your Sales Team in a Successful Launch Plan

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A successful launch plan creates better alignment by engaging sales team stakeholders.

Do you have a busy sales team that you need to get quickly up to speed on new products, messages, or processes? Time for a launch initiative! Creating a successful launch plan will provide you and your team with the framework to improve participation and drive engagement.

A launch initiative typically occurs anytime we need to get new information to existing people in the commercial organization. This happens during a new product launch, a rebrand or new messaging initiative, a merger or acquisition transition, a transformation of the sales process, and during sales kick-off.

Make sure all the hard work you put into your next launch initiative isn’t simply ignored by sales by applying these three simple secrets to creating a successful launch plan.

Knowledge

Knowledge & Information Delivery | 3 Secrets To Engage Your Sales Team in a Successful Launch Plan | CommercialTribeEvery launch initiative must include an information delivery, or knowledge, component. In a typical launch plan, this will usually include a “required” global webinar. Depending on the size and complexity of the new launch initiative, it may include a live meeting or a sales kick-off event.

Often, the person or people who own the initiative are the ones who deliver the communication of the change. Unless that person is already a solid influencer within the organization, this is a mistake.

Furthermore, the content of the webinar or live event will be characterized as a “PowerPoint Parade” by attendees because it is heavily focused on the “feature dump” method and is rarely very relevant to the sales organization.

The secret to success in delivering the message is to establish “change agents” or “change ambassadors” who can help deliver the message to the sales team. These people can help make sure that your launch plan is delivering relevant information from the perspective of the people who are tasked with bringing that message to the market.

Also involve your change agents in the communications by recruiting one or more of them to present the content during the live event, and by scheduling emails or intranet posts to come directly from them. This way, the sales team sees that it is coming directly from their leadership, rather than “outside” of the team.

Skills

Sales Skills Development | 3 Secrets To Engage Your Sales Team in a Successful Launch Plan | CommercialTribeSadly, the most common mistake in launch initiatives is that they tend to stop at the “knowledge” stage. This may be due to a lack of a mechanism to change behaviors and “certify” that the sales team has internalized the new message and can deliver it to the market.

But this is perhaps the most critical secret to a successful launch plan! People are busy, and even if they are really excited about a new product or message initiative, the reality is that they will forget about its core elements within hours or days of receiving the message.

Create a program through which sales managers and reps can easily develop the desired messaging and then certify that they can deliver it to effectively change the behaviors of your sales organization.

Results & Retrospective

Sales Results & Retrospective | 3 Secrets To Engage Your Sales Team in a Successful Launch Plan | CommercialTribeThe results of launch initiatives are historically difficult to measure and vary depending on the type of launch you are initiating. For example, you may measure the results of your launch initiative by the number of new product units being sold over a number of months.

No matter how you measure the results of your launch plan, the secret to launch success is to make sure you are always performing a retrospective. What worked well? What did not work as well? How can your next launch be improved? Always ask these questions and include your change agents and, if possible, other stakeholders in answering those questions and planning for the next launch.

 

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How Growing Companies Create Sales and Enablement Alignment

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Creating sales and enablement alignment improves sales efficacy and quota attainment.

Does this sound familiar to you? Sales claim that everything that comes out of enablement is useless and should be ignored. Enablement says that, if sales would just engage in their initiatives, they could greatly improve their ability to attain quota. In my experience working with hundreds of companies—and from being a sales enablement leader in a former life myself—the truly great ones that are hitting growth goals have successfully created strong sales and enablement alignment.

There is a bit a truth in both sides’ pain. But if a sales organization strives to improve goal attainment, they have to find a way to align and work as a collaborative group. This takes some work and open communication from both the enablement and sales leadership sides of the organization—neither can do it all on their own.

Frankly, it is very difficult for sales enablement to assess and communicate their relevance. Their work is far away from the results of the field and, unless they have a close relationship with their sales counterparts, their contribution to the field’s success is frequently downplayed.

Sales, on the other hand, is openly exposed to the results (or lack thereof) of their contributions to the organization. Everyone in the company knows whether or not the sales team is hitting their quota, and they are only a quarter or two away from getting the boot if they don’t perform. They simply don’t have the time to engage every time a new initiative comes out of enablement—they need results.

Creating Sales and Enablement Alignment

Creating Sales and Enablement Alignment | How Growing Companies Create Sales and Enablement Alignment | CommercialTribe Sales Enablement SolutionSales managers are in a constant vice-grip between reaching quota and improving their sales reps’ skills. They are not resistant to using new information—they will do anything that results in getting more sales. Issues arise when the new information is not clear or relevant enough for them to apply it quickly and seamlessly.

While aligning sales and enablement organizations isn’t always easy, it’s also not impossible. Specific steps can be taken to get the movement on the right path.

1. Talk with Senior Sales Leaders

The most unfortunate, yet most common, characteristic of a poorly aligned sales and enablement relationship is a lack of communication. Enablement needs to understand what the sales organization needs, what the goals and objectives are, and share in the responsibility to get them there.

The best, most direct way of doing this is to get some face-time with senior sales leadership and ask them:

  • What can I do to help your team reach their goals?
  • What are the most critical performance gaps on your sales and management teams?

2. Claim a Seat at the Table

In the very best organizations that have strong sales and enablement alignment, enablement leaders are included in the setting and planning of the strategic direction of the commercial organization. Unfortunately, this is not the case in many companies today.

Without having a seat at the table during strategic sales objective planning, enablement is left at a strong disadvantage to have an impact on the attainment of those objectives. They are treated as mere support functions that must simply respond to the sales team’s every request.

If your enablement organization is not represented in sales strategy meetings, it is difficult for your team to understand where the goals, objectives, and asks are coming from. Your team is working in reaction mode, rather than proactively influencing how enablement can contribute.

3. Share Common Goals & Success

Sales and Enablement Alignment Goals | How Growing Companies Create Sales and Enablement Alignment | CommercialTribe Sales Enablement SolutionWhat are your department’s annual goals? Do they focus on training and development? Or are they tied to driving Sales Qualified Leads (SQL), optimizing pipeline conversions, and producing field-ready new hires from bootcamp? Do you see a difference?

Enablement must share the goals of the sales department to be relevant and successful in the organization. If your team is not laser-focused on how to get sales to their goal, you’re spending your time on the wrong things. Your success isn’t defined by finding the next cool new tool or trend, it’s about making the sales team better at what they do.

When sales and enablement are closely aligned, they are also better able to share in the successes of their mutual efforts. Rather than struggling to define your contributions to the organization, your contributions are shared in the common successes of the sales team.

4. Staff Enablement with Sellers

If you are not doing so already, consider how helpful it will be to staff your enablement department with sellers. It is shocking how often people in enablement positions are making decisions that will directly affect the sales team, and yet have never sold a day in their lives.

The best way to be relevant to the sales team is to have salespeople on your side of the office. Either through recruitment or cross-training, increasing the sales savviness of your enablement organization will further help align your initiatives and communications with what is most relevant to salespeople.

Managing Change in Sales Teams

Each time you launch a new initiative, such as a new product, new messaging, or sales process, you are changing the way you expect sellers to work in some way. This change creates “friction” for busy sales teams.

When change happens in the organization, they have to stop what they are doing and reset their team. Stopping means they are being pulled away from the activities that allow them to reach their goals in the ever-present forward momentum of the typical seller.

As you are creating greater sales and enablement alignment, change management becomes easier. First and foremost, you know that your launch initiative is highly relevant to the sales organization’s need for goal attainment. You are also better equipped to recruit sales leadership and management to help champion the change among their teams to create greater participation and compliance.

 

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Launch Your Enablement Initiative With Surgical Precision

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Bring the launch of your next sales enablement initiative into the 21st Century.

When a business creates a new product, evolves their message, or has critical business information to impart, it relies on the sales team to deliver that info to the marketplace. But the sales team’s ability to present that message is only as good as enablement’s ability to deliver it to them effectively.

When you need to introduce a new product or message to the world, enablement’s launch initiative acts as the central nervous system of your commercial organization to push information from the brain to the mouth.

The problem is that there is no mechanism to determine if sales really understands that information and can deliver it well. When enablement (or product development, or marketing) wants to deliver a new message or product to sales, they are frankly relying on very crude, blunt instruments to do the work.

It’s time to move into the 21st century in launching sales enablement initiatives by ditching the “spray and pray” method. By following a proven template to plan and execute your sales enablement initiative, your next new product introduction, messaging re-vamp, or M&A transition can be launched with surgical precision.

Free Launch Plan - Enablement Initiative Launch Calendar | CommercialTribe's Sales Enablement Tools

Plan

As the old adage goes: failing to plan is planning to fail. A comprehensive launch plan will not just include deliverables and dates. You should begin well before that by recruiting “change ambassadors” from stakeholder departments who can help you make sure the message is relevant to their needs. Think about who would be affected by your initiative, such as customer success, distribution, marketing, and certainly sales.

Because they are the mouthpiece of your organization, you need your sales team to get behind your launch initiative in order for it to be successful. The best way to align your launch initiative with sale’s needs is to include at least one representative from the sales leadership or management side to help you craft and deliver the new message.

Your launch plan should look much like a change management plan, in that you need to state the objective, define the relevance for stakeholders (WIIFM), include plenty of communication touch points, and identify a mechanism to enable behavior change.

Start Planning Your Next Enablement Initiative Using Our FREE Launch Plan Template >>

Knowledge

The next element of launching an enablement initiative with surgical precision involves delivering the information to the sales team, so they know what it is they are being asked to do. What is it that you want them to say? How are they to position it?

The knowledge component of the launch should include more than just an informational webinar where the initiative owner is simply putting on a “PowerPoint Parade” that few will pay much attention to, nevertheless internalize and use.

Use your e-Learning and quizzing program to help the sales team get a bit more interactive with the information. We use programs that include more than simply watching a video and then taking a test. Sellers are instructed to watch and respond in some way—it may be to try the pitch themselves or to practice a role play scenario with a colleague. The more interactive and “real life” you can make the knowledge portion of your launch plan, the better.

Your program should allow you to see who participated in this activity and how well they performed. This will inform your future communications to the team, providing you with insights on what areas are not resonating with the team very well and what aspects are really exciting them.

Event

Depending on the size of your organization and the complexity of the enablement initiative, you will likely hold either a webinar or a live event, such as a sales kick-off event, or perhaps both.

This is the keystone communication platform that stabilizes and supports all pre and post-communication. Include your “change ambassadors” in the communication of the “Why” and the “How” of your enablement initiative.

Since your team completed the knowledge component of your launch plan prior to the event, your sales team, and the rest of the commercial organization, already have the foundation of the message they are expected to convey and at least a basic understanding of what is expected of them. The event is meant to pull everyone together and create some energy and excitement around the initiative.

It gives your team the chance to address common questions and concerns, and provide further clarity on how the launch plan will be executed cross-functionally to the entire commercial organization.

Certification

Certification is the most overlooked, yet critical part of launching a successful enablement initiative. Most enablement organizations stop the communication to the sales organization after the event—they may send a follow-up email with a list of resources, but that’s about it.

But, as the brain of the organization, how are you receiving signals that the mouth understands what it’s supposed to do?

Message certification—or “Certify to Fly”, as we like to call it, allows sales reps the opportunity to play the with the message and make it their own in a safe environment. It also provides a platform to ensure that everyone has received the information, understands it, and has internalized it so they can effectively bring it to the field.

Learn How Veritas Used CommercialTribe to “Certify to Fly” >>

Retrospective

Any big change initiative needs a retrospective. Gather your team to discuss what went well, what could be improved, and what needs to take place before launching your next enablement initiative to make it better. Look back at your launch plan and consider your objectives—have those objectives been met? Are they on the right path to being met? In hindsight, were they the right objectives in the first place? Could they be defined better?

Give your launch initiative an unbiased score on a scale of 1 to 100. Did it do what your team had set out to do?

It is the 21st century and we have very precise tools for every aspect of the business. From marketing automation to inventory control to payroll, every functional area of your business has embraced new technologies to make their jobs easier and their outcomes better. Isn’t it time that the enablement organization finally starts using a sales enablement solution that allows everyone in the commercial organization to align and start singing from the same song sheet?

 

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How to Crush Your Next Process, Message, or Product Launch

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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.

Objective

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?

WIIFM

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.

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!

 

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Who Should You Blame For Your Failed Product Launch?

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Is a failed product launch sales’ or sales enablement’s fault?

The weeks since your big product launch initiative have turned to months. As the one-year mark looms ever closer reality begins to sink in. Sales are flat, revenue is sluggish, and your worst fears are being realized—you’re looking at another failed product launch.

As your team dives into the postmortem, the inevitable blame game begins: whose fault was it?

While there are several functions that typically take part in a product launch, the relationship (or lack thereof) between sales and sales enablement is often tumultuous. The personalities that exist in each camp are quite different and conflict often arises between the two when a product launch falls flat.

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Blaming Sales for a Failed Product Launch

The sales team is an easy target for enablement and product managers to point their fingers at for a failed product launch. After all, if they had just taken the training seriously; if they had bothered to introduce the new product to their accounts and prospects; if only they had practiced the messaging…

Think about product launches from the sales team’s perspective. These guys and gals have a day job. They come to work every day and doggedly drive to meet their quarterly sales quota targets. They are being hounded by upper management and sales leadership to hit their number each day, all day. When the end of the quarter arrives, a new one begins. The counter is reset to zero and the sales team starts all over again.

The real reason sales didn’t pitch your product is two-fold. First, a product launch takes them out of their normal, everyday workflow. They have to stop what they are doing (making sales calls and prospecting) and attend either a webinar or a training class (time is money, folks!) And that is it—We’ve built it, now you go forth and sell it. They don’t receive the comprehensive training and structured practicing they need to effectively sell the new product. It’s just dropped on them.

The second issue is that you are asking them to change in some way without properly applying any real change management techniques. When you introduce a new product to the mix, your sales team has to make changes to their process, messaging, and well-practiced conversations. This change doesn’t just happen automatically once you’ve given them a product features and materials dump. They need to be able to practice the new messaging and work out talk tracks.

Blaming Enablement for a Failed Product Launch

Sales management, on the other hand, likes to blame enablement for the failed product launch. After all, if enablement had bothered to present a product that people actually cared about; if only they had provided them with more scripts and materials they really needed to close sales; if they had just thought through the messaging better…

Sales leaders and managers need to take a moment to pause and think about it in broader terms. The reality is that many new products, messaging, and other change initiatives can in fact help them reach their quota goals. How well have you dedicated time and resources to helping your enablement colleagues understand what your sales team needs to be successful in selling a new product?

The issue really boils down to a lack of alignment between the sales and enablement functions, and sales management needs to take a reality check to realize that they are complicit in the issue.

Product launches require a coordinated effort among various stakeholders. Depending on the size of the launch and the organization, this may include product development, enablement, marketing, operations, and sales. While it is true that the job of a sales manager is simply untenable, sales managers do need to provide their colleagues on the other side of the “wall” with their perspectives, expertise, and influence.

While enablement is trying to create a great product launch, they can not do it without the engagement and input of sales managers who have the necessary insights and influence to make change happen on the front lines.

Building Sales and Enablement Alignment for Successful Product Launches

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The keys to avoiding yet another failed product launch are to build sales and enablement alignment within your organization and treat it as a change management initiative.

Start by identifying those sales managers who are naturally engaged in affecting change on their team. In many cases, these are the people who brought the market issue to product development’s attention in the first place. Perhaps they’d had several calls from accounts that did not go well, or their conversations with a customer uncovered market needs. Form a coalition with these people to help build a communication and development plan.

Also, don’t let your product launch training be a one-time event. Most organizations will do a big webinar where the product manager will discuss features in great detail, and then enablement will send out an email with a sales packet and call it a launch.

Create a comprehensive communication plan around the launch that includes “What’s In It For Me” (WIIFM) messaging for your sales team. Include your sales management coalition partners in the webinar or launch event. Let the message come from sales. Then, make sure everyone understands, practices, and certifies on the new message using a well-planned launch blueprint.

Your product launch review should be more than a blame game. Look at the inputs to the revenue generation engine and think about how you can change or adjust those inputs to improve product launches going forward. Engage with a coalition of stakeholders that can become your champions on the sales team, and always make sure your team can certify that your sales managers and reps can demonstrate the new pitch and messaging behaviors that your product needs to be successful.

Learn how CommercialTribe’s sales enablement tools can help you make your next product launch a success. Request a free demo today!

Launch Your Next Product With CommercialTribe's Sales Enablement Tools. Request A Free Demo Today!