Getting your products and services ready for sale

Many organisations focus on the features and functions of their offerings, without paying enough attention to how they will be sold. In this article we look at some common mistakes that are made, and discuss how you can avoid them.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail

The most usual mistake is to take your product or service to market without considering whether it is ready. It may be the right thing to do to succumb to entreaties such as: “If we don’t launch now, we will miss a major window of opportunity!”; or “We announced we would launch in Q4, so we have to do it!”. The problem is that a poorly prepared offering can be worse than no offering at all:

• Your proposition to the market is unclear, so customers don’t know how it will benefit them
• Even though you may thoroughly understand your offering, your own and/or partners’ sales people don’t know how to sell it
• Packaging, pricing and commercial terms have yet to be finalised

The result is often disappointing sales figures, unsatisfied customers and a damaged company reputation.

Insufficient focus on what’s important

We have come across many examples of companies where Product Management/Product Marketing functions know what should be done to get an offering ready for sale, but under time pressure to launch quickly pay little more than ‘lip service’ to important tasks such as:

• Involving sales people in what they are being asked to invest time and effort into
• Developing communications materials (brochures, white papers, presentations) that clearly explain the benefits of the offering to the customer
• Where the offering is a product, defining and resourcing the right service wrap for the target market(s)
• For new propositions in particular, working out how to win early adopters
• Defining how the offering will be implemented, and training and allocating appropriate resource
• Ensuring that ordering and billing systems are adapted and ready for the new offering

Without the right focus on these important tasks, the operational aspects of selling will suffer from missing information, inconsistencies, lack of support and annoying delays, all of which hamper roll out and result in sales under-performance. Thus, even though it may appear that there are not enough hours in the day, Product Management/Product Marketing teams must find ways to do more in the time available.

Badly presented proposition to the market

Too often companies launch new offerings knowing they don’t have a complete, ready sales proposition. They go to market relying on customer-facing teams to iron out the issues and fill in the missing gaps through successive customer engagements. However, building propositions ‘on the fly’ like this can be a dangerous strategy:

• Customers and key market influencers (analysts, industry bodies, trade magazines) are unaware of the true benefits of your proposition, so will not value it as highly – or worse, will dismiss it outright
• Weak or missing components and unappreciated benefits undermine sales success, opening the door to your competition
• Sales people have to resort to ‘firefighting’ to win deals, extending sales cycles and consuming resource that would be better allocated to other sales opportunities
The results can be a poorly motivated salesforce, along with a high cost of sale that impacts margin.

What can be done?

All successful companies operate tried and tested processes for product and service development. What’s required is a similar approach to getting your offerings ready for sale.

Rather than simply ‘throwing the new offering over the wall’ to Sales and Marketing, Product Management and Product Marketing functions need to work closely with their customer-facing colleagues to ensure that everything required to make the offering a success in the market is planned and implemented, and that sufficient time and resource are allocated to ensure that all tasks are completed effectively. Ensuring sales readiness is hard to do, and is generally not a core skill of Product Management/Product Marketing, so acquiring help from outside the company can be a valuable option to consider.

A systematic and well executed proposition development process will lead to accelerated market share, improved sales productivity, greater market awareness and higher company value.

To find out how the proven RVWL Offer Enablement Program could help your company address these challenges and get your products and services ready for sale, click here.

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