The (Internal) Marketing Plan: Bridging the Gap Between Product Development & Sales

Written by Dora Cheatham, Program Manager, Emerging Enterprise Center

 

How often has a new product been launched and the Sales Team been tasked with the “simple” directive to “go sell” it, armed with little more than a data sheet and price list? One year later, everyone wonders why the sales figures never quite match the numbers projected by Marketing.

An ideal product launch should not only focus on marketing the product to the customer, but also on “marketing” the product internally to assist the Sales Team optimize its sales efforts. Too often, focus is placed on selling to the customer, without effectively training the sales team in the nuances of a product that requires more than just the presentation of features and benefits.

As technologies develop and products become more complex, the more information the Sales Team has on the product, the better they will be able to answer questions knowledgeably and overcome obstacles when working with their customers. Similarly, data gathered by the Sales Team should be cycled back to Marketing to ensure that product is being received and is performing as expected, and any potential issues or improvements can immediately be fed back to the Product Development Team.

 

 

Remember that the sales team is on the front line, so a Marketing Plan or Commercialization Plan should include an element that arms the sales team with as many preemptive answers as possible so that he or she can present the company’s expertise effectively and deliver a consistent product message. So what should be included in this Plan?

Product Positioning

Make sure your sales team understands how and why your product is positioned the way it is. If the product was developed as the result of a recurring problem expressed by several customers, make sure the whole team is aware of it. Just because a customer hasn’t expressed the particular problem, doesn’t mean they haven’t experienced it! If it was developed as the result of a new technology that makes the customer’s job easier, make sure they know it.

If you want your sales team to sell on value rather than price, then you need to make sure they understand the intrinsic value of the product and its benefit to the customer, not just its features and price. What problem does it solve? Will it make the customer more effective? Will it save time or labor?

Target Market

Make sure everyone is on board with precisely which customer segment(s) constitutes the target market, and that the sales team understands the criteria on which the potential market size was developed. If the numbers were developed based on a specific application, and a particular customer ends up using the product differently (it has been known to happen), this is critical information that should be fed back to Marketing and Product Development for further evaluation. Was the original data based on a false premise (hopefully this is never the case), or is this a viable alternative application? If so, can this application be extended across the entire market in which case the potential market has just increased and the information should be distributed to the entire sales team!

Competitive Landscape

What competitive products is your sales team likely to come up against? How does the product perform against these products? How are competitive products used versus pricing? Having spent many years in the chemical industry, I have learned that one of the first things to check for is the dilution rates of chemicals: if a product costs $10.00/litre and needs to be diluted at 1:2, it is NOT cheaper than a $50.00/litre product that can be diluted at 1:12 and offers comparable performance!

Sales Tools

 

 

Don’t just send the sales team off with a data sheet and price list. Testimonials, value calculators, editable presentations, how-to’s and trial protocols (if applicable) all help the sales team present a professional, polished image of a company that understands its market and is working with their customer to help them make an informed purchase.

Product Availability

If the product or service you are offering has customization options, make sure your sales team is fully aware of the criteria for customization: options, minimums, lead times and other requirements. As Carla O’Dell once said, “If you don’t give people information, they’ll make something up to fill the void”, and too often it’s something along the lines of “Of course you can have that in 2 weeks!” This not only creates chaos for the Product Development and Operations teams but can set unrealistic expectations as far as the customer is concerned. Most customers would rather have a realistic 6 week lead time, than constantly be given reasons why an unrealistic 2 week lead time could not be met!

As a final note, while many companies focus on training upon recruitment, they fail to continue this training as products and markets evolve, yet studies have shown that proper training can boost a salesperson’s productivity by 20% and profit margins by much more!

Emerging Enterprise Center Announces K-Video & Web Productions as official videographer sponsor for all business education events for 2016 at the EEC

10 business education events are scheduled for the remainder of 2016.

New Castle, DE, May 2016:  The Emerging Enterprise Center (EEC) has officially announced that K-Video & Web Productions will be the official videographer sponsor for all business education workshops for the remainder of  2016. One of the key missions of the EEC is to help businesses develop business skills to tackle not only the nuts and bolts aspects of running a business but also marketing, networking, and sales skills so that they can grow. K-Video has been a member of the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce (affiliated with the EEC) for over a year now and has never taken on a series this large with the Chamber. With this new sponsorship, the EEC can provide one more benefit to its businesses for attending the business education workshops.

The Emerging Enterprise Center wants you to join us for Educational Workshops and Networking! Find a workshop for you and your business at www.eecincubator.com. Register today at www.eecincubator.com. Contact Frank DeSantis at desantisf@ncccc.com or 302-737-4343 for more information on the Emerging Enterprise Center and its many programs that assist businesses in the community.

About K-Video & Web Productions

K-Video & Web Productions specializes in Safety, Training, and Marketing video production. K-Video has been providing high quality, affordable video solutions since 1980. Our clientele ranges from small, local businesses to large, global corporations. We develop products that will represent your organization with pride and integrity.

Investing in the Future: How an Incubator Helps Start-up Businesses?

Over the holidays, my mom asked me the same question that you may have gotten, “What exactly is it that you do?” I often get the question from some in the business community, “What is a business incubator?” And while I can glibly reply that the Emerging Enterprise Center provides Support, Access to Resources and Advice, so that start-up businesses can focus on Growing their business, Developing business skills, and Graduating with a sustainable and scalable business model, I’m not sure that I’ve really enlightened anyone about what an incubator is and what we do.

First of all, why would a start-up business need an incubator program? Starting up your own business can be exciting, frustrating, overwhelming and all-consuming, all at once. Not every entrepreneur is the same. All have different levels of experience. What they share is their passion for their grand idea. Most also share initially the fear about when they are going to get the next sale! This is part of the validation of their business. Does it solve a problem, and is someone willing to pay you for it? Each time you make a sale, you worry about the next one. As a result, many entrepreneurs find themselves in a vicious cycle. They are so busy marketing, networking, making sales calls….. then going back to “create or produce” the product or service that they are selling…. then handling the invoicing, paperwork, accounting etc. Being by yourself, in a home office or garage, or even in a rented space in some office building, it is easy to dive deeper into a hole, feeling alone, overworked and beginning to get burned out. At the Emerging Enterprise Center, you are not only surrounded by other entrepreneurs facing similar challenges or have survived those challenges, but you have our support in helping you navigate through these issues.

One of the things we talk about first is the sales process…… understanding the target customer, the pipeline and the time line from contact to contract. We talk about documenting the process so it can be replicated, consistently. This is hugely important when you begin hiring others to sell and represent your business. Your Brand is dependent on the consistency of the message and the experience. Once you have confidence that there is value in what you are selling and that there is a demand, you can shift from “where will the next sale come from” to “when!” That confidence moves you into a more operational mode of planning “how” you are going to achieve your goals!

In some shape or form, that is what we are doing throughout the entire two to three years of the incubation program. We help the entrepreneur develop a thought process that goes something like this…. What do I want to be when I grow up? (Long-term Vision and Goals) and What will it take to achieve that? (Operational, Tactical, Practical steps). With that context in mind, our quarterly meetings follow the same format: Which of your commitments did you accomplish or not? What did you learn from that? What are you committing to accomplish in the next quarter? What resources do you need to be successful? How can we help?

This isn’t a cookie-cutter approach because each business’ needs and issues are different. There are some businesses that are fortunate to have customers knocking down their door from day 1, but struggle with the capacity to deliver on the promise. Others underestimate the time it makes to close a sale, and the impact that has on cash flow. And others struggle with understanding when to hire someone to free themselves up to do something that is more important to the business. Sales is only one part of running a business. Add to that, pricing human resources, production, financial and funding issues, and much more. You can only ignore them for so long, but sooner or later you need to address all of them. It takes time, and you can see that skill levels grow day by day. But Ican tell you , when you see the light bulb go on, and it all comes together, you  can almost see the entrepreneur’s confidence in themselves and in their business bursting through.

So what is an incubator? It is a program that combines a nurturing environment, with a supporting entrepreneurial eco-system, and assistance in developing the requisite skills that helps start-up businesses enhance their chance of success. Come check out the Emerging Enterprise Center at www.EECincubator.com.