Trying something new can either be fun and exciting, or it can be unfamiliar and frightening. How you perceive new experiences, people, and products, all depends on how it has been presented to you.
If your company is launching a completely new product, the sales team must learn how to sell that product to a new buyer who doesn’t know anything about it yet. You could be an early-stage startup launching your minimum viable product or an established business launching something new, but everyone goes through the same struggle:
How do you effectively build a sales strategy to target new buyers and succeed in this new market?
Take a minute and think of the many famous product flops — from New Coke to the Apple Newton. Sometimes the failure was a marketing problem, sometimes it was a product problem, sometimes it was a sales problem, and sometimes it was all three combined. In every case, the business leaders made a misstep in how they introduced and sold the product to the market.
As a sales leader, it’s up to you to prepare your team and help your new product become a success — even before it launches. Here are the 4 steps every business must take before starting to sell to a new market.
Step 1: Listen and Learn
Long before you start selling your new product, you have to educate yourself and your sales team about the future new market. Start by reading the best content available on the subject, attend industry conferences, and learn as much as possible about the market you’re hoping to break into. Then, once you understand the basics and you’ve learned the jargon, you can start to dig deeper and learn about the real issues and underlying motivations of your new target customers.
Reach out to friends, acquaintances and potential prospects in your target market and ask lots of questions. Learn what their job is like at a high level, what they experience day-to-day, what is important to them in their roles, and how they define success. Then, start learning about the difficulties and struggles they face in their jobs. Once you have a sense of common pain points, then you can look at the economic impact of those struggles for the business. Ideally, your product can solve one or more of the common problems in the industry, and you’ll know your new product has a fighting chance of success. The goal is to hear prospects say: “If you can fix this, I’ll buy your product.”
Step 2: Build Your Reputation
You can’t just jump into a new market and start selling instantly. Sales leaders don’t always want to rely on marketing, however, approaching a new market needs….marketing. Sales and marketing alignment is especially important when trying to sell a brand new product. Your marketing strategy should be specifically focused on educating the market about your product and why buyers need it. Sales reps will then be selling to prospects based on the promises made by your marketing team, so make sure your marketing is aligned with product capabilities and initial sales talk tracks.
Great marketing helps your sales team by starting the selling process long before the first sales engagement even happens. A new product marketing campaign should start by building relationships and credibility in a new space before the product is released. Marketing should reach out and partner with other well-known companies in the industry to get third party and social validation to boost your company’s profile. That way, when your team starts selling the new product, they’ll be approaching buyers who may have heard of your company and will give reps a chance to pitch the product.
Step 3: Back to Sales Basics
Once it’s finally time for your sales team to pick up the phone and start selling the new product, remember that you’re all starting from scratch. Instruct your reps to start off with the basics — listen more than they speak, ask lots of questions, and learn as much as possible about prospects on calls. DON’T have reps talk about product features, but instead tell them to listen to the struggles of the prospects and relate to their needs. Reps don’t have a solid talk track to rely on yet, so they must be flexible and adapt as needed to buyers.
Instead of trying to fake expertise in the space, coach your reps reps to be honest with prospects and admit that this is a new product offering. In the sales and marketing book Crossing the Chasm, the authors explain that a certain subset of the market is willing to take a risk on a new product, but most people will not. You need to be upfront with buyers and explain that you’re giving them early access to a fantastic new product, in exchange for their feedback and input. This will ensure that they won’t be let down when they use your product, and they’ll be excited to help you shape the future and build a product they love to use. Once you close a deal with these early-adopters, you’ll be on the track to success.
Step 4: Identify Your Ideal Customer
The first customer is truly the hardest one to win, the second customer gets a little easier, and the third is even easier. However, not every deal is a good deal — so don’t get desperate. Once you sell to that first customer, try to sell to a second customer in the same niche as the first. For example, if you sell to a SaaS company in Austin, keep selling to that market. You should start to build a reputation within that small market, and stay 100% focused on pleasing those specific customers.
You want your first customer to be able to act as a reference for your second customer. People always want to talk to someone who has experienced a similar problem and see how your product was able to solve it. If you’re focused on selling to your ideal customer, it will be easy for reps on your team to say: “We just sold our product to a company that was experiencing this exact problem. We’ll be happy to put you in touch.” Never underestimate the power of a customer success story to close a deal.
By following these 4 steps, you’ll be able to prepare your sales team to sell to a market that now knows who you are, and experiences a problem that you can solve. With the right preparation, the launch of your new product will be a huge sales success.