Digital transformation is coming at lightning speed. Previously in-person services are being offered virtually. New digital products are coming to the market quickly. The way we do business is forever changing.
For example, our video platforms and remote work tools have been a beacon of light while working remotely during the coronavirus. They've offered us a chance to see familiar faces, whether those are casual social interactions or facilitated business conversations. These virtual moments keep our days feeling unique and less isolating.
While accelerating the digital transformation of products and services, it is important to remember that our sales strategy may need to change. Even if we have identified a great consumer need and developed a great product or solution to meet that need, we won't be successful if we haven’t taught our sales teams how to sell a new digital product.
No matter how fast we are moving, there are some tried and true tactics for preparing sales teams to pivot, adapt to a new product, and deliver results:
Make sure they know what they are selling. That sounds ridiculously obvious. But, when we quickly develop and launch a new product it’s easy to forget to slow down long enough to explain it to other people. Introducing the sales team to the new product and sales process is important to building trust among the sales team, and for giving them the knowledge they need to sell it.
Salespeople need to understand the “why” of this product. What problem is it solving? What is the true market for it? They must feel good about who will buy the product and how much the customer will pay for it.
And, let’s not forget that the sales team is closest to the voice of the customer and will often have opinions about the success of the product before making their first pitch.
Ask for their feedback along the way. The pace of development might be lightning-fast, but the sooner we engage the sales team, the better. It’s a way to get valuable insights into marketability and likely customer reactions, but it will also make them feel more invested in the product and more equipped to sell it.
Spend time and money on marketing collateral. We are typically thinking of the client when we develop marketing collateral and often forget that marketing collateral also gives our sales team the confidence that we’ve invested in all levels of the product launch. So, don’t skip this step no matter how quickly the product is moving.
Build a selling toolbox. In addition to the marketing collateral, we also need to give our salespeople an arsenal of tools to make their job easy. This includes things like a 30-second elevator pitch, a sales deck, a checklist, and anything else that someone learning about the new product needs to know or that you want them to know.
Incentivize, incentivize, incentivize. Last but not least, this isn’t the time to make our sales teams feel financially insecure. It is important to make sure the sales compensation model matches the new product type to get the sales team focused on where you need them.
Just like everything else when it comes to products, iterate! Evaluate the product, marketing tools, sales pitch, etc. with the team. What’s working? What needs to be revised? What additional research is needed? Keep the conversations flowing to and from the sales team.
We’d love to hear what you are doing to engage your sales team. Or if you are in sales, what’s working in your organization as it digitally transforms? To help, Vecteris is offering a limited number of free coaching sessions for leaders to advise on your product launch plan and how to set up your sales team for success. Reach out if you are interested in learning more.
The innovation I see right now truly is awe-inspiring. For example, distilleries making hand sanitizer, software companies reconfiguring software to help hospitals track and manage COVID-19 cases, massive in-person conferences going virtual, and restaurants turning into community kitchens to serve the needy. For all of the anxiety caused by the current health crisis, there is also a lot of creativity and innovation for doing good and keeping businesses afloat.
It’s interesting how a crisis – characterized by uncertainty and constraints – sparks so much innovation. When times are good, we often forget the proverb, “necessity is the mother of invention”. We mistakenly believe that more resources (time, money, talent) will help us innovate. But my current newsfeed, my client work, and the research all show that innovation can flourish in times like these.
For example, a meta-analysis published at the end of 2019 found that constraints help, rather than hinder, innovation. Oguz Acar, Murat Tarakci, and Daan van Knippenberg reviewed 145 empirical studies on the effects of constraints on creativity and innovation and found that individuals, teams, and organizations alike benefit from a healthy dose of constraints. In other words, the limits of time, money, and available materials that many of us are dealing with in the wake of COVID-19 should help us be more innovative.
As I’ve watched clients completely re-work their product roadmaps during the last three weeks, here are a few things I’ve observed about how to innovate well in a crisis:
1. Adjust Our Mindset
Innovating in a crisis requires shifting our mindset so we are not held back by fear. It is natural to have fear when there is massive uncertainty, revenue declines, and volatility. But fear is where innovation dies.
The good news is that there are specific behaviors that help us face, and move through, our fears. What I’ve observed, and personally experienced, is that we are better able to overcome our natural fears about the unknown when we do these four things:
2. Talk Directly to Customers
Innovation starts with identifying an urgent and expensive customer problem. There are many tools we can typically use to identify customer needs (surveys, focus groups, etc.). But our best tool right now is to directly talk to customers and end-users.
Speaking directly with customers is the fastest way to understand the challenges they are facing and what they need to address those challenges. People want to hear human voices now, too. I especially caution against email surveys, landing page or email testing right now because things are so chaotic that it might get lost in the noise. Instead, let’s use this time to talk to customers while also building connections.
3. Follow Your Process, Quickly
Just because we are in crisis does not mean we throw out good product innovation hygiene. We still need to validate the consumer need, test, and learn. We just massively fast cycle the process. Two-week sprints become one-week sprints (or less). The Director of the FDA recently spoke at a press conference where he said, “Innovation that normally takes years is being pushed to a month.” That doesn’t mean they are throwing due diligence out the door. They are just accelerating that diligence.
4. Build Flexibly
Once we start building a new product, the architecture should be as flexible as possible because things are shifting rapidly. For example, use a more modular architecture, place a premium on flexibility when making design decisions, and delay hard-coded decisions until products are tested.
I’d love to hear how your organizations are innovating despite having constraints and uncertainty– share some inspiration, please!