Does your sales team sell your product (in exchange for money) or do they give it away for free as a generous sweetener to guarantee the sale of something else? Or maybe they discount so hard that any profit has long since evaporated?

Sounds familiar? In enterprise sales – particularly for new products – this can be a big problem.

There are a number of reasons why it can happen but it boils down to your sales team not seeing the value in what they’re selling.

For example, they might not be confident in selling the new thing and much prefer to sell what they know. This means they go into discussions on the back foot and guess what, the customer negotiates the price down with ease. Or, they may believe that software has no cost and give it away to smooth over a tricky negotiation. The problem is that the salesperson is now no longer selling but simply distributing free gifts.

So here you are as the product manager. As is typically the case, you have no direct authority over sales behavior – so what can you do?

You’ll struggle to change behavior if you try to talk to each salesperson individually. You need to start by convincing senior management there is a significant problem and get them to effect change on your behalf.

Once you have buy-in you can propose a number of ideas. For example, training workshops, and if you have the time to run them personally, so much the better. You should also look at the commission plan to see if it can be tweaked to incentivize more of your product’s sales.

Case studies and customer references are immensely valuable for overcoming objections – particularly if the salesperson can cite a positive return-on-investment (ROI) from a company the prospective customer has heard of. Finally, like everyone else your salespeople are busy, so think about crib sheets providing at-a-glance sound bites illustrating the benefits and value of your product – I’ve seen mouse mats, one-page laminated sheets, flipbooks – all are good.

So ask yourself – do your sales team truly understand and believe in the value of your product and can they articulate the benefits to your customers?

Jock Busuttil   (See Jock’s blog…)

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Without having the authority of changing commission structures for new products, you should identify product champions within the sales teams to push your products out. Sales generally tend to respond better to ‘their own’. You can also create incentives when building the business case.

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