I don't know what's going on this week but I think it's a hopeful sign of some economic progress ahead. Seems like everyone I've spoken to is brewing a big plan to expand their business. Here's how to be successful implementing the next big product or service in your own company:
- Don't gloss over details.
If you are announcing a new product or service, are you doing enough to market and publicize it so your target audience knows? Are you sure there is a need? Is your product or service essential or nice to have? What are the characteristics of the target market? Do you know where to find buyers and how to reach them? Have you looked closely at the competition to ensure you have a unique offering? Don't guess and don't listen to the "yes men" in your company or rely solely on what your family and friends think. Do some real market research so you can walk in with your eyes wide open. You shouldn't get bound up in "analysis paralysis" but you shouldn't gloss over details related to sales, marketing, operations, product development or delivery. Few things are worse then investing a lot of time and money in a new product only to learn that the market doesn't want it, you can't find people to sell it to or there is some legal or logistical roadblock in the way.
- Understand a realistic price point.
Your product will fail if it costs more than the market is willing to spend. Rather than discount 90%, set the price correctly the first time. Big discounts undermine your credibility as a vendor. Clients don't want to buy from desperate vendors, they want to buy from companies with a reasonable product at an acceptable price. If you are facing constant downward price pressure, rethink your pricing model, take a look at the competition and ensure you are selling the full value of your capabilities to prospects. Be ready to have a very honest and forthright conversation with your salespeople if they are struggling. Too many companies blame sales for not producing when the real issue has something to do with the product or price.
- Make sure your team is on board.
Can you articulate your plan well enough to get everyone rowing the boat in the same direction? Is everyone participating? I've seen countless failed projects over the years because non-believing team members either subtly or overtly undermine them. Winning projects take a leap of faith on everyone's part, a willingness to talk honestly about obstacles and a persistence to ensure no critical step skipped and no time wasted. I can't tell you how many times I've seen management announce a new product or sales model and salespeople explode into the 1000 reasons why it won't work. Sometimes this is reluctance to change but sometimes the sales team knows things they're not telling you. Identify and resolve these objections before you go public with the new plan. I know your company is not run as a democracy but anyone who has watched President Obama try to reform health care can see the value of having the team fully on board. If you have built a company based on honesty and trust, your team will likely point out potential obstacles that you can address in advance. My guess is that few of us have competitors who are all that more organized and have better teamwork so this is an area where a wise manager can gain some real competitive advantage.
- Spend quality time with the real buyers of your product and service.
Are you spending enough time talking to your customers - not asking for favors or lobbing in courtesy calls, but real conversations with your customers about their issues, concerns and dreams for your product or service? Do you avoid them when they are angry or do you listen, really listen, to what they are saying. If you want a sustainable business, you have to tell customers the truth and you should strive to ensure everyone on your team does the same, under-promises and over-delivers. Your goal should be to have clients who will rave about your product and service.
- Have the right team.
This is perhaps the hardest thing for many managers and business owners. Some companies get hung up on the credentials of the applicants. Better to find someone really enthusiastic about your market, your product and your customers. Invest time to teach them the products. Don't fall into the trap thinking the salesperson doesn't need to understand what they are selling. Making that mistake puts you at an immediate disadvantage since the first person the customer talks to has little to no credibility. Walk everyone in your company through product demos. Have them ask questions as if they were real buyers. Make sure everyone can explain the product, the value of the product and how it benefits the customer. Make sure everyone can give an interesting, and brief, demo. Don't beat your team up for getting it wrong. Show them the right way to do it and let them practice. Reward creativity and enthusiasm.
And finally, break big efforts down into smaller pieces and make people accountable for a part they feel comfortable with. Ensure accountability with tools like BaseCamp (www.basecamphq.com) that track tasks and ownership. I've found this invaluable for keeping projects moving forward and people accountable for their role.