If you have had hiccups adopting new technology or rolling out new services in the past, your sales reps are not going to forget it – particularly if it burned them with a client or two. You may also have new sales people who have had similar experiences at their previous employer – maybe that was the reason they left their last company. As I noted in my last post, sales people are very protective of their client relationships and their reputations. If they don’t believe that new offers are ready for prime time they are going to be very reluctant to sell them.
With any major change there will always be the doubters; the problem gets a lot worse when there is a historical basis for their concerns. If ignored, the effects can spread beyond “the doubter’s” own performance and cause problems throughout the sales force. Sometimes these doubts can make it to the client’s ears further sabotaging your efforts.
It’s a conundrum, you can’t compete without investing in new technologies and upgrading your services, yet every time you do you are haunted by failed rollouts and change management issues. The only thing you can try to do with a checkered past is to learn from it.
Some of the greatest success stories are preceded by stumbles, setbacks or even phenomenal failures. Just look at Apple Maps and you’ll start to feel a little better about your own screw ups. However, Apple faced their mistakes directly and brilliantly with a letter to customers from Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. How did they get in this pickle in the first place? They rushed their launch, including Apple Maps as the default navigation app and kicking Google Maps to the curb. If they had done a soft launch, making Apple Maps available as a beta alternative to Google Maps, they would likely have had very different results.
We can all learn from past mistakes. Here are some ways to make sure your unfortunate history doesn’t repeat itself:
- Own up to past issues – don’t try to bury them. Find and review the root causes of past failures and learn from them. Add these causes to your future project checklist.
- Have a rock solid roll-out plan for the new product/service including detailed internal test plans, customer test plans, partner test plans (if applicable) onboarding strategies and long-term customer support.
- Seek early adopters and give them full disclosure that there will be bumps. Reward them accordingly for being voluntary crash-test dummies.
- Consider whether a phased roll-out will reduce risk or enable sales focus on specific types of opportunities. (If you choose this option – remember that phased roll-out is not the same thing as phased planning. You still need the full strategy up front.)
- Get sales training directly from the vendor, where possible, to build trust in the solution.
- Communicate with your sales team throughout the implementation and roll-out process to let them know that things are going according to plan or to forewarn them if they are not.
Adopting new technologies is hard on you and your sales force – don’t make it harder than it has to be. Your sales people and your clients are both great sources of information on what they need to get comfortable with your new offers. Use these assets and you can avoid repeating past mistakes and probably avoid some new ones at the same time.
Elizabeth Gooding is the President of Gooding Communications Group and editor of the Insight Forums blog. She writes, presents and provides training on trends and opportunities for business communications professionals within regulated vertical industries.