B2B Sales of New Products

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B2B Sales of New Products
Jaap de Jonge, Editor, Netherlands
Selling major new, innovative products is hard, especially if it's to new B2B clients. There are only few people who are good and successful at it. At the same time it is a crucial capability for many firms. That's probably why new product/business B2B reps can earn a high salary.

I just read a very interesting article by Steenburgh and Ahearne, who have done research about what it takes as a I. PERSON to be good at selling new (B2B) products, and what it takes as an II. ORGANIZATION to excel in selling new (B2B) products.
    What traits and competencies distinguish a successful new product/business B2B sales person?
    1. S/HE TAKES A LONG VIEW. Spends considerable time on qualifying just a handful of really good prospects and then focuses all her/his attention, time and resources on those few, focusing on a long-term, strategic relationship with those organizations.
    2. S/HE HAS DIFFERENT CONCERNS. Does not focus on product knowledge, but on the sales process and the views of the various influencers and decision makers.
    3. S/HE EXHIBITS MORE RESOLVE. Is very confident and determined and puts sustained effort in the future payoff of long, complex sales cycles and in coping strategies for barriers.
    4. S/HE HAS A LEARNING MINDSET. Has a desire for personal growth, to master this difficult role and to improve his/her abilities.
    5. S/HE IS KNOWLEDGEABLE, CUSTOMER-FOCUSED AND ADAPTABLE. Understands markets, trends and has a very strong desire to meet customer needs. Constantly adapts to feedback, to other managers and to changes in the market.
    What distinguishes an organization that is successful in new product/business B2B sales?
    It starts with a widely supported insight that investing in strategic innovation / R&D is needed, but is not enough to ensure any excellent new product will actually become a big financial success. Based on that insight, the organization should create an environment and culture that is conducive to new product sales:
    1. HAVE EXCELLENT FRONTLINE SALES MANAGERS. Ability to attract, assess and hire sales reps with the traits and competencies described under I., to coach these reps in their learning process (strengths, weaknesses), and to keep up their morale in difficult times. In my experience, a top new business sales representative can be, but does not automatically make a superb sales manager. A training and coaching program for sales management candidates could be a very good idea.
    2. PERFORM SYSTEMATIC SKILL ASSESSMENT. To be used for customized coaching and training purposes.
    3. TRAIN FOR KNOWLEDGE AND RESILIENCE. Again, do not focus on product knowledge, but on market trends, the sales process and selling skills.
    4. IMPLEMENT STRATEGIC ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT. Take a long-term perspective for business development and networking, and provide long-term incentives. Hold regular planning meetings with clients and collaborate with them, build customer intimacy and trust and develop partnerships with the best clients. Bring executive teams of both organizations together.
⇒ Do you agree with these characteristics of successful people and organizations selling new innovative products?

Source: Thomas Steenburgh and Michael Ahearne, "How to Sell New Products - Focus on learning, not performance", HBR Nov-Dec 2018, pp.92-101

Key Success Factors in B2B Sales of New Products
Javier Elenes, Business Consultant, Mexico, Member
KSF 1. UNDERSTAND THE BUSINESS: Segment the Market (find the Leader by Market Segment) and Understand how they generate $$$.
KSF 2. DEFINE ECONOMICAL ADVANTAGES using your product or service. Define the potential savings the customer can achieve if they use your product.
KSF 3. BUILD TESTIMONIALS. Give demos to the leaders by market segment, reporting the savings and general performance of the product.
I followed this steps to launch the first electronic diesel engine for heavy trucks (DDC Series 60) in Mexico, and to launch a Sprinter MB.

Selling to People not Businesses
Maurice Hogarth, Consultant, United Kingdom, Premium Member
I do not disagree with Steenburgh and Ahearne.
As I understand it, it is PEOPLE who buy, on the basis of the BENEFITS to the “buyer”, which derive from the features of the product/service.
So factors in any sales transaction will include:
  1. Having an information gathering process that will enable the identification of the initial or ongoing needs of the prospect/current customer, whether to benefit the internal efficiency / effectiveness of its management-operations or to benefit the sales/market share.
  2. To match the organisation’s sales strategy with the noted traits-competencies of the sales person.
  3. Ensure the sales person has appropriate levels of authority to offer personal contract variations.
  4. Has a wide knowledge of related products-services to be able to compare features-benefits.
  5. Integrity/honesty of seller and selling organisation.

Consumer Journey - When to Sell
Alexey Timoshek, Russian Federation, Member
@Maurice Hogarth: very true. If a frontline organization knows the consumer journey well and understands deeply when and how to offer (basing upon the consumer's individual values and beliefs) - so that the product benefits match those values / solve problems - then it will work.
In order to sell anything to a business you first have to engage the various business owners/managers - trying to convert them to your product believers. All technical / financial things may follow afterwards.

Credibility of the Selling Organization
srinivas, Lecturer, India, Member
Even if the manufactured product gives a lot of value to the potential buyers and even if the salesman is very persuasive, it remains very difficult to sell a product to a client who is accustomed to buying products developed by big brand names.
This is particularly so in India, where a certificate of approval from some big brand is needed in order to convince a prospective client.

Product Credibility versus Buyer Habit
Maurice Hogarth, Consultant, United Kingdom, Premium Member
@Srinivas: Agreed - breaking old habits is difficult. People like to cover their backs with the true and tested (and of course there is a lot of power in being able to criticise a big-name if things go wrong).
This is why THE NEED IS TO SELL "BENEFITS" i.e. this is the benefit 'you' (the organisation and the person buying) get for the cost of your investment (not 'purchase'). Purchases 'cost'; investments provide 'returns' (i.e. benefits)'.
So what is the cost/investment-benefit from buying from me, a small company, against the cost/investment-benefit of buying from the 'big' company?
So, research is important to find out what benefits the organisation and the 'buyer/decision-taker' are looking for; that you should provide with your product-service mix [that the 'big' company cannot].

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