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How to Maim–or Kill–a New Product

by Hank Barnes  |  November 26, 2013  |  Submit a Comment

Products never sell themselves.   Even in the world of the Internet and e-commerce, someone has to promote products in one way or another in order to drive business.  And yet, many, if not all, technology product launch failures usually come back to the same thing.

If you don’t win the hearts and minds of the channels (including direct sales) you have chosen to sell the product, then failure is all but guaranteed.  Being complacent about this, assuming that your channels will share your excitement for the new innovation, is a recipe for failure.


This year, Gartner explored the Future of IT Sales in detail—a topic will we continue to focus on in 2014 (continue to follow the hashtag #GartnerFOS for the latest information and discussions)–led by my colleague, Tiffani Bova.  Another colleague, Todd Berkowitz, will take a much closer and detailed look at product launches, and how to be successful.    The importance of an effective sales channel can not be underestimated for either of these topic areas.

And yet, we often find ways to screw it up.

What are some of the most common ways to disappoint your sales channels with new products? Here are a few:

  • Non-compelling Compensation – Selling new products is hard.  Buyers don’t know about them and there aren’t a lot of reference points. The compensation for selling new products has to get the channel interested.    Many traditional providers have struggled with cloud product launches because the sale of these products retires less quota and generates less revenue for the sales representatives.
  • Failure to Deliver on Differentiation – Often, new products come with big promises.  Promises that are hard to keep with an initial release.  If products don’t deliver on their promises, then sales representatives turn away, not wanting to disappoint their customers.   I’m not saying early releases have to be perfect or 100% complete, but they need to deliver the initial value that is promised—and point the way toward a bigger vision for the future if appropriate.   But over-promising and under-delivering is a recipe for disaster.   It will also impact future product launches–since your channels will view them with less trust, given past experiences.
  • Arbitary (in the eyes of the Channel) Restrictions  – A common launch strategy is to focus on a small segment of customers, or small group within the sales force, to test product acceptance.  This can work, but may be  viewed as arbitrary for the excluded segments.  If your channel gets frustrated because they are not allowed to sell the product, then they may hold that “grudge” for a long time.  By the time they can sell it, they may have decided, in their own mind, ways to provide value without selling the product.
  • Incomplete Enablement – A new product has to be sold to be successful.  And the first sale is to your channel.  They need to get excited about the opportunity the product creates for them.  They need to understand the value and competitive differentiation.   Sales enablement provides that knowledge.   Unfortunately, all too often too little time and energy is spent on enablement.  Sometimes this is marketing’s issue; other times sales leaders aren’t willing to pull their teams from the field to learn (which really means another sales effort is needed–one to the sale leaders).   Without knowledge and confidence, your channel will continue to sell what they know, putting litle, if any, emphasis on the new products.

Have you ever disappointed your channels with a product release?  If so, what was the long term impact?  Were you able to recover? If so, how?

Category: future-of-sales  go-to-market  

Tags: channels  gartnerfos  product-launch  sales-enablement  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes provides research and advisory services on go-to-market strategies for technology providers. His research efforts focus on understanding the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. He then applies that research to explore the implications on vendor strategies, supporting the efforts of product marketing, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and CEOs. Read Full Bio

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