By Greg Bruno, President, Midlantic Enterprises, Inc.
A principal’s new product launch can be exciting, time-consuming and expensive for both a principal and a representative. Ultimately, everyone involved wants the launch to be successful and profitable. Getting to these goals takes planning and careful execution. The additional potential for new business that a new product launch offers the sales representative can be exciting, but success with it requires preparation, training, market research and information. I believe that these four things are at the root of what a representative wants and needs to succeed.
I asked a number of experienced representatives to think about their experiences with launching new products with principals and to let me know what they expected. I received a fair amount of feedback that is shared below. I am grateful for all of their help and for the ideas that they conveyed.
The suggestions started with having the principal tell us why the additional product was being introduced. Providing us with the history that led up to the decision was also quite common. We’re all story tellers to some extent, so knowing the history of a new product and the reasons for its introduction will enable us to weave a factual story and an intelligent presentation as to the “why” the new product is being offered to our customers.
Requests for training followed. Knowing that the principal had conducted market research was mentioned as being helpful to insure that the sales representatives would embrace the new product. Training was by far the single most mentioned expectation.
Training of course is paramount in our ever-changing environment and something that doesn’t happen as often as we need or would like. Training includes sharing data and specifications on the product, along with hands-on examples of any available samples prior to the new product’s launch. Most of us are tactile in nature, as are the majority of our customers. Physical samples and a clear understanding of the new product could help to pave the way to success. The need for product literature both electronically and printed for distribution was also expressed.
Training requests included knowing if any optional variations were available. Also, knowing where and how the new products were expected to be used would be helpful. Sales support from the principal’s side was desirable. The sales support from both inside and outside principal employees was common and beneficial.
There were a number of folks who mentioned that competitive information such as market size, competitor location and overall capabilities would benefit the effort. Knowing what separates us from the competition helps our efforts, and sharing this could open doors. No one wants to present a line as a “me too” option for our customers, so knowing what our potential differences are with the competition is desirable.
Knowing the principal’s plan as to how they intend to professionally market the new product will also help gain a sales representative’s commitment to any new launches. Professional literature and any pricing matrix including optional discounts will enable presentations to flow easily and streamline our mutual efforts into a formal request for quotation and ultimately orders.
Knowing the principal’s expectation is extremely important — a primary concern. Without this information, a sales representative is blind and his or her efforts could easily be wasted. The principal’s expectations are really all that matter. Achieving those expectations will be easier and more likely if all of the interested parties prepare, train, conduct sound market research and openly and collectively share all of this information.
Greg Bruno is the founder and president of Midlantic Enterprises, Inc., a multi-person sales agency selling custom and standard engineered components to OEMs and large industrial companies in the NY to DC corridor. Midlantic Enterprises began its 33rd year this past August. Bruno has been a rep for 38 years and is active with the NJ/NY chapter of MANA, participated in the development of the current MANA Agency-Principal Contract and has served on the MANA Board of Directors of MANA.