Expected Customer Demand

A survey of most damaging projects that a salesteam leader could undertake would create an interesting list. Crm implementation and territory realignment seem obvious table-topping minefields.

Yet there’s a more silent sinister activity that also derails sales careers. Consider this quote from a 1997 academic paper; Adoption of new products by the salesforce.

“Some firms take sales force commitment to any new product as a given, seemingly adopting the attitude,
‘If we build it, they will sell’.
However, management has no guarantee of salespeople’s commitment to a new product.
For various reasons, salespeople may fail to sell a new product, or they may engage in dysfunctional behavior during the selling process—
for example, misrepresenting the product’s benefits to gain short-term sales.”

Further research suggests that,

innovations such as new brands or products continue to face immense failure rates

and lays the blame at the door of salesreps themselves,

Salespeople may thus prefer to focus on existing products that are proven sellers, leading to suboptimal effort towards the innovation

I’ve spent more than a decade helping salesteams sell new products. Sometimes I’ve got involved in preparation for the launch fanfare, more often once lacklustre results frustratingly follow an all-guns-blazing introduction.

My experience is that it is possible to head off much heartache through early consideration of individual salespeople’s attitudes to the new product.

Recent research pinpointed two behaviours which flag potential uptake by salespeople, and by extension eventual sales made.

  1. adoption is driven by the salesperson’s observations regarding the extent to which his or her immediate manager adopts the brand, and
  2. salespeople put themselves in the place of potential customers, and build a judgment of expected customer demand (ECD) for the new brand.

ECD is a sales force member’s perceptions of the likely customer demand for the new brand.

ecd

This concept of market anticipation linked with Social Learning Theory recommends that management should not simply focus on the adoption of the customer:

It may even be the case that applying resources to the task of optimizing the internal marketing of new brands to the sales force is more cost-efficient than a focus on marketing to end customers.

Internal marketing rather than external communications may even be the preferred option for small and
medium-sized service firms, because these companies have to deal with low marketing budgets.

Determining where your field sales and management are at well in advance of launch undoubtedly allows the right plan of action to be put in place.


Reference:
Understanding the adoption of new brands through salespeople: a multilevel framework
(2007) Jan Wieseke, Christian Homburg & Nick Lee
The context of the study is a brand extension strategy for 547 sellers inside a travel agency franchise system that introduced a new travel brand to migrate from individual products to umbrella ‘solution’ offerings.

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