A client asks, “There is an untapped market that I think would be a great fit for my company’s products. During meetings with the sales staff, I have encouraged them to prospect into this market. They make a few calls but stop trying after a while. How do I convince them that there is a real opportunity here?"
Assess the Market
Prior to asking the sales force to make outbound calls into a new market, do the research needed to determine the size and needs of that new market and estimate how many additional customers you would gain by selling to a conservative fraction of its customers. Determine whether or not your product needs adaptation or a different pricing structure.
Conduct Market Research Calls
Determine who will probably make the final purchasing decision and make a dozen or so calls to those decision makers yourself. The calls should be “fact finding” rather than sales oriented. Consider creating a brief questionnaire to guide your discussion. Included should be some inquiries about your product area and the possibility of their considering such a purchase in the next several years.
Create a Sales Plan
Using the data you have gathered, create a sales plan within your overall strategic plan for this new market, then make a presentation to your sales force. Talk about the ground work you have done and how much additional commission could be earned by the sales representatives if they successfully tap into the market. Make a convincing case. Sales representatives need to be sold too.
Set and Reward Achievable Goals
Set separate and reasonable goals for the number of outbound calls and product presentations the sales representatives should complete in the new market. Goals that are poorly communicated or set too high discourage a sales force. Reinforce and reward the goals attained. For instance, present each sales representative with a gift certificate once they have their product presentations goal.
Hold De-briefing Sessions
Don’t take the “I gave you all the information you need to be successful, now go sell” approach after the initial meeting. Make a point of discussing the sales reps’ progress in the new market on a weekly basis for at least three months. Encourage them to talk about any challenges they are facing and offer to help in any way you can. If, despite your best efforts, some of the targets you set are proving too difficult, re-set them with input from the sales people.
Making that extra effort for the sales representatives will go along way towards entering a new market successfully.