Why Product Launches Fail - A Sales Perspective

By Rod Turnage

It’s sad and can have a crushing effect on morale throughout an organization.  Here’s how it happens:  A market ready product moves through conceptualization, engineering and development.   Excitement builds internally and all of the hard work appears to be paying off, then….. 5, 4,3,2,1 LAUNCH (mission control we have the long awaited takeoff).  Poof, splat, crash. How could this happen?  

Well from a sales perspective there are four main reasons:

1. Trailblazing was taken off course due to lack of industry buzz.

I once watched a tanned buff man named Pedro trail blaze through the lush green forest and coral blue waters of St. Thomas with my beautiful wife of two days.  You see he made sure I was mounted on the slow brown horse while he assisted my wife on the huge and fast white horse.

 Every salesperson looks for opportunities to be involved with a product first to market.  After all, this puts heat on the competition, drives incremental revenue, and brings value to the customer.  I often hear salespeople mention new products to customers before they are available.  This builds excitement and keeps the salesperson front of mind.  Manufacturers play a key role in controlling the excitement and awareness prior to a product’s initial availability.

2. No BETA customers or references were available.

If you want to see a salesperson squirm, watch their reaction when a customer asks, “Who is using this product today and can I speak to them?”  This question often robs the seller of their perceived control over the sales process.  Now, when a prepared and competent seller is armed with this information, they approach the customer with confidence and poise.

3. Lack of Sales Training and Enablement Tools.

Show me a salesman without a bag and I’ll show you his unhappy wife.  It’s true.  Salespeople will not touch a product that does not contribute to the size of their commission check.  Having full product understanding and efficient sales support tools are critical.  This is especially true with engineered products new to the market.

4. Product is not relevant to many vertical markets.

An efficient and confident salesperson knows his or her swim lane.  It’s expensive and volume limiting to introduce a new product.  Therefore, it is imperative that the manufacturer identify applications within many vertical segments.  This will allow the salesperson to cross-sell knowing that many organizations do not have the capacity to train and hire segment specific teams.

There are additional reasons for product launch failures.  Like having little support from the salesperson’s manager or having no synergy with the companies’ value proposition.  But who wants to focus on failure any longer.  Next time I will discuss success.  Oh my, the sweet smell of success!  I feel better already just typing and saying the word.  

I am Rod Turnage.