A Product Launch Gone Bad
One Monday morning I found myself in Tom’s office. Tom was our new Chief Customer Officer and had been pushing our Services and Customer Success teams to accelerate the adoption of our software products.
“Mark, you know that new product that Marketing announced last week?”
“Yes, the one with the new automation features, right? The press release said that the functionality is entirely ‘out of the box,’ so customers can start using the product on their own.”
“That’s the one, but there have been some issues with the launch, and I’ve been hearing all about it from the CEO over the weekend…”
* * *
Tell me that you’ve seen this movie before.[Narrator: the product wasn’t really out of the box.]
The Product team overestimated what it would take for users to get started and Sales just ran with what Product and Marketing gave them. None of the Onboarding, Customer Success, or Support teams were even aware of the launch date and were caught flat-footed when calls from new customers poured in. To add to the confusion, this product was also sold by partners who were receiving calls from customers and didn’t know how to support them or route them to our teams.
So, from a new product success perspective, this had been an epic fail. And why? Simply because the left hand wasn’t talking to the right hand.
Tom was confused as to what the Sales Enablement team was doing. “Aren’t they supposed to be the ones driving alignment with everyone to ensure that all teams are ready?”
Sales Enablement – the team responsible for training our people on new value propositions – actually was there, and they were working very hard. However, Tom hit the nail on the head: historically, their focus has only been on Sales, not Customer Success as well.
“Mark, their current approach is clearly not cutting it – they need to think broader across the entire revenue lifecycle.”
I didn’t need any convincing. In the software subscription business, after the sale, customers need to be quickly onboarded and start realizing the value that was promised to them. The software vendor then needs to grow usage and ensure that customers adopt new features, renew, expand usage, and so on. In other words, unless the product is really out-of-the-box (or self-serve), Customer Success must be enabled and ready, too.
The revenue lifecycle is a constant collaboration between Sales and Customer Success. Tom believed in the importance of enabling all teams and that Enablement needed to be the connecting glue to Product and Marketing as well. The Enablement team just needed leadership buy-in and strategic support. I had my work cut out for me, but I knew what to do.
Common Pain Points
The challenges we identified are similar to those we see across teams responsible for taking products to market in companies of all sizes, and they all pointed to that lack of information flow and alignment between Product, Sales, and Customer Success.
- Limited visibility into the product roadmap – Sales and Customer Success did not have a good view into the launch details for the year, making it very difficult to plan and prioritize in advance.
- Insufficient readiness for new releases – Sales and Customer Success teams were engaged too late in the product release process, giving them too little time to properly communicate the value proposition, drive product adoption, provide support, and ensure success after launch.
- No post-launch enablement – After product launches, revenue-focused teams were not consistently trained on new product features, and thus were less effective in maximizing customer value and revenue growth.
- Lack of product & services alignment – Sales generally had a good understanding of the product portfolio, but reps had no idea of which services aligned with which products. Sometimes they didn’t sell essential services at all, causing major downstream impacts.
- No common go-to-market playbook – Account managers, professional services, solution architects, customer success managers, marketers were not always working as a team and engaged with customers in a non-orchestrated way, creating confusion and sub-optimal outcomes.
Enter Revenue Enablement
With these insights in hand, Leadership established a new Revenue Enablement function, expanding the roles of the current Sales Enablement team.
The team would take on new responsibilities (e.g., continually enabling all revenue-focused teams – collectively known as the Field) and rely on other teams for activities that required different types of skills and capacity — things like complex business process redesign.
Revenue Enablement’s six-month plan focused on three priorities:
- Enable the Field on New Product Introductions (NPIs). The entire NPI process was redesigned to bring both Sales and Customer Success earlier into the process to ensure organizational readiness and early market success. Revenue Enablement trained Sales & Customer Success leadership on the new process and most importantly, drove enablement activities for every new launch.
- Create and deploy a portfolio mapping Services to Products. The key here was enabling Sales not only on the extensive catalog of Services and Customer Success offerings and related marketing collateral, but also on which offerings went with which product, based on product tier, customer segment and unique use cases. This ensured that the customers were set up for success from the start and got the right services throughout their journey to maximize the value from their product investment.
- Deploy a new Go-To-Market Engagement Model. This initiative focused on ensuring that all customer-facing team members across Sales, Marketing and Customer Success (including Support and Partner Ecosystem) knew how to collaborate to deliver the optimal customer experience, and how to adjust their motion based on the customer segment and deployed solution. Driving alignment on the new ways of working required a huge change management effort, creative facilitation, and thoughtfully sequenced workshops.
It was (literally) worth it. All the anticipated benefits – improved organizational readiness for NPIs, ensuring customers got the right services from the start, and a well-orchestrated GTM motion – were realized.
The somewhat unexpected benefit was the spotlight on the individual teams’ priorities and operating models. With more visibility into the product roadmap, Sales and Customer Success began questioning the need to launch 20 new things every quarter. Greater clarity on the product and services portfolio generated questions about the unnecessary level of complexity and need for rationalization. And with a focused program on the overall go-to-market motion, it became clear that the organization could be streamlined to drive greater efficiency.
Per Tom’s original point, the revenue lifecycle needs to be a constant collaboration between Product, Sales, and Customer Success. By broadening their focus to the entire revenue journey, Enablement became the key to unlocking efficiency, collaboration, free flowing communication, and most important of all, revenue.
It’s not an easy job, but it’s possible. Some might even call it fun. It’s most certainly worth it.
Further Advisory helps marketing, product, and sales executives translate their business vision and goals into reality. We support all aspects of taking products to market, from concept ideation and customer persona development to launch orchestration and customer success planning, all via pragmatic approaches that focus on action and drive real results.