How to Test Market Your Sales Initiative

Test Mareketing Done Right

In most cases, before doing a full-blown launch of a new product, it makes sense to verify that what you are selling is really needed in the market, and that the approach you’ve chosen is an effective way to sell it. So rather than pulling out all the stops and starting with a big sales campaign, it's advisable to conduct test marketing in a smaller area or strategically chosen series of areas.

Test marketing your product gives you valuable real-market data to help you fine-tune your strategy, as well as validating your value proposition. It also saves your company money, because you allocate fewer resources upfront, and are able to ensure through the data obtained that those resources are correctly allocated in the future. For smaller companies, test marketing can also help with cash flow and budgeting, allowing your company to start small and gradually ramp up the campaign as it becomes successful.

However, test marketing is more than just hiring a few sales representatives and letting them have at it. For your test to be accurate and successful, you must build a complete sales function and put it into practice on a scale appropriate for your test marketing campaign. This post will walk you through the steps you need to follow to conduct a brilliant test marketing campaign.

Sales Process and Analytics Development

For a successful sales function, you need to know what sales expectations are realistic, and how you will measure results. To quantify the data that your sales representatives bring in, as well as measure their success, you will need to decide how to model your reports and map out a sales process that will take your customers through all the stages of buying and integrate the sales seamlessly into your fulfillment system. You’ll need to decide which sales analytics you’d like to keep track of, and what are your Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). This is the foundation upon which you will construct the rest of your sales function.

Compensation Plan Design

The compensation structure you choose for your sales representatives will have a huge effect on their success. It is critically important to research and develop a compensation plan that will incentivize them to perform. One of the first determinations you will have to make is whether to employ your sales force as 1099 independent contractors or W-2 employees. W-2 sales representatives generally stick around longer and perform more reliably, but the fixed costs tend to be higher than a 1099 sales force. For a comprehensive comparison of the W-2 and 1099 models, please see our white paper on the subject. You should also research the typical Total Target Compensation for your industry, as well as determining what would be the best salary/commission balance to attract the talent you need.

Recruiting Strategy

Simply putting an ad in the local newspaper, or even advertising online, is not an effective recruiting strategy in today’s market. A comprehensive recruiting strategy should identify all relevant channels for publicizing the job opening, including social media and other dynamic resources, as well as utilizing a hunting model to actively seek out and approach talented prospects. An effective job description and a well-defined recruiting process will also boost the success of your recruiting efforts.  Recruiting steps should include at a minimum a resume review, phone screening, at least one interview, extension of the offer, drug testing and background checks, and all the appropriate hiring and on-boarding procedures.

Sales Support

To properly succeed, your sales representatives need a well-functioning support system that will help the administrative side run smoothly so that they can focus their efforts on prospecting and closing sales. Setting up sales support includes such tasks as the generation and vetting of deployment options, territory design, selection and integration of a CRM, and the development of an associated account management infrastructure, as well as hiring the appropriate sales support personnel.

Training

Without consistent, on-going training, your sales team is unlikely to perform to its potential. A robust training program should include orientation for new recruits, as well as training in specific product knowledge and sales techniques. Training meetings should be frequent (typically at least weekly), and should motivate, inspire, and teach. Individual mentoring through ride-alongs and regular evaluations is also important.

Only after all of these elements are in place should you proceed to the implementation of your pilot program. If your company does not yet have the infrastructure in place to conduct an effect test marketing campaign, you may want to consider outsourcing your test marketing to an experienced sales outsourcing company. Here at Netpique sales outsourcing, for example, we conduct 4-6 month test marketing campaigns that include the development of each of the elements listed above. At the conclusion of the test marketing program, our clients have the option to either take over running the sales function themselves or continue to allow Netpique sales outsourcing to administer the program. For a free consultation and evaluation of your company’s needs, please contact us.