Why would you want to keep offering a product or service that you almost never sell?

Generally you wouldn’t, but sometimes these low-volume offerings are enablers. They stimulate discussion, open doors, and showcase your company’s expertise or abilities. Let me give you a couple prime examples of enabling products.

When I was marketing for Simplex, it was the world’s largest manufacturer of fire alarm systems. When they started making security systems, it seemed only natural to have the two systems integrate. The engineering that went into this was significant. The sales efforts were also significant, and the interface was a great differentiator. Security system sales picked up, but only a handful of fire alarm interfaces were sold. Engineering wanted to pull the product as sales of it alone didn’t justify the costs. The sales & marketing team properly recognized that the ability to integrate was more important than actually integrating systems. The comfort factor in having this ability for the future was a sales enabler.

Currently, I work with a company which has a unique packaging product that is fully compostable. But it costs more than normal packaging. Since packaging is already viewed as disposable, few companies are willing to invest in what they view as a short-lived advantage. But thay always want to learn about it. Everyone is environmentally conscious these days, and the compostable packaging is a door opener. It gets more attention, and stimulates more sales calls than any other product – even though it rarely sells.

In both these cases, there is an aspirational appeal to the product or service. Companies really do want to do their best and be forward thinking. And they appreciate working with partners who enable them to aim high. Sometimes the enabling products or services don’t get sold, but do get discussed. And the very fact that you have these in your lineup increases your reputation and profile. And opens a few doors….

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