Many entrepreneurs want to disrupt their markets. They want to revolutionize their industries. They want to provide a radical change in the way a problem is solved. They believe that the market will rush to their wonderful and new solution. But there is one major problem. People often fear change and they hate risk. And revolution requires change and risk.
Not only do decision makers hate risk and change but employees, who are required in the decision and implementation process view risk and change as threatening to their jobs and also think that this involves more work for them…which they do not want.
Why do people not like change and risk? To begin with, people often have a fear of the unknown and change implies the unknown. Then, people do not necessarily want to risk their careers on a decision that could backfire on them. If you have a new solution and you are a new and untested company and you are not yet known to the market as a recognized brand, you are introducing huge risk to your buyer. This requires the support of many (risk averse) people, requires integration with other products and solutions, threatens comfortable and existing workflows, may threaten jobs and requires people and organizations to spend time and money which are not items organizations have. This is uncomfortable and can make many potential skeptics or even enemies inside your buying organization. Plus, this may require your champion, if you are lucky enough to get one, to sell this new solution and approach to a higher up decision maker and your champion may not have the sales skills or the product knowledge or the ability to handle objections like you do.
This brings us to Newton’s Law of sales. A body at rest tends to stay at rest until acted upon by an external force. You are that force, but it has to be a strong force. Physics and sales have a great deal in common.
So how do you revolutionize your industry and still minimize perceived risk and help people accept change and get that body from a restful state to an action state? This is not necessarily easy to do and will take time, patience and skill.
The first issue is to identify a pain point for an organization which your product solves and which they are willing to address and to spend money on. If there is no understood pain point or they are unwilling to address the pain point, you are clearly wasting your time and theirs. Next you need to make your buyer understand how and why this is a valid way to deal with that pain. Often, a disruptive organization needs to sell the market on the disruptive approach before they try to sell their disruptive product.
Getting an organization to change a process requires massive improvement not incremental improvement. Otherwise, it isn’t worth their time, energy and money. So, a very strong value proposition is required. This value proposition must be rich with customer benefits that are meaningful, believable, and provable. Often entrepreneurs can’t build this value proposition or they focus on the wrong things in the value proposition. They are so close to their product that explaining the value becomes problematic, because they see the value but can’t explain it properly.
Then you need to think about how to simplify complexity. Buyers prefer simplicity. This means that you need to learn to make your solution simple to both understand and simple to implement. Too often, the main messages and benefits of the new solution are too difficult to understand because the entrepreneur does not know how or has not taken the time to simplify the message. Also, many entrepreneurs suffer from “jargon-monoxide poisoning”. This means that they use technical terms to describe the solution to an audience that either does not understand nor does not care about technology. They also focus on the features of their product and not the resulting benefits to the buying organization. You may be proud of and care about features in your product, but your buyer often does not. They want to know what this means for them…the benefits of the features.
Finally, you need to minimize the perceived risk of a new solution from a new company. People may like your product and even want to buy it and use it but worry that you will not make it as a company and that they will then be stuck with an unsupported product. No one wants to be in this situation.
What steps can you take to get the world to accept big change? Well, this is easier said than done, but here goes:
- Expose the buyer’s pain and focus on the customer pain points. No pain, no change
- Prove that your solution should be, or is, an industry standard. Sell why the solution should be considered a valuable alternative
- Try to identify the early adopters and use those to get the early majority. Qualify out the late majority and laggard buyers with good qualification questions.
- Explain how and why the new solution can benefit the buyer and why this can be an industry standard
- Focus on outcomes if you have them, not features. And when explaining features, always explain the benefits of any feature to the buyer. Don’t assume they will know (also, you should know the difference between feature and benefits)
- Provide a strong value proposition
- Make the transition to the new solution as easy as possible
- Think through the objections that you are likely to get and have prepared and defensible responses
- Qualify the buyer (see below)
- Reduce the perceived risk of you and your solution. Try take make your organization look bigger than it is.
- If you have references, use them, but use them effectively. References support your sale, they should not be used to try to make the sale
Remember to constantly qualify your buyers on the following issues:
- Time frame
- Decision criteria
Ask tough questions during the sales or buying process:
- Is this a problem that you would like to solve? Is this a priority?
- Who makes this decision?
- What is your decision criteria?
- Who would be impacted by this decision?
- How would this initiative be funded and out of whose budget would that come?
- When would you ideally like to have this solution in place?
- Have you ever been the first in your industry to use a solution?
- What is your appetite to being an early adopter?
Finally, beware of the post-sale rejection. You make the sale but the organization never implements your solution. In this case, often the people responsible for the solution (the users) never bought into the decision to begin with. Then they either delay or resist the actual implementation. They can claim it doesn’t do something that it needs to do, or that it is too hard to use (it doesn’t matter if that is true or not, they have power to decide this). You must pay attention to the training and implementation process and warn your champion if you are not getting cooperation. The result of this scenario is a cancellation after one year. This really destroys growth and valuation since a high attrition rate is bad for most businesses.
So, beware of the fact that buyers do not necessarily welcome change and that they hate risk. As an early stage company, you are introducing both. Think through your messaging, sales strategy and be prepared for objections.
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