How to Sell Disruptive New Concepts
Selling New Concepts
Management books and meetings are often packed with ‘management speak’ and buzz-words to describe a concept, an action or a scenario. Many of these words are borrowed from everyday language and used to accentuate a point. As a consultant I often fall into this trap. But then in my defence, I do believe that words like ‘focus’, ‘snapshot’, ‘best-in-class, ‘drilldown’ are perfect simple descriptors and they do ‘what it says on the tin’!
‘Disruption’ is another concept that because it gets a lot of airtime lately, you would think it’s something new. But didn’t ‘tractors’ help to modernise farming over a hundred years ago? And although initially resisted by Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, the machine gun eventually changed modern warfare! Fast forward to recent times and we have so many examples of products and concepts that are changing the world forever. The real issue with modern disruption is the pace and the scale of impact.
For inventors of new concepts and technology, the initial challenge they face is in commercialising their product. The next big challenge then is to actually get customers to buy it. The level of difficulty depends on the complexity of the product. The first electric washing machine for example, probably only required three pictures to tell the story. One with dirty laundry, one of the machine itself with clothes inside, then one with clean clothes.
We can learn from past successful disruptors how they convinced customers to buy their product. For Avocet Bio-solutions (the subject of our case study below), they have several stakeholders to convert. That includes investors, financiers, government, state bodies and the farming community.
Tips on selling disruptive concepts
1. Know your target market. Given the ground-breaking technology that Avocet has developed, the main consideration is for who the ideal customer is. For example, we in Ireland are justly proud of our predominantly pasture based farming system. This is a major national selling point for our Irish produce. Perhaps there are some potential customers in Ireland, but this is also an exciting export opportunity.
2. Prepare in advance. Think through what benefits your product or service will deliver for the customer. The farming community have shown themselves to be adopters of technology when it saves them time and/or money, so that has to be the focus for Avocet.
3. Develop visual evidence and proof-of-concept. Taking a tip from the washing machine story above, develop if possible a visual representation of the ‘before and after’ relating to your product. Videos and pictures are powerful testaments, in addition to written testimonials from relevant people. That may mean having to give a free trial to an influencer to establish proof of concept. Make sure that their free trial is conditional on you being allowed to use them as a reference.
4. Establish proof-of-concept. Bio-solutions has invested in an Irish farm to do just that. John Commins owns a farm in Thurles with two hundred head of Piedmontese cattle. This particular breed is known for more muscle, less fat and cholesterol lowering properties. They are a perfect breed to illustrate the benefits of the amazing technology produced by the company. John himself is also an excellent ambassador and is passionate about the new technologies supporting consumer-friendly and carbon-free beef.
5. Know your customer. Regardless of who you’re selling to, know your customer. For example, imagine you are selling a Subaru car which has ‘all-wheel-drive’ as standard. That would be rich information for a customer that needs an all-weather or rough-terrain vehicle. However, talking too much about that to a customer that just wants a family car might be overkill. Even though it’s standard in the car, it might not merit strong messaging in every case.
Your product or service may have several components that for each one on its own, has standalone value. But if you oversell the product by focusing on too many aspects, it could cause spaghetti-brain in your customer. If you overwhelm your customers with too much information, they might get embarrassed or feel confused. That would prompt an early end to conversation.
6. Avoid too much technical information and jargon. Focus on the wins and the benefits of your product more than the specifications. Of course people will be interested in the story and your development journey, but don’t overdo the jargon.
The Last Word
I continue to be impressed to see early adopters of new technology in the farming community. And just like with any other industry, there are laggards too. So long as Avocet can show that its system can save time and/or money, I’m sure it’ll find an ear. But strong visual evidence and proof of concept in any sector is key. That may require upfront investment for the developer, but it’ll fast-track sales.
Alan O’Neill is Managing Director of Kara Change Management, specialists in strategy, culture and Team
Alan’s debut book “Premium is the New Black” will be launched in October.
© Copyright. Alan O’Neill. All rights reserved. 2018