Most people love new technology. It can make us more productive. It can lower our costs. It can be very “cool.”
So, if it’s true and most people love new technology, why do we tend to adopt new technology on a “curve?” Why do innovators and early adopters jump in early while others become late majority or laggards?
One answer is the effect of salespeople on the adoption curve. With innovators, salespeople probably make no difference. Innovators are going to buy new technology early and take a risk. It’s important that they are the first to utilize and implement new technology. They probably know more about the technology than the salespeople do anyway. They have likely been researching the new stuff for months and probably were involved in beta-testing the product for the manufacturer.
Salespeople make the difference between customers who are early adopters, early majority and late majority adopters. Salespeople need to instill confidence in customers, clearly articulate the benefits vs. risks of implementing new technology, help customers with ROI analysis of implementing the new solutions and convince customers to try the product as a proof source. Left to their own devices, most customers would wait until technology is proven and the cost comes down. That’s a logical argument, but one that is refuted by strong salespeople. Strong salespeople will move customers forward on the adoption curve: Early Majority to Early Adopters, Late Majority to Early Majority.
If new technology enables capabilities that don’t currently exist, makes people more efficient or can lower your costs—waiting to implement that technology has a cost associated with doing so. By waiting to implement, customers will continue to work without needed capabilities and can be less efficient or can continue accruing costs that could be reduced by implementing the new technology. This is where salespeople earn their keep. It’s up to the salesperson to connect those dots for customers. To understand the objections up front and to help the customer see that while there is some risk in implementing new technology, there is more cost involved in waiting to implement it. And, as a late majority or laggard, that customer could be at risk of falling behind competitors who have already started implementing the new technology.
The key to getting customers to adopt new technology early is validation. Customers need to validate that the new technology will do what the vendor says it will do. This is done through demonstrations, proof of concepts, and pilot installations. The sales team is responsible for getting customers to take those steps.
The validation process starts with a presentation to the customer on the new technology:
- How it works
- Why it will address the customers’ needs
- Proof sources of other customers that have already validated the product, etc.
- Answering in-depth technical questions and objections
- Clearly articulating the costs/benefits of implementing the new technology
The next step is getting the customer to agree that if the product does what it is advertised to do, that they will buy and implement it. These steps could take anywhere from just days to months to even years. But, an important step has to happen before convincing customers to implement new technology. It’s the step of convincing salespeople that this technology is ready for prime time and is worth pushing customers to become early adopters or early majority participants. The steps for convincing salespeople that this technology is ready is virtually the same as it is for convincing customers. It all starts with training the salespeople.
You begin with the background on why the new technology was developed to begin with. This product was designed to do X. We have validated that the market for a product like this is Y. There are competitors A, B and C in this market and we are bringing competitive advantages over them in these key areas: uptime, manageability and throughput. The ROI for this product shows a seven month payback. The key application for this product is Z. The market sweetspot for this technology is a customer that has a need for high throughput capability at a cost of <$1500 and has uptime reliability of 99%+. We have already implemented these solutions at four different companies (all early adopters) and those customers are willing to be references for us. The new technology has been working as expected at those customer installations for three months.
Once the background of the new technology is presented and understood by the salespeople, it’s time to validate it by proving that the product does what it says. This could be a demonstration or a visit to one of those early adopter customers who already implemented the new technology. Have them ask the customer:
- Why they implemented it.
- How they like it.
- What differences they are realizing because they implemented the solution.
- What advice they would give other customers considering implementing the new technology.
Now, the salespeople are ready to start influencing customers to buy the new technology. Time to overview the product, get into a pilot to validate that it works and then close the business.
Introducing new technology is paramount to long-term growth of a manufacturer. Getting customers to adopt that technology at an accelerated rate is 100% on the sales team and its channel partners. That’s why salespeople and channels exist—to get customers to do things faster than they normally would by showing them the benefits of doing so. In a word—it’s called “selling.”