To Sell Innovation, You Must Uncover Why Customers Want Innovation and How It Helps Them
We are going to discuss the second and third deadly sins related to selling innovation. Think back to the ‘Shark Tank’ situation described in part 1. Contestants invited to the show are confident that they bring with them an innovation that customers will buy. After they briefly introduce the sharks to their innovation, contestants who have a chance to succeed must address:
- Why their target customers would need/want their innovation
- How their innovation (and only their innovation) will help the target customers innovate
Understanding the Customer’s Business
If your sales team doesn’t understand the customer’s business, the second deadly sin, how could they ever provide a customer with a new way of doing business that offers sustainable value? In order to understand the customer’s business, the sales team needs to invest the time to learn about the customer’s external influences, internal initiatives and value priorities. The sales team should be able to clearly articulate the customer’s main sources of revenue and revenue trends.
Not investing this time is a major mistake that will leave the team crawling for the finish line before the race even starts. This context is vital to having the conversation with the client about their business, speaking their language and showing an understanding of their industry. From this conversation, the sales team can help the customer see a new or different way of doing business while also conveying why a change will be valuable for their company. Once you have gotten that far, you are in good position (at least you’re not crawling), but that position is still a starting point and in no way means you will win their business for innovation. The next big thing to consider at this point is the third sin, not understanding how the company helps customer’s innovate.
A colleague of mine was with a customer recently who was working on a large opportunity. They had spent a lot of time and money working with the customer to develop an idea, and in the end, the customer went with different supplier to implement the idea. Despite the fact they had the original idea on how to innovate, they were unable to justify how their capabilities could best support the customer and they ultimately lost the deal.
Connecting How Your Company Can Help
If the sales team can’t connect how your company can best help support your customer with an innovation, the race is over. The sales team was able to convince the right people that there is in fact a better way to do things at their company. But since they could not convince them why their way was the best answer, all they did was open the door for someone else. The sales team has to be confident (but not arrogant) and direct about exactly how their company helps customers innovate. When they do this, they separate from the herd and win the opportunity. This is when you finish the race first, on your two feet, while your competitors are still crawling towards the finish line.
Selling innovation should be easy, but it isn’t; especially if you commit even a single of the 7 deadly sins.
See the other posts in the series for more about selling innovation and the 7 deadly sins:
- What is Innovation | Why Selling Innovation is Hard | Part 1
- Why Customers Want Innovation and How It Helps | Why Selling Innovation is Hard | Part 2
- Understanding Customers and Being Curious | Why Selling Innovation is Hard | Part 3
- Tenacity and Innovation Leadership | Why Selling Innovation is Hard | Part 4