Innovation selling

Recently we worked with a company that wanted to serve the education institutes with the innovative solution towards teaching in an experiential way. There is a lot of innovation that has gone into this solution to understanding current student grades, their gaps, progress.

But when salespeople visited and promoted these solutions, the response wasn’t great from the teachers as well as authorities. Most of the conversations revolved around pricing and other aspects than innovation!

If you see there has been a lot of talk about innovation in today’s businesses. Most of the innovations are also being supported by the latest technologies like ML, AI, and Data Analytics, etc.

Now most businesses or product owners want to add these new technologies as part of their solutions, so they can highlight these latest technologies during their marketing and sales.

But when you present these to end customers and talk about the latest innovation, not many get the response they have been hoping for?

Many buyers don’t show that enthusiasm as much as the person who is selling it. Similar to the salesperson selling those new teaching systems to schools.

Why is that? What are the common mistakes most people are doing here?

In this article let me share the 5 common mistakes most do in selling innovative solutions.

All these are related to the human psychology of buying. Hence, first let us understand the force of habits, as the habits form the basis for all our actions.

Force of habits in buying

Believe it or not, most enterprises that claim themselves to be innovative are also conditioned by habits.  It is human nature to avoid changes and since businesses are nothing but a set of people, they do like to avoid drastic changes.

Especially the people in operations departments such as purchase, systems, and manufacturing would have developed routines in terms of working with vendors, using certain products or solutions.

Hence many find it extremely difficult to even accept that there is a new way of working.

In the case education institutes, the teachers have been teaching in a certain way for 15+ years or so, and the new way being introduced was radically different and teachers found it too much gap from what they are doing!

The force of habit was preventing them.

“We become what we repeatedly do.”

― Sean Covey, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Teens

That is why you might wonder why some companies stick to their old suppliers despite the supplier offering expensive solutions and even poor after-sales service. That is again due to the force of habits and resistance to change.

5 reasons for the resistance to change is

  1. Risk – How much risk exists in adopting the new solution
  2. Effort – How much effort required to switch from the existing way of working to a new way
  3. Satisfaction with present conditions – Most buyers are happy with what they have and need to change is weak!
  4. Cost – Direct or Indirect cost of making the change
  5. The implied criticism – What if things don’t go as promised! If things aren’t broke don’t change is a common adage used!

But this doesn’t mean, we cannot influence people to adopt new innovations. If that was the case, then no new innovation would have never happened. The only thing to remember is the force of habits and make the sales and marketing efforts aligned with this.

Why innovation is not accepted?

Innovation is thought of as creativity. But creativity just thinks up new things where as Innovation does new things.

Theodre Levitt – Harvard Professor

Innovation, as a rule, is accepted by the market only in 2 conditions

  1. When the innovation of the change is the very idea behind what you are selling (Fashion goods)
  2. In products that people buy because of their novelties (Cars, Mobile phones, etc)

But in enterprise selling both the above conditions don’t apply. As we said above, most enterprises resist changes and they are not actively looking for innovation per se.

Though they are looking for things to simplify their current processes, solve their existing issues, increase their productivity, reduce costs, etc.

If we ask different buyers like end-users, decision-makers, influencers, how do they plan to address these, very few are willing to say they need some innovative, breakthrough solutions.

With these in consideration, let us see what 5 mistakes most people make when promoting their innovative solutions and how to avoid the same,

5 ways to present innovation solutions

  1. Do not present your innovations as radical new approaches to the way buyers are working currently. Instead present innovative solution as simplifications of the existing way of working, the ones which easily adhere to the existing habits
  2. Do not showcase innovative solutions without demonstrating how the new innovation fits the existing way. Best is to develop some prototype, pilots, etc to showcase how innovation works
  3. Do not make the customer think he is the first one who is being tried with or experimented with. Instead, highlight that the solution is already working with buyers similar to them and it is absolutely ready for the next step of collaboration.
  4. Ensure to go to new customers by having clear testimonials from businesses that are similar to theirs already using your solution.
  5. Make it clear to the customer that the new solution adoption is easiest, and least effort required – clearly position to offer them help in terms of sharing clearly the procedures, instruction manual, necessary training to get the customer team gets on board quickly.

The final mistake to be avoided is, if your solution involves a significant investment, then one of the challenges most buyers face, the risk of investing.

Most purchase managers are reluctant to take responsibility for the loss, even if there will be future benefits.

This is something to keep in mind and you must make efforts to go to the extent of offering to exchange the client’s existing equipment or arrange trade-in offers or develop innovative pricing mechanisms.

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