One of my favorite scenes from the sitcom, “Love and Marriage” was when Bud built an innovation in his basement while hearing a loud voice in his head booming, “if you build it they will come”. He obsessively worked day and night on the solution and was surprised that when he was finished, no one came. This is how many innovations are approached by businesses - their employees are so in love with the innovation they can’t imagine anyone being able to resist it. The reality is that any new solution will need sales and marketing to present the innovation and differentiate it from the competitors.
As global sales and marketing manager for Halo I had the opportunity to build a fantastic team whose goal was to spread the message of our new innovation. While our solution wasn’t that different technologically, it delivered a unique experience through an innovative business model that challenged the current status quo in the industry. Read my white paper, “building an experience ecosystem” for more insight into our innovation.
Effectively engaging customers for new innovations requires building a team that is delivering a service to your customers instead of selling. Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon, and Nicholas Toman interviewed some successful sales people in their HBR article, “The End of Solution Sales”, one who stated, “I know more about how the purchase will unfold than the customers do. I let them champion the vision internally, but it’s my job to help them get the deal done.” And that is the key service your sales people provide to your customers – helping them to get the deal done.
In last week’s blog I talked about building successful innovation teams. To build a team of business development managers who can be successful innovation service providers, some ideas to keep in mind include:
- Hire a business development team who sees their primary role as service providers, providing a solution analysis service to customers who could benefit from your innovation. For example, a service they provide could include providing insights that unveil growth opportunities gained by outsourcing tasks that are currently a bottleneck.
- Match your business development professionals with the type of engagement required to make a sale. A solution that includes an on-going service which grows with the customer will need someone who loves to build and maintain a relationship, not someone who wants to compete with their peers for the most units sold.
- Match your compensation with the value your innovation delivers to the customer as that is where your business should be gaining the most revenue. For example, a solution with a low margin product and a high margin service should provide higher compensation for longer tem service contracts.
Once your team is assimilated, build a sales process focused on delivering that service to your customers:
- Be a consultant, a trusted advisor – the business developer’s role is to help your customer navigate through the analysis process, everything from establishing a need to comparing different offerings. To be trusted, focus on the advantages of the different solutions in the marketplace rather than dwelling on the disadvantages of your competitors.
- Engage a customer evangelist who will understand intellectually the impact of the innovation on their business. Provide these evangelists with the tools they need to successfully communicate that vision to stakeholders. Make them look like a hero for bringing this solution to their organization.
- Help your evangelist create a vision for their company that showcases new opportunities and resolved frustrations gained by implementing your solution. Collaboratively create a custom ROI (return on investment) profile that highlights the soft benefits along side dollar savings.
- Drink your own champagne - use your innovation as part of your sales process. For example, we did not visit our customers but instead invited them to meet with us using our telepresence solution.
Ultimately your team will be successful delivering their service if they have helped your customer envision a different reality for themselves, whether that is using your solution or a competitor’s or even their own home grown solution. If it wasn’t your solution that delivered this different reality, there is something wrong with your solution or your target market, not your sales personnel.