Hidden Danger In Selling InnovationAs any industrial marketing professional will tell you, one of the best industrial marketing practices is to make a genuine commitment to ongoing and meaningful innovation. In fact the late economist Joseph Schumpeter believed (correctly) that the ongoing creative destruction that occurs in capitalism makes innovation and reinvention a necessity. Additionally, innovation can be used to strongly differentiate your manufacturing company and become the core component of your competitive strategy.

The most obvious danger in pursuing a course of ongoing innovation within your company is that you will spend considerable time and financial resources and not gain market acceptance. Usually this is the predictably disastrous result of poor or non-existent market research.

Another obvious danger is that despite your best efforts you simply cannot perfect your innovative product or service into a workable model. While this can be the result of a flawed hypothesis, sometimes it is simply bad luck.

I believe there is another major danger in innovation that is seldom discussed by manufacturing executives that can make the greatest innovations virtually worthless.

That danger is that little or no thought is given on how the new product will be sold. As always the core of this mistake is one of misguided assumptions about what motivates buyers.

Typically what happens is you send your salespeople out with their shiny sell sheets and, oh the horror, their shiny PowerPoint presentations and they cannot sell your shiny new innovative product. You find this baffling because your innovative product is superior.

So how do you tune up your industrial marketing and your salespeople so they can sell your highly innovative offerings?

1. Go beyond conventional sales wisdom

Conventional sales wisdom tells us if when talking to buyers if you discover their pain areas you are 90% of the way to closing the sale. While uncovering pain is a good practice it is not enough, especially if you are trying to sell an innovative product. In fact, if your salespeople are only uncovering pain odds are great they are only closing a fraction of the possible opportunities.

In order to sell innovative products your salespeople need to go beyond conventional sales wisdom and enter the minds of your buyers.

2. Realize you are selling an interruptive product

Your selling process needs to first focus on providing reassurance for the buyer. Here’s why.

From the standpoint of your salespeople you may have developed a truly innovative product that no buyer in their right mind could ever decline to purchase. Your innovative product can demonstrably improve the performance within the buyer’s company which your salespeople perceive as truly being a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, a substantial percentage of buyers have a much different feeling about your innovative product. Fear is a word that comes to mind. The reason your buyers are fearful is because your innovative product is bringing risk into their business. Your product is also interruptive as it forces buyers to change their perceptions and business processes. It also exposes them to ridicule or censure from others.

If your selling process does not address this very real fear your salespeople are losing out on many opportunities. The good news is that incorporating reassurance into your selling process is fairly easy.

3. Develop a simple process that helps buyers mitigate or eliminate risk

I advise my industrial marketing consulting clients to keep an old copywriting maxim at the forefront of their minds when attempting to communicate value. This maxim states that ignoring a serious objection or pretending it does not exist will not make the objection any less real, nor will it make it go away.

Ignoring the real dangers in the buyer’s mind about purchasing your innovative (and interruptive) product, which ultimately is a serious objection, is one of the biggest mistakes your salespeople can make. Even if your salespeople seldom hear buyers voice objections about the risk in purchasing your product the fear of risk is still lurking just beneath the surface and can sabotage selling efforts.

Your selling process needs to show buyers how they can reduce the risk in buying. Simply try the following:

First, tell the buyer that you recognize that they may be feeling some discomfort or fear about your innovative product.

Second, do not be dismissive of this fear as it is very real to the buyer.

Third, wherever possible provide them with testimonials or case studies to alleviate their fears.

Fourth, consider offering free education through webinars, seminars, tip sheets, white papers or other educational collateral.

Fifth, be willing to provide free trials or product demonstrations.

Last, provide the strongest possible guarantee. If your guarantee is strong enough to eliminate risk, that is even better.

High performing salespeople realize the importance risk plays in the minds of their buyers. They also have a selling process in place to mitigate or eliminate this risk.

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