Who would want to be the first customer for a fax machine or indeed for a telephone? It seems ridiculous now but selling the first few telephones must have been really difficult. And how about laser eye treatment? How would you find the first person to try it when there was a safe alternative in a pair of spectacles?
This is understandable and needs careful handling. Your sales people will doubtless be adept at explaining the benefits of your new products but the customer is right to be skeptical. You need to find ways to reassure him and to mitigate his risk.
At the same time you need early adopters so that you can get some traction in the market, customer feedback and positive references for your innovation. So acknowledge the client’s concerns and put offers in place to allay them. You cannot just use your standard terms and conditions for a radical new product. You have to be innovative in your sales approach too. For example you could:
Above all you must choose the right early customers. Some people love new technology and others hate it. Select the best early adopters from among your top clients. Appeal to their sense of pioneering adventure. Stress the prestige that goes with early success – for both of you. Make sure that they share in the recognition of a successful launch. If all goes well then ask them for a testimonial. You can help them be seen as an industry leader in trade journal stories and at conferences. You are in it together and it must be a win/win for both parties.
By Paul Sloane
Paul Sloane is the author of The Leader’s Guide to Lateral Thinking Skills and The Innovative Leader. He writes, talks and runs workshops on lateral thinking, creativity and the leadership of innovation.