IMPACT: the technology executive’s guide for selling B2B disruptive and innovative solutions
It is getting easier to develop technology, and cheaper to deploy through the cloud, but it is not getting any easier to build and scale an innovative B2B technology company. At the outset innovative or disruptive technology is only purchased by an Early Adopter, to use Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm” terminology. The Early Adopter buying approach is the polar opposites to the Early Majority buyer. The Early Adopter is prepared to take a personal risk with innovative technology as they can see the huge potential. In contrast the Early Majority is the risk-averse buyer of technology in established markets to solve known, documented and measured needs; for example CRM, ERP, BI, secure mobility or collaboration. In fact, staggeringly 63% of all software revenue is split between Microsoft, SAP and Oracle – the market leaders – selling to the Early Majority.
Our 25 years of research has shown that every buyer follows a universal buying process, irrespective of industry, country or market. We have distilled this process into 6 steps; IMPACT. Idea, Mentor, Position, Assess, Case, Transaction.
What is interesting is when the customer invites the vendor into the process. The Early Adopter engages the vendor at Mentor when the solution is innovative, disruptive and shows potential that needs to be proven. The Early Majority does not invite the vendor until Case, when they already have a budget, business case, RFP and are ready to run a formal procurement process.
So, the different buying traits and the length and style of customer engagement means that selling to an Early Adopter requires a radically different approach to the shorter engagement with the Early Majority. However, unaware of IMPACT of the buyer types, most early stage companies replicate the sales techniques of the market leaders with disastrous results. They are selling to the Early Adopters, but using an approach honed to sell to the Early Majority.
But it is not just the sales teams that have to work differently. The entire company must be structured in a way to optimize sales to the particular buyer type. We are calling that the operational culture; the strategy, the structure, the behavior and expectations of the organization. This means different processes, incentives and KPIs. The Early Adopter needs a Value Created operational culture which has more thought leadership and is more consultative. The Early Majority needs a Value Added operational culture – the way that we see the market leaders operate – managing a sales funnel and winning RFPs.
Sadly most early stage companies, by default, are organized with a Value Added operational culture and are staffed with Value Added sales guys fresh out of SAP or Oracle. They are confused about why they are not closing deals and their tried and trusted sales funnel metrics are not working. And worse, they are frustrated that it is proving impossible to forecast close dates.
The purpose of this book is to enable you understand what is happening for your Early Adopter customer through the IMPACT cycle and how to engage with them so that it all makes sense and becomes repeatable.
To be able to survive and then thrive to the left of the chasm, selling to Early Adopters, early stage companies need to make a strategic shift and move to a Value Created operational culture.