Jan Vincent Mertelj
Why sellers of innovative technical solutions fail
Innovative technical solutions are, by definition, some new concept of using existing or new technology to solve business problems in a new way. Quite often they even modify existing business models or allow for completely new ones. These are called disruptive solutions. In any case they are usually invented, designed by advanced technical specialists who are living with the underlying technology and really know a lot about it.
It is the nature of such new ideas that it is their inventors who have the passion to introduce and try to sell them to business people. As with all people who know something inside out, it is difficult to adapt to people who do not know anything about it. Moreover, they even try to explain it from the technological point of view and not from the business point of view which could be enough. If both parties actively discuss and work hard they may even bridge that big gap between their worlds. But, often it is not so. The business guy feels it is too technical for them and concludes that it is not relevant for him. It is only special people that are passionate about new potentials that technology can bring to the business and know it is worth the patience and effort to find the rose among the thorns.
Technical sellers underestimate finding common language with the buyer and they never really formulate what benefits the solution brings to a specific business. They do not apply the capabilities to buyers situation and challenges. Since innovative solutions are solving business challenges in a new way, it is difficult for the business leader to envision them. For the seller it seems trivial but just saying how much better the new way of doing things will be is not enough. When we lead workshops to develop these use cases and derive the benefits from the business leader’s perspective, only then does it become clear how different the business explanation is to the technical or functional one.
Furthermore, there is the second half of the problem that derives from the first one. If the seller does not know the business view of the solution well, they also don’t know the quantitative financial impact, i.e. how much the solution improves the financial results. Without that, the justification for introduction of the new way of doing business is just not there. In business, every change is considered a threat at first, not only to direct costs but also to the quality with possible outages and additional effort which all contribute to the cost of implementation. This cost is felt more than expected by any manager and if on the other side of the equation they’re missing some convincing numbers they simply are not interested, even if they say the opposite.
The latter is quite unfortunate as many innovative solutions have a huge impact on doing business in a more effective/efficient way with more than just a mid-term positive financial impact but also long-term strategic multiplicative value. Being able to calculate this is difficult and requires a lot of business knowledge that the technical sellers don’t really have. They’re passionate technical people and you cannot be both, really. In addition, the business knowledge gives you just the generic view of financial benefits. To be able to help a specific buyer to make a financially justified investment decision, you have to calculate the expected financial benefits for their specific business and situation. This, in addition to the generic concept of financial value of the solution, requires at least a basic analysis of the buyer’s specific situation and quantitative parameters. No buyer will spend a million on a generic benefit calculation. The sellers have to be trained to help them with some formulas and examples.
By getting out of your comfort zone of explaining the product's technical details, focusing on the customer's problems, and mapping your solution's capabilities to them, then calculating financial value for the customer, we can promise a much more effective, efficient, and profitable selling!