Friday, February 11, 2011

Removing barriers

I’ve always enjoyed traveling with salesmen.  They know the best customers, tell funny stories, eat good food, offer practical insights.  As an product developer, I see the world see the world in terms of benefits and competition: how is my design better for the user, how does it beat the competition?  I can’t wait to show off our genius when a customer asks for a demo.

The best salesmen know it’s all about adoption.

Closing any sale is a balance between desire and price.  My benefits stimulate a level of desire, but doesn’t address the doubts: parting with money, perceived value, what about the alternatives, taking a risk.  These are all barriers to closing the deal.

I’ve had some wonderful discussion with salesmen about the process of closing, and how it’s all about removing the reasons to say ‘No’.  (Painfully, one of them not to show the product unless the customer asks to see it.  Perceptions are a tricky thing, and people are as likely to pick out something that they don’t like as something that they do.).

Here’s a process illustration that I particularly liked:

 Adoption Process

Basically, the idea is to start at the bottom of the pyramid: Does it work? Can you prove it?  Do the people who matter (KOL = Key Opinion Leader) buy into it?  That establishes market readiness.  After that, it is a process of removing structural and behavioral barriers, at both personal and institutional levels.  At best, with all barriers removed, the product becomes the default choice, the Standard of Care (SoC).

This is all on my mind today because I’m in the late phases of two business deals that I’ve been working on for the past year.  One seems to be ending successfully, the other is running into brinksmanship that will either destroy or complete the deal. 

Two things I know.

Closing, in general, is a hard process.

It’s harder if I only talk about the benefits (“We’re going to make a lot of money!”), ignoring the barriers (“I don’t trust these folks!”).

People will only part with money when they adopt the deal.  And, this week, it’s all been about addressing the barriers.

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