It may come as no surprise that every entrepreneur needs to work twice as hard to generate revenue nowadays. And innovative business entrepreneurs need to work three times more.
When people hear about innovative business, they often associate the term with a brand new sophisticated technology. In fact, an innovative business represents more than a new product or service – it also represents a new market, because it usually brings a solution to an emerging group of customers who are unaware of the imminent challenges they face in their ongoing routines.
While a new market has great potential, it also presents many challenges. Selling an innovative business requires high-level sales skills, because positioning these solutions means creating a sales process that is very different from the traditional one.
Read this article to understand how to create this new and successful vision for your innovative business.
What makes a business innovative?
One of the most widely accepted definitions of innovation is the presentation of something new. That something could be anything from new services and products, new processes, and even incremental improvements to something that already exists. In the market however, people usually only refer to new or improved products or services when discussing innovation.
In general, an innovation is the development or improvement of products and services in order to try to solve problems for consumers, customers, companies or society in general.
Many of these innovations can be tangible and involve radically new technologies or just incremental improvements to existing ones.
How to develop a sales process for an innovative business?
Imagine the following scenario: A group of extremely talented developers create a product so innovative that it has the potential to change the everyday work processes of your potential customers. This product could help them in ways they can't even imagine...
With that vision in mind, our superheroes are eager to put their baby on the market and, of course, "sell like hotcakes" to hungry consumers. However, something happens along the way that seems to be a dream-breaker for the developed project: the number of sales drops. Or worse, they don't even happen. After additional upgrades, more money invested, and other various product improvements, our heroes give up…
What went wrong? The answer is simple: the business does not have the know-how to sell innovative products.
Knowing how to sell innovative products and services is different from selling any other traditional solution on the market. In order not to go through this ordeal (which is quite common in the innovation sector), check out an essential checklist below that you should take into account when setting up your innovative sales process:
1. Your sales cycle will be longer
Selling new products is more labor-intensive and time-consuming for salespeople. On average, salespeople spend 35% more time meeting with prospects throughout the sales cycle compared to selling established products and services. Much of this time is spent educating customers on how the product will change their recent work practices because committing to a completely new product requires broader consensus within a target company. Given that time is a salesperson's most precious resource, this is an expensive investment.
Innovative business salespeople spend 32% more time with prospects.
2. Get ready for more objections at the end of the Sales Funnel
An important finding in innovative business sales processes is that resistance often occurs later in the negotiation. That's because leads are often curious about new products, so more of them will say yes to a kickoff meeting. These professionals often want to make sure they're updated with the best in the industry. But as the process unfolds, these prospects are more hesitant to abandon the status quo.
This pattern is problematic and difficult to overcome. Because the professionals selling these new products schedule many initial meetings, they have a false sense that they are building relationships with potential customers. The customer's initial enthusiasm is seductive and convinces the salesperson that his time is being well spent. But as the process unfolds, it becomes clear that many of these curiosity-driven meetings were never real opportunities, leaving salespeople with little to show for their efforts.
To ensure that this does not happen, you must have a well-documented ideal customer profile (ICP) that really has the potential to buy your product, so you will not suffer illusions along the way. In addition, it takes training to overcome objections that can occur from the beginning of the Sales Funnel to ensure that only prospects with a real chance of closing will follow through on the process.
3. Take technical training with the sales team
It sounds obvious, but most innovative business salespeople only learn the basics of what they should know.
But some salespeople already have a more learning orientation and a desire to improve their skills. These individuals place a high value on personal growth, and this is the profile you should look for to work in the sales team of an innovative business.
These learning-oriented salespeople spend more time acquiring new sources of information and experimenting with different strategies, but they spend less time selling initially, and their performance tends to suffer more at the beginning compared to 100% performance-oriented salespeople. But the truth is, this period of active learning will pay off in the long run. Once they understand the market and find effective strategies, their performance eventually stabilizes at a higher level compared with their performance-oriented peers. For managers, this goes to show that giving salespeople time to experiment and learn about the market and the innovative product will pay off in the long run, but you need the guts (and resources) to face an initial dip in results.
The ideal is to invest in technical and well-targeted training so that this learning curve is not so prolonged.
4. Sell to C-Level executives
The Innovative Business sell is an educational sell that should be aimed primarily at C-level executives who buy on value. Generally, professionals with titles of managers (or below) purchase technologies and solutions based on features, function, and price. CEOs (and other "C's" in the business world) mostly focus on generating value that these products can generate for their companies, and are more open to buying solutions at the forefront of the market.
5. Invest in your team
Some companies with innovative solutions usually invest a large percentage of their revenue in research and development of new technologies, and only a small part is devoted to bringing the product to market. This is a common but short-sighted mistake. That's because you've brought a great product to market, but you haven't prepared yourself to stand out from the crowd.
Not that you should abandon your product and leave it in the beta phase forever, but you need to face financial planning so that you have possibilities to penetrate the market, and for that you need money to hire a class A sales team.
6. Link Sales to Marketing Content
Selling new technologies requires unique and premium marketing content at every deal stage to support your revenue capture model. An educational sale boosts thought leadership, weeds out competitors, and shortens buyer adoption timelines. That's why marketing needs to be very much in tune with sales.
7. Sell the need for change
While the mere idea of new products might be exciting for tech geeks, most of your customers will not be motivated to change their lifestyle so quickly.
Therefore, more than educating and showing the financial gains that your innovation can bring to the prospect's life, you must create a successful storytelling about your prospect's future so that he or she can easily visualize this incredible and new professional trajectory - and, of course, with a lot of sparkle in their eyes.
8. Don't lunch your innovation too early
An important tip that can facilitate the progress of the sales process is to launch the innovative product at the right timing. Sometimes being first can mean that there will be no market, because buyers are not ready to adopt this new product.
It's not just about technology – it's also about solving a problem that buyers have somehow already identified and that needs to be fixed. If the launch timing is really bad, there's no point in having a killer sales process, as it may result in no adoption at all.
9. Create credible value
When communicating the value of your new product or service to potential customers, you need to make your value statement believable. You must present successful cases, ROI, cost reduction, accelerated delivery of reports, or whatever else is tangible that your solution can bring. To be willing to adopt a new way of doing things, the return needs to be seen as dramatic. Whatever value your solution provides, you need to prove it and make it credible.
10. Sell to Early Adopters
Early Adopters are an innovative business salesperson's best friend. Early Adopters are the easiest fruit to pick up and can help you gain a support in the market. To find early adopters, know who is buying other forms of disruptive technologies in your niche and target your Marketing and Outbound process towards them.
11. Anticipate skepticism and objections
Know ahead what is likely to be most off-putting or threatening to your prospects as they consider the change you are proposing they adopt. Respond to their concerns firmly and confidently by demonstrating how your product or service avoids such issues. You can also alleviate concerns by introducing early adopters through testimonials or customer companies that have already purchased from you.
12. Don't Sell Like a Tech Guy
Very common in CEOs and founders who have experience in development is to be very proud of the authorship of a product (nothing fairer, right?). But just because you wrote the code doesn't mean buyers want to see that technical part, no matter how good you think it is. Buyers don't care about you or the technology you've built; they only care about their needs and how your product can help with those demands.
13. Hire SDRs to make cold calls
Selling innovations requires SDRs to make cold calls. In addition to cold calls and cold mail, making cold contacts via LinkedIn, direct mail or even presence in events will burst the market bubble. Innovative business sales teams must have a hunter profile and look for leads wherever they are. It takes speed and capturing market share as quickly as possible to fight against competitors who will eventually adopt your innovative ideas.
To Sell Innovative Businesses, You Need An Innovative Sales Process
Yes, it's hard work running an innovative business, but it's also rewarding.
Today's market relies heavily on innovation. Business leaders must constantly look for new ways to innovate, because many current problems cannot be solved with old solutions. In addition, those who arrive first in line will have long-term advantages, but for that it is necessary to contain anxiety and work hard.
All the advice presented in this article is just the tip of the iceberg. If you're about to sell your innovation, be sure to explore your specific market further and dig into the data for answers before jumping off the beaten path.
Selling innovative technology or services is all about early adoption, market penetration and speed of revenue capture. This requires that you also take your sales process to another level, after all, if you are looking to sell innovations, the methodologies applied certainly shouldn't be like in traditional markets, right?