Selling into a New Market

Sales people deal in the world of the complex sale - that is, in a world where the marketing strategy merely plays a supporting role. It does not drive the sale; it doesn’t make the complex sale. That is the responsibility of the sales organization. It is simply too complex for marketing to handle. The complex sale has a long sales cycle (taking several calls to close); it requires a large commitment by the buyer (and the consequences matter); it has more than one decision maker; and it often involves a long-term relationship between the companies.

Next, let’s define innovation and disruptive technology. We will often use the terms in tandem, but they are not interchangeable and they do not refer to the same things. Innovations can be any products or services, in any industry, that are new, often paradigm-changing, and disruptive to the status quo. They usu- ally portend some kind of a learning curve for the user, and most of the time there is no ready-made market for them. Like the innovative product or service itself, the market must be created from ground zero. We are not talking about marginal, or even terrific, improvements to existing products or services. We are talking about what is genuinely fresh, original, and perhaps unprecedented.

Vision is crucially important in the new market sale because the sale takes place very early. So early, in fact, that the customer usually doesn’t even know he or she is in the market for something new. Everything is humming along quite nicely in the customer’s domain, and there may be no hint of trouble on the horizon. So when you’re selling innovation, you’re selling in an earlier phase of the decision cycle of your customers that most sellers have never faced before—hence the need to create vision, a vision of a different kind of world.

It is a hallmark of the new market salesperson that he or she plows new ground, independent of what would normally be expected of the salesperson. The salesperson does something that at the time seems rather radical, even crazy, but in hindsight it turns out to be completely obvious.

The reason sales had fallen off was because customers simply weren’t using the product. It was too different than what they were used to, and no one had taken the time to integrate it with their existing software development systems. The customer’s perception of the risk involved far outweighed the desire to harvest the promised benefits. When you’re selling new products to new customers, which is what the Rational salespeople were doing, then one of the most important things is to have ease of implementation. Customers’ perception of risk is very high. Their perception of risk prevents them from engaging the tech- nology without a safety net. The answer, of course, is to mitigate the risk and provide the safety net.

When you hire the A-players from the adjacent leaders to sell into a new market, they’re coming from a world where imple- mentation is always well understood and relatively easy because it’s an established offering. It’s something customers are familiar with; they’ve used it multiple times. The customer is very well- informed, and he or she knows as much as the seller does about implementing it. When a seller grows up in that world and comes to the new market world, the seller doesn’t perceive that the customer sees only risk.

The implementation has been the missing link in the selling process of new products into a new market space. The reasons why the implementation is overlooked are many. Most likely the cause is created by organization’s leadership coming from established markets, where the implementation is both understood and anticipated. Of course, in the ideal world, the implementation would be best handled by making the product simple enough that anyone can implement it, but the nature of new products is that they are complex and all the contingencies are not yet identified.

In sales we are directed to go out and get the next big deal, but without references and repeat business from existing customers, the next big deal becomes no easier than the last big deal. So the success of the implementation must become as important as the closure of the next big deal if the seller and company have any chance at winning their new market.