Having a truly innovative, disruptive technology or service is both a blessing and a burden. A blessing in that you can ‘own the market’ for a period of time if you successfully launch and grow your business. (This is the good side of being first to market). The burden is that achieving a successful launch and growing sales effort will often face entrenched skeptical attitudes and outright hostility from the very people you hope to reach with your new offering (The downside of being first to market).
Why does customer resistance exist with innovative and disruptive offerings?
If you have a truly new offering, much of the resistance can come from a lack of understanding of the positive impact that your products and services will have for them. Some may even feel threatened by the new offering if it would seem to decrease their own power or influence particularly when it allows lower skilled workers to produce equivalent or better results once restricted to this individual by their having a ‘hard won’ skill or talent. This means that your company will need to expend some time and resources to develop an education component to its Sales & Marketing efforts. This will help transform skeptical leads into satisfied customers. This is often referred to as missionary selling (and marketing).
“A missionary type of sales job involves convincing someone who has never used a product to buy it. Selling financial planning or life insurance and other financial products typifies the missionary sales job. The metaphor of a missionary involves educating someone about an idea or concept and convincing them to have faith in that concept.” (Answers.com)
What’s an innovator to do?
The rewards of being first to market with a disruptive technology can be significant in financial terms to say the least. Being aware of some of the resistance that you might face even early in the game will allow you to craft a launch and Sales & Marketing strategy that will be able to handle the additional education burdens that this opportunity presents. Eventually the burdens of missionary selling will decrease as your customer base grows and evangelizes your innovation.
Tips for Successful Commercialization of Disruptive Life Science Offerings:
- Use beta evaluation to refine customer segmentation and value proposition. This is where you will learn who you will initially target and get a heads up on what will be the most compelling value proposition for them. (See ‘Beta Testing Checklist Your Competition Doesn’t Want You to Have’)
- Prepare a Scientific Road Show to connect with scientists through their research. You have some great science. Why not leverage that to connect with other scientists through their research. The questions and conversations that will come from this effort are invaluable for tweaking your ‘go to market’ strategy (See ‘Taking Your Show on the Road: Using Your Science to Boost Sales’)
- Create demos that highlight impact rather than features. Nothing is more powerful than a compelling demo to confront skepticism. (See ‘The Technical Demonstration: 3 Tips to Insure Success’)
- Use a Key Opinion Leader (KOL) plan to help smooth your launch. Key Opinion Leaders can be a strong force for reinforcing the value of your innovation to the field. (See ‘The Key to Key Opinion Leaders’)
- Invest time and resources to creating scientific content that will be compelling to your future customers. Consider starting an application focused blog, write white papers and present at industry conferences in the scientific forums. (See ‘Where Does the Science Belong in the Life Science Startup?’)