How do you persuade an industry that doesn't buy into new technology to trust you?
You're a tech entrepreneur who has developed an awesome new product that can disrupt the way an old-school industry operates by making it easier to get the work done. The only catch? More often than not, leaders and professionals in industries like these go long periods experiencing little change in how their businesses run, so they typically subscribe to the old-school mentality of "If it ain't broke, don' fix it."
How do you persuade an entire industry that doesn't typically buy into new technology to trust you and your creation? To get those industry members on board, you need to show them exactly what kind of value they would derive from investing in your product.
Successfully pitching a new-school gadget to an old-school audience can be as difficult as taking a cellphone from a millennial. I've discovered a crucial element of overcoming skepticism and objections: It's not necessarily the technology that turns off these prospective buyers – it's the way it is pitched.
Tailoring the message to convince the skeptics
It's all too easy to get pulled into the weeds talking about the details of how your technology works. You're excited about your product, and you want to share all the amazing details and features, which is totally understandable. However, you first need to make sure that potential customers understand not only what they would be getting but also why they should care about what you're offering.
When pitching to executives and owners – especially those in industries such as mining, oil and gas, civil engineering, and their adjacent spaces of construction and manufacturing – you must be able to address these questions:
- If what I'm doing now is working, why do I need your product?
- What are the risks of changing the way my employees and I work?
- What is your product actually saving me?
I had to learn how to answer these questions when I launched Strayos, a product that combines drone technology, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to empower professionals in the mining and blasting industries. Needless to say, it was challenging at first to help those in charge see how we could help them harness better data, increase agility and improve decision-making. I've found that it's a much smoother process if I can assuage their concerns upfront.
Here are three steps you should take each time you pitch your high-tech product to an old-school audience.
1. Tie your product to individual goals.
Once you know how to answer "What’s in it for me?" in a way that satisfies your customers, you can tailor your message to speak to those pain points.
In the beginning, we focused on how great the software is, how it works, and what the computer and machine learning components are. What we needed to do was focus on the things our customers truly cared about, like how the decision-making process and their day-to-day operations will improve.
We weren't speaking to our customers in a language they understood. As we grew, we learned to speak directly about the value each stakeholder would find in our product: For example, whereas a blasting engineer's motivation is to create a more streamlined process, a quarry manager would use our technology to gather more accurate data.
All stakeholders have different skill sets and work on different action items each day, so they'll each view the product differently. Therefore, highlight how your product can solve the specific problems each stakeholder is facing.
2. Get your hands dirty.
You have to work hard to maintain open and transparent relationships with old-school audiences. The only way to know what value your product actually brings to your customers is to ask them.
To that end, we visit our clients' sites and physically work side by side with them to see how they're using our technology and to show them how they can utilize other features to get the most out of it. This reassures them that we understand who they are and what they do.
Demonstrating that you understand customers' businesses and will continually try to help improve them not only strengthens your customer relationships, but it also helps you land new business. The knowledge you've gained will help convince potential customers that they can trust you.
3. Make it personal.
Meeting new customers is not all about business. We spend most of our time in our office or boardroom, but I also try get to know customers and prospects in more casual environments where we can just talk. Informal conversations help me get better ideas of why the customers started their businesses, how they got into the industry, why they're successful, what makes them tick, and who they are as a company and as leaders.
This piece of the relationship is key because it shows that, unlike the stereotypical salesperson, I truly care about their business. When 65 percent of B2B customers head into such discussions expecting someone in my position to be a poor to average salesperson, I can mitigate their inherent skepticism and gain their trust simply by actively listening to their pain points.
Look at every interaction, every conversation and every moment you spend with a current or prospective customer from their point of view: Would you want to work with people who can't clearly explain how their technology fits your actual needs or who ignore the very real risks you might be taking by investing in their product?
Of course, you wouldn't. To avoid putting your own customers and prospects in that position, always put them and their concerns front and center. What goes around comes around. Make sure your message is positive, helpful and personalized according to prospects' specific goals and pain points.