Throughout the 20th century, many technological inventions positioned themselves as disruptions, changing life as we knew it. Perhaps no greater period has influenced the commonplace of disruptions than the past 20 years. The need for innovation is born of necessity, and the ability to sell that innovation has become more of a nuanced, technical process.
Disruptive selling requires strategy, precision, and details to accurately market the uniqueness of a given product. These techniques are learned, and the skills that back them may require additional training to ensure optimal effectiveness. From here, your team can leverage disruptive sales models that provide blueprints and curate results.
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The disruptive business model is the concept of selling a solution that is so innovative and new that it is disrupting the status quo in the market space. Some historic examples of these are companies like Apple when they introduced the iPhone. Another example in the B2B sales context is Salesforce who popularized cloud CRMs. Now, having your CRM in the cloud is very commonplace but there was a time when Salesforce was considered an extremely innovative solution and required a disruptive approach to selling.
Here are four techniques to follow when selling a product that is innovative and challenging the status quo:
The products that require disruptive selling techniques are innovative. When a solution is innovative, it means that the intended buyer has most likely never even considered that sort of solution. A recent example would be the adoption of AI. Most companies now claim to have some sort of AI product or solution integrated into how they do business. Not too long ago, this was an entirely foreign concept that executive buyers had no frame of reference for.
By contrast, an established segment of the market like payroll software is so commonplace that most companies either have a solution in place or have an established process for evaluating payroll software that fits their needs. This means that customers for products in established markets have a predictable pattern of acquiring a solution, outgrowing it and buying something else to replace it.
This sort of established sales cycle does not exist when selling an innovative solution. The prospect has no process for entering an active buying cycle. Therefore, a critical part of disruptive selling is recognizing that no customer out there will truly be in an active buying cycle for the disruptive solution. Therefore, it is the sales person’s job to create enough curiosity to generate an active buying cycle.
When generating an active buying cycle among a group of prospects, it comes down to generating curiosity. The salesperson has to identify the status quo at the company. This will inform the seller of the problems the company is facing and in the case of disruptive selling, the seller also has to look for problems the company has missed but could be solved by their innovative solution.
In a disruptive sales cycle, the seller has to take that information and highlight how the problems that executives have ignored or not even identified could hurt them in the long term. This will spark the curiosity that is needed for a seller to paint a vision of what is possible. Remember, in a disruptive sale, the product is innovative so the buyer has never considered the possibilities of that solution. It is the salesperson’s job to paint a clear picture of what is possible through their innovative solution.
If the salesperson paints an enticing enough picture of what the company can achieve with their solution, there can be enough urgency within the decision makers to generate an active buying cycle for the new product or solution.
If sellers establish enough curiosity to present the value that the innovative solution provides, they might be successful at closing the deal. However, this is not enough. If the solution is highly innovative, it likely means that the client does not have the internal structure in place to make the most of the innovative solution.
Therefore, even after the deal has closed, companies in a disruptive selling environment need to be diligent about implementation. They need to make sure the customer is educated on how to use the solution and how to get the most out of it. If the customer buys the product but does not use it enough to get real value out of it, they will not be renewing and all the effort sales people put in to get in the door will have been wasted.
Competition happens in every industry. Since disruptive innovation opens the possibilities of how things work, expanding your approach to what could be considered competition is important. Move beyond traditional examples of products or services that are similar or mirroring. In some cases, competition is less tangible, like an emotion. Review what you are working against when determining disruptive sales strategies. It could be frustration or dissatisfaction.
It's possible to identify a vision or process as some kind of competition as well. After all, disruptive technology is designed to cause a complete change. It pushes against the status quo to overcome what is currently working and increases possibilities. Identifying competition allows your team to determine the markers that will make a difference in your disruptive sales models.
Disruptive sales techniques are only effective when backed by individuals with the right abilities. Below are five skills that help to improve disruptive selling.
Any successful seller will need a thorough understanding of the product they are selling. When selling a disruptive solution, however, a seller needs to go beyond the understanding of a product. The salesperson has to be intensely curious about the technology and understand it well enough to envision creative possibilities for that product. Therefore, sales leaders should focus on finding sellers that are innately and intensely curious about the disruptive solution that the company is selling. Their curiosity should be infectious enough to spark curiosity in the potential client’s mind. This curiosity will lead to questions in the buyer's mind that the sellers can help them explore. This process will give sellers a chance to solidify the value proposition of the innovative solution.
Knowing the “what and how” of disruptive innovation needs to be a priority. But, salespeople also need to be able to relay the information they have learned to various potential customers. What’s more, how that information is communicated is just as important as learning it in the first place. Your team should focus on creating presentations that are compelling yet offer concrete solutions. Language should be straightforward and simple, leaving a customer feeling empowered rather than confused or hesitant.
It may take time to develop an edge or lead that highlights disruptive technology in the right way. In the meantime, developing disruptive sales strategies can begin by analyzing existing pitfalls and concerns. Consider reviewing the current pressure points the client has. Are they dealing with the root cause of the issue? Or are they creating a temporary workaround? If it’s the latter scenario, insert disruptive innovation as a way to address these problems and mitigate future concerns. While doing so, ensure your team considers potential delays in adding this technology to a client’s existing systems. Salespeople should have a comprehensive view of how implementation would affect processes immediately or how long it would take to see improvements.
Disruptive technologies are known for their ability to fill gaps in a specific industry. What may solve issues or provide support to one company may not be the ideal option for another. Adapting sales approaches and staying flexible helps accommodate multiple clients throughout various sectors. This skill will set your team apart and give them an advantage. When salespeople can think their way through roadblocks or anticipate different circumstances, they can evolve to a point of selling that benefits all parties.
It might take time to refine your team’s disruptive sales techniques, but one of the most vital skills to have while doing so is resilience. That doesn’t mean not taking no for an answer but rather having a way to bounce back from rejection. Focusing on a growth mindset is key, and sometimes mentorship and working with other teams can be the spark to develop this skill. Disruptive technology challenges the status quo, something customers prefer to maintain. Resilience will allow you to see past client pushback and readjust techniques for the next client.
Disruptive sales strategies aren’t formed within a day. They require research and persistence to overcome potential obstacles. Wondering where to start? Funnel Clarity’s disruptive selling course is called Selling In A New Market Space©. If you want to learn more about how you or your team can be successful in selling an innovative solution, please reach out to us for a free consultation.
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Tom Snyder is the founder of Funnel Clarity; a training and consulting company focused on humanizing sales. Snyder’s passion is helping companies achieve measurable sales performance improvement. Previously, Snyder spent 10 years with the sales training firm Huthwaite Inc, culminating in the role of CEO. He later founded Business Performance Partners, a sales and strategy consulting firm that evolved into Funnel Clarity. Snyder is a sought after international speaker and was named one of the Most Influential Sales Leaders. He has authored two McGraw Hill best sellers, “Escaping the Price Driven Sale” (2007) and “Selling in a New Market Space” (2010).