Selling new products to early adopters
10 steps to identify and engage high propensity early adopters
by Hans Baumhardt | 07 May 2017
It can take too long to find those rare visionaries who will actually pay to be first with new enterprise products. The validation clock is running, tick-tock JFDI.
This is true when creating new markets or segments, as well as optimising existing markets. When the first visionary early adopters are found, remove friction to get validation going with free offers. This is evangelism rather than selling.
The concept of “never give it away free” is frankly crap unless you have too much time to fish for perfection. Any meaningful enterprise solution involves effort and risk to exploit on the customer or user side, so they are already making a commitment.
My preference is to get going on validating the product, outcomes and benefits with real live enterprises as soon as possible.
That develops into more committed free trials for pricing validation, and they convert to quality references and paid for implementations.
The references and outcome benefits develop into fully priced commercial engagements with a repeatable sales process.
1. Free product validation
2. Subsidised trials for references
3. Full price repeatable sales
Working with a number of startups to secure early validation, and then start revenue generating sales, Patrick Traynor and I have developed a 10 step checklist to validate and engage high propensity early adopters.
It is based on the mainstream BANT sales qualification steps: budget, authority, need and timeline … but there is no repeatable sales process yet.
What we are looking for in candidates, and offering them:
1. Someone who knows they have the problem we solve and therefore a need. Avoid having to invest in long cycles of education about the fundamental problem to find someone with the need.
2. They are already looking for a solution. If they are looking for a solution there is buying intent to avoid academic curiosity.
3. They have the authority to make something happen, or access to that power. This encompasses all of the BANT criteria needed to avoid tyre kickers attracted to bright shiny new things. The coffee tastes great and the meetings are fantastic, but nothing actually happens.
4. They are comfortable deploying the solution with the risk of an early un-validated product. Always test DO YOU NEED REFERENCES ?
5. They do not need a quantitative outcomes based benefit investment case. This has never been done before, so you will not be able to fess up any actual statistics.
6. Focus on medium size business rather than enterprise. The smaller the business, the less likely you have to deal with internal politics or do a zero value dance with procurement.
7. Don’t sell, facilitate adoption with a consultative process. A good trial outcome will lead to a benefits reference, adoption can be monetized later. If the outcome is sketchy and you have finessed a payment up front, it’s unlikely to end well.
8. Don’t over promise on the solution roadmap. Early adopters love to generate new feature requests, it’s valuable feedback but avoid the spiral of commitments.
9. Plan to trial or pilot for comfort and learning on both sides. Validate the product and generate solid benefits for referencing
10. Visionary early adopters typically value publication and speaking opportunities to move markets and industries. Offer that personal “what’s in it for me” hook.
Until a new enterprise product is validated and benefit references are secured, you are unlikely to have a repeatable sales process ready for quotas and such. Focus on consultative evangelism.