Selling The Early Adopters

By Beacon Staff

Not long ago, I was in a box store in Kalispell, sauntering by an iPod Touch, almost on a whim. For those who read my Buy Local pitch a few weeks ago, no one in Columbia Falls carries the item I needed.

Last year, we talked about the productivity that a custom iPhone application could have for your business. It hasn’t been a big deal here because we don’t have AT&T cell service (exclusive to the iPhone). The iPod Touch is a reasonable alternative if cell-driven applications aren’t important to your business. Ok, I would say that for many businesses – they could easily be important, but that’s a discussion we’ve already had.

Maybe you’re right – passing the iPod Touch display wasn’t entirely a whim.

While I was checking the iPod out, a salesperson walked up to me and asked if I had any questions. Trouble was, I actually did. I suspect that I’m not your typical user of tools like this and I don’t think he was prepared for my not-too-mainstream questions.

I asked about syncing the iPod Touch’s contacts and calendars list with my Outlook. He wasn’t sure if that worked or not, but he thought it might.

As you might imagine, I don’t spend $300 on “I think it might”.

Next, I asked if it does do syncing with Outlook, does it require iTunes to make that sync happen. He wasn’t sure.

For those interested – the answer to both of my questions is yes – it does sync with Outlook and it does require iTunes.

The question you have to ask yourself is this: Is your staff trained and ready to service the early adopters – noting that I really don’t see myself as an early adopter in this case.

Early adopters are important to any product line, thus it’s important that your staff is ready to help them adopt the new product, service or trend they’ve been studying.

If you’ve read Freakonomics or Crossing the Chasm, you’re well aware that early adopter types are critical to getting your new product seen by a much larger group of potential customers. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the iPod, the XBOX 360 or that new left-handed air wrench that the Mac Tools guy has.

If your staff isn’t prepared to deal with the not-always-mainstream questions that these early adopters have, it’s likely that they will lose the sale. Prospects have the tools to be far more prepared these days than in the past, and some actually are.

Many people walk into the store with model numbers, prices and specs in their phone or on a note. They know what their choices are. Reviews and every other possible piece of info is available to them on the internet, so they know what they need to know before they arrive at the store.

What this means is that when the prospective buyer enters the store, it’s less about selling them the item and far more about helping them choose *which* item fits them best.

The scary thing is that you’ll never know about the customers you lost because of a situation like this, and all it takes to make this a really expensive problem is one of these:

The owner of a business (or the owner’s tech guru) walks into your store and asks the same type of questions that I asked. You have no idea that their business has 100 salespeople and technicians in the field.
Your salesperson has no idea that this person wants to find out if the iPod Touch would work for their remote staff. They’ve been talking about deploying a custom business application on the iPod Touch or iPhone to make their staff more productive (or whatever). Depending on which model they were going to buy, that’s a mid-five-figures sale you just missed.

This sort of thing happens far more often than you might think.

Training your sales staff is expensive, but not training them is even more costly. Even if two or three of your staff are “ultra-trained” and can be the resource for the remaining staff, it’ll make a substantial difference in your staff’s ability to increase sales and serve those early adopters even better.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him at [email protected].