A shoe company sent its top two salesmen to develop business in a remote backward continent with millions of inhabitants. The company didn’t hear back from either employee for 2 months so, fearing something dreadful, they went looking for them. They found the first salesman and he was despondent. He failed to get a single shoe order, crying: “I can’t believe this, but NOBODY wears shoes here!”. Begging to leave, they brought the poor soul home. The company then went searching for the second salesman, finally locating him in a faraway village. The second salesman was giggly carrying a suitcase full of orders, happily laughing: “I can’t believe this, but NOBODY wears shoes here!”
The moral of the story is not only about one's attitude but that innovation can be hard to sell. People are complacent and resistant to change. Many tablets were developed prior to the Apple iPad. PARC was the creator of the GUI, mouse, WYSIWYG, Ethernet, etc. but failed to properly commercialize and profitably exploit such innovations.
Change involves overcoming a certain comfort level, breaking custom and tradition, new costs, new procedures, processes, new learning, etc. In many cases, the “buyer” doesn’t even know what questions to ask or even recognizes/acknowledges that he even has a big enough problem that needs to be solved by the innovation. The Seller can have similar issues of not understanding the pain points and, particularly, the pain points and needs that the customer cares about (or even aware of).
(This story and insight are courtesy of Allistaire Black from Huthwaite UK who is a a fantastic teacher of SPIN Selling.)
Frank Lio is a Product Manager, Strategist, and Change Agent in the Hi-Tech industry. His growing track record of successes include creating 3 winning software products, leading nationwide seminars, and turning around a failing business unit. He is currently serving a dual role as Product Manager and Business Team Support Manager at Instron ITW.
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