I figure if someone is kind enough to comment on things I blurt out on this blog, they deserve some consideration as far as topics I’m going to explore. So, I’m picking up on Michael Kupfer’s (Black Diamond) request for more information about what I meant a couple of weeks back when I said: “I firmly believe a lot of a solution provider’s success with an emerging technology comes down to how they handle the evangelism process.”
OK, yes, that was a rather cryptic statement, wasn’t it? So, yes, I can provide some more perspective about what was bouncing around in my brain.
- I don’t mean salesperson. In some respects, being a good evangelist means being the best kind of salesperson. The kind who LISTENS to their prospect and then (and only then) figures out where his or her company’s message is applicable/appropriate.In the world of solution providers, some of the best evangelists aren’t salespeople at all. They’re the people on your technical staff who live at your customer site and watch what’s working, and not working. These individuals need to be evangelists times two: They need to advocate on behalf of customers needs AND they need to talk up new concepts within their own organizations.I’d be willing to bet that your technical team told you months if not years ago that smart phones were going to challenge IT security in ways we haven’t dreamed of. Or that someone better come up with an archiving policy about instant messaging before one of their financial services customers got themselves into a pickle.
- It’s a lonely job, but someone’s gotta do it. I recall vividly a conversation I had more than 10 years ago with someone touting the idea of using what was then called “whiteboarding” to give me a product demo remotely. I got really excited by this, because I am inherently a home body who you have to drag out to meetings. Forward (not so flash) to 2008 and the age of Internet conferencing, which still isn’t all that easy for most of us to get our arms around. We’ve gone from “bleeding edge” to approaching mainstream adoption during that timeframe. But if someone had dabbled with Internet conferencing back in the 1990s only to give it up for lost within a couple of quarters, they would have lost out.Getting a new technology concept to take hold will always take at least twice as long as you expect. Start slow and cautious. But jold fast with both your own investors AND your high-tech suppliers, who will be impatient to see results way sooner than you’ll be able to produce them.
- You WILL lose money. No getting around it. Not only will you need to invest in demo equipment and training for this new stuff, but you’re going to need to spend YOUR OWN money on some marketing. In order to talk about a new technology these days, you have to translate the technical message into one that speaks to solving a business problem. Spout speeds and feeds, and you might as well pour that investment down the drain. Incidentally, sales cycles will be way longer than for something that’s mainstream, so you need to compensate your team somehow while they’re out there taking all sorts of arrows in the back. If they aren’t incented at some sort of long-term strategic level, then what is the point of them talking up something that takes away from their monthly sale quota?
- You need buy-in. Actually, to build on the previous point about compensation, you can’t evangelize a new sort of technology solution by making it a closely held secret within your own organization. Sure, you’ll choose to focus a small team on the project, but the ENTIRE team needs to know about it and feel a vested interest. Also, this is something at which you need to throw your best people.
- Plan to succeed. I know many solution providers are skeptical about business planning, but since you WILL bleed while you’re evangelizing a technology, you need to understand your own personal threshold for pain. You especially need to understand what needs to continue to happen in your core businesses in order to support this emerging technology.
How do you approach the unknown? E-mail SWOT Management Group’s Heather Clancy at email@example.com.