With the dust settling after the SPAR 2012 Conference, and with so many new announcements from hardware and software vendors still fresh in many peoples minds, I wanted to ponder a couple of recent and out of the industry blog posts that took exception to vendors asking prospects what keeps them awake at night.
The argument made by these business management blog posters took a couple of different approaches to make largely the same point. In short: dont ask your customer what hurts; show them how to be better. Bear with me for a bit while I set this up.
In the first blog post Bob Apollo suggested that he finds it offensive when a solution provider appears to not know, or pretends to not know, what keeps a prospect awake at night. He claims that this approach is disingenuous and in his mind disqualifies the sales person for his lack of industry knowledge. He concluded by saying Challenge your prospects to think differently cause your prospect to wonder how they are going to realise the potential of their business without your help. Ergo: show your customer how to be better with you or your solutions on-board.
The second blog post adopts a less charitable approach with David Tovey stating that a buyers trust in marketing and sales messages is at an all-time low because sales techniques no longer persuade savvy customers. His premise was that searching for a clients pain as a means to selling is manipulation. He closed by stating that salesmen should forget about finding the pain and instead take a genuine interest in the clients world if they want to gain competitive advantage.
While both blogs quickly damn the pain approach to product positioning which I dont totally agree with if it drives product development, the conclusions they draw do include some good solid advice. My key takeaway from both viewpoints is that pouncing on what you think is a key issue too soon in the customer relationship-building process, may mean that you fail to miss key points and as a result lose out to your competition without ever realising why.
So what has all this got to do with SPAR 2012? Well for one I assume many a show-floor conversation included the what keeps you awake? question and for another I think many if not all of the jaw-dropping innovations showcased at SPAR 2012 will have been conceived to solve real problems.
Take for exampple the new MDL mobile solution which provides a plug-n-go solution for transforming the lightweight and compact FARO Focus 3D laser scanner into a full-featured mobile scanner. At first I thought it was an odd move, mobile scanning is about long distances and everyone knows that the FARO Focus was developed for users with a shorter-range need. But then I was reminded that this innovation extends the value of the Focus 3D by enabling teams to scan and collect close range pavement detail in urban areas at normal driving speeds. That makes sense.
While I doubt anyone has been kept awake at night wondering how they might get more value from their FARO scanner it is already a relative bargain in the market, I do see how this innovation from MDL will enable Focus 3D owners to expand their service offerings and enter new markets. Steve ball, Founder and President of MDL made clear his view, Mobile mapping and terrestrial mapping will merge as a technology. He said, There is no reason for these technologies to be operated by separate companies.
Balls assertion that mobile scanning services are typically charged out at $1,000 per hour means that the $115,000 price tag for this new MDL offering is well within reach for all firms wanting to offer mobile mapping services. He continued, It is a phase scanner so its range is short [compared to other mobile mappers] and its use can only be in fair weather, but [with this innovation] we have brought a new price point to mobile mapping.
I doubt that MDL went around asking its customers what worries them or keeps them from sleeping at night; instead I think they are presenting existing customers and new prospects with new business opportunities for growth. They are showing them new ways to be better. With their new Dynapod + FARO Focus 3D combo, MDL is challenging its customers to think differently about their existing technology and about new revenue streams.
In this way MDL is abiding by my golden rules: Do your homework. Know how and where your offering creates value for your prospects. Segment and engage your target market. Get to know them well. Take your time. Demonstrate where new value will be created. And show them how they will benefit in real terms.
Of course it involves eliminating pain, but lead with the advantages you offer. You should only be referencing the pain to prove that you understand their challenges and needs. As a result you shouldnt need to ask *if* they qualify when you already *know* they do from doing everything else right.
I wonder how many other vendors will now look to create their own mobile technology pods that contain all the GPS and IMU wizardry required to transform an ordinary terrestrial scanner into a dual-purpose mobile scanner? Time will tell so long as you dont ask what keeps them awake at night.