How do you sell when you’re a little ahead of the market?


I’m a sucker for early stage companies.  I just love the ability to craft my own journey while helping the company establish a path to success.  Most companies at this stage within the business life-cycle are trying to determine if what they offer is more than just cool...but will people actually buy it?  I recently joined a company that flies drones over construction sites and provides the site leadership (Project Manager & Superintendent) insights that can help them save money, improve safety and coordination, and increase efficiency.  Sounds great huh?  Well, everyone makes similar claims no matter what they’re offering. And construction firms have been doing an amazingly great job of standing up buildings for over a century without the use of insight from drones.  

What Can You Do For Me?

Considering the contextual knowledge and expertise that most Project Managers (also known as Site Supervisors) have, it's no surprise they are skeptical about drones. PMs might not think there’s much beyond the coolness factor of having a drone fly their site and, if you've met any PMs lately, they don't care about coolness. They want to know how can you help them stay on schedule, deliver their project under budget, and run a safe operation.  We’re constantly developing new ways to gather insight from drone flights and deliver that to PMs.  And we’re sharing these new insights with construction firms.  But the construction industry is not an early adopter...and nor should it be.  I hope you can appreciate this predicament; we’re producing deliverables that are being validated and confirmed as valuable by a target segment, BUT the majority of the segment is in the process of slowly becoming aware of these valuable deliverables.  So the question that keeps me up at night is, “how do you sell into a market that you offerings a little ahead of?”

I pinged a couple of friends to hear their take on this question.  I received a derivation of the following:

  • You have new products and you need to educate the market before selling to it
  • Find the top influencers in the industry and get them on board...laggards will follow
  • Create case studies that show the value of your offering
  • Give them samples of your offering
  • Just keep selling, sticking to your process, and be patient

While all good feedback I had to weigh this advice relative to the reality of working at an early stage company.  What does that mean? Simply put, we don’t have time or money to wait for the market to catch-up. We need to engage and activate the customer now.  So what did we do?  We took a combination of all the above and tailored the experience for our target market.  You ask, what does that look like? For better or worse, it looks exactly like the Freemium model.  We decided to fly missions and provide a small subset of the insights for free.  The underlying assumption is the PMs will begin to see/feel/understand how these insights can help achieve their end goal of delivering projects on time and under-budget.  And subsequently pay for access to the entire suite of deliverables.

Show The Value First

So, how does one sell when they’re slightly ahead of the market? For more than just us, the model is to share a little value first and then walk your prospect to the promised land of all the true value you can create.  We’ve chosen this approach plus a high touch/high interaction engagement with the assumption this will lead to continuous desire to benefit from our deliverables (videos, images and site insights to ensure on time, on budget and safe project delivery) and ultimately closed deals.  Admittedly, this approach is not new to the world, but we’re seeing positive results with our early test.  Would love to hear how how you’d tackle this issue.

Jamail Carter