Selling Document Management to the Mainstream Market5 Sep, 2006 By: Darrell Amy imageSource
Selling Document Management to the Mainstream Market
As I talk with dealers across the country, I keep hearing one thing: that the
first year in the document management business seems great, but that business in
the second year seemed to drop off. For dealerships moving into critical new
product, the second year lull is very frustrating. Many dealers become
disillusioned with the document management market and pull back.
If you are finding your document management sales declining or if you are
just getting started in the document management business, Geoffrey Moore offers
some helpful ideas in his book, Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling
Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers.
Product Adoption Cycle
Classical marketing theory asserts that every product moves through a
predictable Product Adoption Cycle. Understanding the buying styles of each of
these groups is important. This is especially true when it comes to the
mainstream customers, the early majority.
Early Adopters: The Innovators - The first type of customer to embrace
a new product is the early adopter. This small, but important percentage of the
market latches onto any new innovation. They don’t mind taking risks. They’re on
the cutting edge and they are usually willing to pay a premium for new
technologies. They understand that the technology is new and expect to have a
reasonable number of support challenges.
When you go to an early adopter with document management, they are a
relatively easy sale. They are excited about the technology before the sales
person shows up. In fact, they have already started to form a vision for how the
technology could be used in their business. The salesperson’s role in selling to
an innovator is to latch onto their vision and help them acquire a system in the
correct configuration. All things said, this is a relatively easy
sale—especially for a technically-oriented solutions specialist.
Early Majority: The Pragmatists - The next wave of customers is the
early majority. This class of customer is the 30 percent of the market that
brings a product from a new idea to a mainstream moneymaker. Early majority
buyers accelerate growth. This type of customer generates the cash and profits
that were invested to get into the business in the first place. Unlike the early
adopters, the early majority can best be described as a group of pragmatists.
The goal of the visionary is to take a quantum leap forward, the goal of the
pragmatist is to make a percentage improvement—incremental, measurable,
predictable progress. According to Moore, pragmatists have the following traits:
Skeptical - The mainstream buyer is by nature skeptical of new ideas.
They want to make sure an idea is not just a passing fad. As a result, “they are
content to wait and see how other people are making out before they buy
Practical Managers - Where the early adopters are visionary leaders,
the early majority are effective managers. Pragmatist don’t put a lot of stake
in futuristic things. They see themselves more in present-day terms as people
devoted to making the wheels of industry turn.
Incremental Improvement - Where innovators are change agents, the
early majority want to buy productivity improvement in existing operations. They
are looking to minimize discontinuity with old ways.
Service-Oriented - When pragmatists buy, they care about the company
they are buying from, the quality of the products, how the system interfaces,
and the reliable service they are going to get.
Vertically-Oriented - Pragmatists communicate with others like
themselves in their own industry. They get ideas from industry peers and want
references from the industry.
Like to See Competition - This is in part to get the price down and to
have more than one alternative to fall back on should anything go wrong, and in
part to assure themselves they are buying from a proven market leader.
Vendor Loyal - If pragmatists are hard to win over, they are loyal
once won, often enforcing a company standard that requires the purchase of your
To sum it up, the early majority is much more risk-averse than the early
adopters. The late majority and laggards are the last to adopt technology. While
they are not the focus of this article, this type of client is conservative.
They are the last to buy into technology. And when they finally decide to buy,
they are looking for the simplest and safest options. Often the packaging of the
product is as important as the product itself.
To be successful in document management, a dealership needs to successfully
transition from selling to early adopters to selling the early majority. The
challenge is that what worked for the early adopters will not work for the early
majority. As a result, many technology companies that were successful in selling
to the innovative early adopters end up falling on their faces when it comes to
the pragmatic early majority. Moore refers to this challenge as crossing the
Here’s the problem: conservative early majority buyers want references from
other companies in their industry that are using the technology. And, more
specifically, early majority customers don’t trust references from the wild and
crazy early adopters. The conservative early majority sees the innovators’
actions as a risky, unstable move and will run the other way.
How To Sell Solutions to the
Moving a solutions business to the mainstream buyer requires some important
sales and marketing considerations. The following are some of the best ideas
from Crossing the Chasm that could be applied to our industry:
1. Educate the Client - Pragmatist buyers need more information.
Before they make a buying decision, they want to feel comfortable that their
choice is going to be a safe one. Knowledge helps put a buyer at ease. Plus, it
helps them begin to see your solutions as commonly accepted ideas rather than
risky bleeding-edge innovations.
How do you educate your clients? Technology Shows: You can do technology
shows. Make sure these shows focus more on the application and results of the
technology than the technology itself. Where an early adopter would be thrilled
to see a long software demonstration, a pragmatic mainstream buyer would be
terrified by that same demonstration. Instead, focus on the benefits and your
track record of consistently delivering the benefits.
Marketing Materials: Obviously it would be impossible to get all of your
potential clients to a technology show. However, you can reinforce the education
with some practical marketing strategies:
a. Website: Your website should contain educational information that proves
your dealership’s competence in the area of document management. Studies reveal
that most of today’s customers visit a company’s website before making a major
b. Proposal Templates: Customers buying a copier may never step foot in your
office, but they will get a proposal. A professional proposal template provides
a platform to educate clients about document solutions while differentiating
your dealership from the competition.
c. Newsletter: A consistent monthly newsletter service is a subtle way to
educate your potential clients about your document solutions. Even if they only
see the headlines of your email or print newsletter, the pragmatic buyer begins
to see your dealership as a credible source of solutions.
2. Demonstrate Market Leadership - Early majority buyers want to buy
from proven market leaders. Thus it is critical that you present your dealership
as a solid choice for the conservative buyer. You develop a mainstream market by
demonstrating leadership advantage and converting it to company credibility.
Steven Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,
challenges us to “begin with the end in mind.” Picture your dealership five
years down the road having successfully dominated the market. What does it look
like? What types of clients do you have? How do you want them to see your
company? Use this vision as a foundation for preparing today’s marketing
Present your dealership as a market leader in your all of your marketing
materials. Provide ample references from other people using the technology. If
you do reference an early adopter, make the reference seem as conservative as
3. Understand Vertical Markets - The early majority looks to their
industry peers for good ideas to provide incremental improvements to their
business. Per Moore, it means moving from the familiar ground of
product-oriented issues to the unfamiliar ground of market-oriented ones.
Moore advises sellers to “be conversant with the issues that dominate their
particular business.” Show up at their industry trade show. Get mentioned in the
industry’s trade journals. Reference other installations in the industry.
A core goal of sales training should be to educate representatives in the
business issues faced by vertical markets. Instead of overwhelming sales reps
with technical knowledge (this is the role of the solutions specialist) train
the reps to identify business problems in vertical markets.
The good news is that today’s tenured sales rep is better equipped to
understand business issues than the details of complicated technologies.
Ironically, the more a sales rep knows about the technology, the more they
alienate the conservative buyer. The sales conversation should revolve around
One practical way a dealership can understand vertical markets and
communicate this understanding is with case studies. Every time you sell a
solution you should write a case study. The case study should reference the
issues in the vertical market, outline the solution, highlight the incremental
improvements in their business and present quotes from the client that reinforce
their satisfaction. Since early adopters are conservative managers, don’t
overstate the results.
Moving into the mainstream market is not an easy task. However, it is
something every dealership will have to do if they want to develop a viable
solutions business. The good news is that with some simple, strategic
initiatives, the profits and stability from the mainstream market are