Guinea Pigs or Winners?
If you're selling a new, cutting-edge product, you may find that your clients’ perception of risk makes them unwilling to embrace the unfamiliar. Organizations tend to be risk-averse, and will often shy away from new concepts until they see a proven track record of success. Here's a personal example of how I've dealt with this issue in the past:
I was once on a conference call with a group of municipalities who were being offered a new interest-free financing option from their electric utility. So far, none of these groups had taken advantage of the offer, despite the obvious benefits. When I asked why no one had jumped on the deal, I heard nothing but silence. Finally, someone spoke up and said, “We don't want to be the guinea pig.”
At the time, the Tour de France was happening. I asked if anybody had been watching the Tour, and though nobody had, everyone was familiar with the race.
I asked them, “When the first racer crosses the finish line, do they call that person the guinea pig, or do they call him the victor?”
After allowing this to settle in for a moment, I added, “Which one of you wants to be the first municipality to issue a press release about how you had repurposed a portion of your utility spend to improve the energy efficiency of your equipment? About how you had improved the quality of your services while simultaneously saving money for the taxpayers? About how you had done all this while reducing your town's carbon footprint?”
It took about fifteen seconds for the first person to ask, “So what’s the process for enrolling in this program?”
Suddenly, the group showed no more anxiety about the perceived risk. Instead, they were competing to be first in adopting this exciting new program. Nothing about the product had changed; the shift was in the framing of the pitch. Instead of asking for guinea pigs, I was offering the opportunity to be the first rider to cross the finish line!
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