Selling doesn’t come naturally to us folk on a social mission. We’d rather write a funding bid or even an investment proposal.
Maybe that’s because selling can feel coercive, or maybe we lack self-belief. Either way, finding online resources that teach how to sell a tech for good product is tricker than finding the truth on Donald Trump’s twitter account.
But, as my Grandad used to say, “there’s nowt wrong wi’ sellin’ someat people want”. And we’re good at building things people want, so we just need to get better at asking for what we need in return.
If you don’t then your tech for good project won’t last. You, or someone who knows your product well, must learn how to sell.
That’s selling with verve, acumen and honesty. Especially honesty, because people in the social good sphere see through sales b*** better than most.
There’s one firm principle I found always works, at every stage of developing a tech for good business model. Fortunately its one that comes easy to us tech for gooders and, when done right, will even do the selling job for us.
It’s getting potential customers hands-on.
Hands-on so they can touch, feel and experience your product. In that moment of touch your product changes from something they only heard of into something they have experienced.
That moment is critical because its when their ideas about your product get replaced by a tangible experience.
If you never give them a hands-on experience, then you’ll never be able to judge their willingness to stump up. Nor will they be able to decide whether to buy.
Customers could be end users, but more likely they’ll be other third or public sector organisations (or even commercial ones).
Using the lens of Progressively’s useful impact model for social tech products let’s look at how this principle works at each stage. Those 3 stages are:
- Developing a business model hypothesis
- Proving the business model
- Establishing financial stability
1. The invisible product. Hands-on at the ‘business model hypothesis’ stage
At this point you’ll probably have only a handful of concepts and hypotheses. That’s OK. In the same way you might use a prototype to test your product’s user value you can test its financial value.
That could be by asking your product testers how the prototype compares to other tools or services they pay for (a type of analogous research). But more likely it will mean getting your business model canvas in front of potential customers and gaining feedback.
How you do this will depend on what you’re selling and to whom. You could use a co-design style workshop or conduct a series of 1-1 walk-through interviews. I find it best to provide a physical, tangible replication of your model that they can interact with (think large scale printout or post it style mapping). That way they’ll give you better feedback and help uncover the points of value they might pay for.
I say ‘might’ because at the end of this stage your business model will still be unproven.
2. The first kiss. Hands-on at the ‘business model proving’ stage
At this point your concept will likely have evolved into a beta product. You may have partners testing its value and functionality. Their experience will help you refine the model, but until your first sales leads get hands-on consider its financial value shypothetical.
These first leads may be ones you’ve approached or ones who’ve found their own way to your website. Either way they need to be able to get on a demo, a free trial or a freemium version of your product. Onboarding needs to be easy and offer a good interaction experience.
Get it wrong and you won’t have a proven track record or evidence of impact to convince them to try again.
Get it right and it may be all you need to turn them into paying customers. However you might be selling into an organisation. In this case you’ll want these first leads to go away and tell their bosses good things about your product. Good enough things that they’ll let you come and pitch to them as the financial decision makers.
This is when the hands-on principle matters most. When you’re face-to-face with budget holders. It’s also the moment of truth. Does your product hold enough financial value to be worth paying for? The best way to find out is to build your pitch around a hands-on demo. This is more than ‘show, don’t tell’; instead it’s giving them a tangible near-to-real-as-possible experience of your product.
The MOMO sales pitch example
At MOMO (my last tech for good project) we gave sales leads that experience by arriving at pitches carrying mobile WiFi and tablets pre-loaded with demo app accounts. We gave senior children’s service managers the tablets, and they used the app as if they were a young person. Afterwards they observed the output of their experience in the form of real time service analytics and an online workflow that delivered their output to workers. Their first-hand experience of the app articulated MOMO’s value better than we could ever have.
The other valuable aspect of a hands-on sales pitch is that it’s a good test of your product’s usability. If your product isn’t easy enough to use when you’re there then it sure won’t be when you’re not.
3. For the win. Hands on at the ‘establishing financial stability’ stage
Congratulations! Get to here and you’ll have achieved tech for good nirvana: a product with proven financial value, and a predictable revenue stream.
But for a full win make your product so easy to use that your new customers can get their peers’ hands on and tasting its value.
This will tell you if:
- your product is easy enough for later adopters to use
- its clear enough for them to understand its financial value
- it’s delivering enough social value that your existing customers are keen to recommend it to potential customers.
Even better your customers will be selling your product for you!
Delightful experiences sell
If your product is good, and even better if it delights at first use, then it’ll be much easier to sell. It’ll be doing the sales job for you. And that’s cool, because then you can talk less about why they should buy and do more of the things you prefer than selling tech for good products!