When a new product or product version launches, you can expect brand loyalists, the geeks, and a few other types of early adopters to quickly go online, look up the changes and decide whether to make a purchase. However, many customers only want to understand the benefits of an offering — and may actually find flashy technical advances intimidating. In the sales world, this is often described as selling the “sizzle,” not the “steak.”
Introducing new technology and innovations is a delicate process — especially outside of traditionally tech-oriented industries. At Presidential Pools, Spas & Patio, we build swimming pools. There are many components, and innovations are consistently made in parts, materials, and processes. However, if we highlighted each one to all customers, we would trigger anxiety in many sales encounters.
Here are three approaches we have found to be successful in keeping customers interested in innovations without overwhelming them:
Act Like It’s Always Been There
Acting like an innovation has always been a part of your offering will likely frustrate the nerds in your company who are excited about the change. But for many people, it’s likely they never would have known something is new unless you point it out. By not pointing it out, you allow them to select those features that most excite them and keep the conversation focused on those instead.
We use this approach with pool drains. We install an advanced pool drain that allows us to place one drain in the entire pool, which is not something competitors can offer. However, we do not point it out in most sales conversations. Those who appreciate the simplicity of the design or have concerns about safety will traditionally bring it up themselves. Others will simply get the benefit without having to understand all the research and technology that went into building it.
This approach is particularly strong for innovations that improve the offering’s overall value but exist among many components and would cause anxiety or confusion if made the sole focus.
Share the Sizzle
You have likely noticed how quickly Apple sells its latest and greatest iPhone. Apple does a fantastic job of highlighting the benefits of its newest innovation, as opposed to focusing on the technical parts and pieces that allow the new iPhone to provide those benefits. As we talked about above, this is known as selling the sizzle — not the steak.
People typically buy a steak at a restaurant because of how it tastes, looks on somebody else’s plate, or makes them feel as they eat it, as opposed to how much marbling it has or whether the cow was free range. This is the “sizzle” of a product and what drives the majority of consumer purchases these days.
Today’s consumers need to know how any product will help them improve their lifestyles or solve problems they are experiencing. Explain the benefit, and explain how that benefit came to exist only if the customer asks.
This approach is particularly strong for offerings that are regularly updated with new features or abilities.
Deliver the Magic
Some innovations truly change the game. In the pool industry, a recent major development has been the introduction of mobile pool management. Traditionally, people have had to learn and operate a robust physical control panel in order to change various things about their pools (e.g., temperature, water flow, or chlorine). In many households, this meant that one person learned how to use it, and that was the only person allowed to touch the panel.
Now, pool owners have options on a much simpler interface. Know you want to dive in when you get home? You can turn on the fountains and start warming it up through a mobile application before you leave the office. It’s like magic. And it was never previously available.
This approach is particularly strong for offerings that fundamentally change how a consumer could use your offering.
Don’t Make Innovation Overwhelming
Regardless of which approach you choose, remember to always put the customer first. You may be excited about the innovation, but you should explain it to customers only in ways that enhance their experiences and perceived value. If you’re overwhelming them, the “innovation” isn’t helping.
image credits: helenmarylesshankman.com; Nick Orabovic
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Tim Murphy is the founder and CEO of Presidential Pools, Spas & Patio, the nation’s largest pool builder, based in Arizona. Since 1991, the company has been transforming backyards, providing custom design and building services for swimming pools, spas and patios in the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas.