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The Green Sheet Online Edition

April 26, 2010 • Issue 10:04:02

Crossing the POS chasm

By Dale S. Laszig
Castles Technology Co. Ltd.

Now that 3-D technology has entered our living rooms, older 2-D movies may begin to look dated and flat. Acceptance of the new technology will vary among consumers.

  • Innovators will experiment with 3-D software to improve their viewing experience.

  • Early adopters will form long lines at retail stores when the newest Blu-ray players come to town.

  • Early majority consumers will read Consumer Reports and compare prices before buying.

  • Late majority consumers will wait until the industry agrees on a universal standard for formatting and viewing 3-D movies.

  • Laggards will make their move when 3-D technology becomes so mainstream that it's no longer expensive to buy or time-consuming to set up.These are the five stages of the high-tech product adoption cycle. Most merchant level salespeople (MLSs) have seen the same buying patterns among merchants.

Stepping stones

Savvy MLSs understand the importance of fine-tuning sales presentations to each group's unique buying habits. They recognize each group represents a stage in the product adoption cycle, like stepping stones that lead from one sale to another. Some stones are close together and easy to walk across; others are so far apart that reaching them requires dexterity and a leap of faith.

According to Geoffrey A. Moore in his book, Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers, the biggest chasm in the product adoption cycle is the one that exists between bleeding-edge early adopters and leading-edge early majority customers.

Bleeding edge

Early adopters are proud to be first to try new technologies. They are willing to endure the slings and arrows, software bugs and hardware issues that frequently accompany product introductions. Moore wrote that by "being the first to implement this change in their industry, the early adopters expect to get a jump on the competition, whether from lower product costs, faster time to market, more complete customer service, or some other comparable business advantage."

Leading edge

Early majority customers, according to Moore, want "evolution, not revolution." They look for ways to improve operational efficiencies without being on the "bleeding edge" of technology. Per Moore: "They do not want to debug somebody else's product. By the time they adopt it, they want it to work properly and to integrate appropriately with their existing technology base."

The great divide

Progressing from early adoption to early majority selling is easier said than done. Differing priorities and outlooks create the chasm between the two groups, according to Moore. "Because of these incompatibilities, early adopters do not make good references for the early majority," Moore noted. "And because of the early majority's concern not to disrupt their organizations, good references are critical to their buying decisions."

So if the only way to convince an early majority customer is to furnish references, and the only available references come from early adopters, how do we manage the transition? Here's where dexterity and the leap of faith come in.

When change is not optional

Sometimes new technology is not optional, but mandatory. The Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) require all merchants, processors and third-party service providers to follow specific guidelines for transmitting, processing and storing cardholder data.

Regardless of where your customers fall in the product adoption cycle, they all need your advice about creating security strategies. If you are promoting an upgrade to a noncompliant hardware or software platform, educate your merchant about the need to meet industry requirements and the consequences of failing to do so.

A leap of faith

Although it may seem a bit challenging at times, bringing new technology to market can be tremendously rewarding for you and your customers. Accept the assignment; you'll find a way to get it done.

Problem solving

Most customers enjoy complaining, and smart sales people listen carefully when they do. Because when we really listen, we can locate their problems and their pain. Is the problem treatable? If nothing is done, will it get worse? Sometimes the risk involved in doing nothing will outweigh the risk of trying something new.

The art of persuasion

Customers buy for different reasons. Brand loyalty, price sensitivity and special event promotions are among the top three motivators.

  • Sell a brand extension to a customer who has been faithful to a product line. Emphasize the similarities between the old and new products. State compelling reasons for why the updates by the manufacturer make the processing platform the same, only better.
  • Create special incentives for a price-sensitive customer and demonstrate how the new product or service will save money while improving an existing processing system.
  • Limited time offers will create a sense of urgency and resonate with any customer who is attracted to special sales and promotional events.

Take the path of least resistance

The next time your company rolls out a new solution, whether it's a value-added application or updated hardware or software to meet the PCI DSS, think about your diverse population of merchants and their equally diverse buying habits.

It will be easier to sell to early adopter and early majority merchant customers than to try to convince the late majority and laggards to get on the bus.

Be a change agent

Be aware of the buying habits of your customers, and customize your sales presentations to their unique opinions and perspectives. Then go sell them something. Don't worry about whether it's too early or too late. You're there; they're listening.

Do some trial closes. The sooner you begin to make the sale, the sooner they will come around to buying. Early adopters will usually get there ahead of the laggards, but you'll always find some wonderful surprises. end of article

Dale S. Laszig is Vice President of Sales in the United States for Castles Technology Co. Ltd., a manufacturer and global provider of smart card, contactless and POS solutions. She can be reached at 973-930-0331 or dale_laszig@castech.com.tw.

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