When a technology company launches a new product. A new service or solution that the market needs, its success can be rapid. We have seen business achieve incredible valuations in a matter of a few years. Market expectations are running high.
Gartner created the Hype Cycle to help organisations. It helps separate hype and bold promises from commercially viable technologies. I value this approach to looking at technology. It helps us place into perspective the promise of emerging technology. It can help buyers reduce their risk making technology investment decisions. It also compares your understanding of a technology’s business value with the objectivity of experienced IT analysts.
Gartner’s Hype Cycle is an excellent tool. It helps buyers decide whether to make an early move to investing in technology. There are two axes. The vertical axis tracks expectations. The horizontal tracks time. When a technical innovation occurs, it travels up towards the peak of inflated expectations until it reaches the top. It then travels back down towards the trough of disillusionment. In time, the market becomes enlightened, and once again expectations rise, this time towards a realistic expectation.
Gartner colour code each technology as a dot on the curve. Each colour predicts years they expect until the technology reaches the plateau of productivity. You could wait until the technology matures and reaches the plateau of productivity. However, wait too long, and you could miss the boat allowing your competition to get ahead of you.
The challenge for buyers is technologies speed of change. It is fast automating and changing the way we do business. Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Deep Learning, Machine Learning. The list goes on. It is not surprising buyers can get confused.
The ‘Trough of Disillusionment’ has another meaning for me related to selling, “How well do these technologies follow through on sales promises made?” This is another reason I value the Hype Cycle becasue it allows me to highlight another risk hidden deep within each technology Gartner places somewhere along the hype cycle line.
You must avoid falling into the trough of disillusionment. Instead, you need to manage your expectations so you can move across the top of it. I call this the ‘Collaboration Curve’. The flatter this curve the more effective is your collaboration between the seller and buyer. Central to this collaboration is the sellers understanding how to best serve buyers’ priority needs.
Ultimately it is all about the conversations taking place between different people in the selling and buying organisation. This is a complex collaboration process and is the reason why solution selling is complex to manage and forecast.
As a buyer, you need the confidence the sales rep can guide you along the right path. That they will prevent you from falling into the Trough of Disillusionment. Buyers also need to ensure sales reps are setting realistic expectations. One reason technology rises to this peak of inflated expectations is because sellers are often promoting the technologies features and benefits in isolation to buyers’ situation and unique priority needs.
It is not that technology companies are misrepresenting what they have, or what their technical product, solution, or service can do. The risk is that their message is not aligned to the buyers’ business environment and priority needs. When this occurs market expectations can become inflated and the technology viewed out of context.
To ensure technology does deliver on its promise. Experienced sales reps will manage buyers’ expectations. (Drawing a vertical line down from the peak of inflated expectations and pointing to the bottom of the vertical line.) They focus towards this point which is slightly higher than your anticipated plateau of productivity. The plateau actually rises slowly, which we should expect as the technology beds down and buyers’ businesses become more efficient using it.
For the seller, you need the confidence the buyer is serious. Has the budget and will follow through. The only way to achieve this is through collaboration. It requires both parties to have the right conversations at the right time. That is a skill both sales and supporting sales teams, and buying organisations need to sharpen.
We have been doing a lot of work on how we can help sales teams and supporting teams sharpen these skills. To help sales reps and leaders know what conversations to have and how best to develop them. We have developed a sales prospecting tool called the Conversational Solution Sales Scorecard. Using it helps sellers better understand buyers’ situation and priority needs. From the sellers’ perspective, it is a valuable sales prospecting tool. Shared with the buyer, it is also a valuable discovery and navigation tool.
Whether you are selling a technology solution or investing in buying one, I recommend reading two guides we have written. The first is a Sales Pipeline Guide for Sales Teams & Business Owners. The sales pipeline is the beating heart of a sales organisation. Within it, there is a link to download another Guide, Using Sales Prospecting Tools to Improve Sales Pipeline Reviews. If the pipeline is the beating heart of your business, sales pipeline reviews are your regular health checks. It provides guidance for managing sales pipelines using the Conversational Solution Sales Scorecard.
As I mentioned, the Scorecard is more than a tool to support the seller. It is an ideal collaboration tool both the seller and buyer can collaborate using. Doing so will help the buyer clarify and confirm their needs and expectations and help them avoid falling into the trough of disillusionment. It also supports both seller and buyer guiding your conversations to align expectations, so neither falls into the Trough of Disillusionment.