Selling Innovation & Dealing with a Conservative Audience — Seekers

João Cruz
3 min readMar 7, 2020


New products can simply bring incremental innovation and usually that’s a smooth sea for the common salesman. But what about disruption? How do you sell something that the market is yet to know it needs? The answer lies in the sales approach and guess what: it’s not what most companies do!


This article is based on the Harvard Business Review Case Study on Formlabs. We suggest you look into the article if you find this article interesting.

If we look at the 3D printer market today we see a steady business where companies are pushing their incremental updates as a way to stay ahead of competition, with faster printers, better materials, increased detail, smaller footprints, and so on. But let’s go back to when 3D printing wasn’t a thing: how did first-movers go about sales when customers asked for 3D glasses on demos? How did they convey the potential of this new technology when instead of being a substitute for another product, it was offsetting entire production processes?

Our bet is on consultive sales!


The barrier to entry for disruptive products usually lies in the customer’s habit, and that is very much the case for a large majority of startups, usually composed of highly technical teams who are extremely skilled in what they are developing, and benefit of a foresight that their customer’s can’t grasp. But it works both ways: usually startups fail to understand why customer’s can’t see the potential, creating a fatal communication gap!

Furthermore, Startups love the digital world but is digital the way to go when your audience can’t even connect the dots between what you’re offering and what they do?

Probably not! And this is key here: how do you get your target to connect the dots? Well, if you’re the high-tech, high-skill startup guy, find someone to do the selling for you. Internal or external, find someone to bridge that communication gap, someone your customers can trust to clear the path into a new way of doing things, helping them connect the dots by meeting face to face and asking the hard questions they will only accept from someone they trust.


So, how should you go about getting things in motion? Start with who: Who in your industry can become your KII partner?

KII stands for: Knowledgeable, someone who is savy enough to understand your value proposition and communicate it; Influential, meaning that your chosen partner should have a reputation that will earn customer trust; Interested, in the sense that your partner becomes a stakeholder, with something to profit from getting your product out on the market.

Remember, this doesn’t need to be someone you hire into your company full time. If you are a startup or if the product is yet to be proven in a real setting, it might even be wise to hire a STaaS (Sales Team as a Service) do get the job done and take advantage of their cross-industry and multidisciplinary know how before you commit to additional overhead.

Key Takeaways

If you have a disruptive product and your audience is failing to see the benefit of changing their way of doing things, start speaking their language by finding someone they are willing to listen to: a KII partner who will be your messenger and whose questions and insights will change your customer’s point of view.

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Keywords: #innovation #sales #STaaS #startup #technology #outsourcing #hbr #disruption

Originally published at on March 7, 2020.