Early Adopters vs. Majority Prospects: Features vs. Solutions – and Doing Discovery


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Early Adopters and Technology Adopters are inadvertently training us to deliver feature/function “Harbor Tour” demos…  But it’s not their fault; it’s ours…!

Early Adopters and Technology Adopters love to hear and talk about new features and cool capabilities – and often identify problems themselves that can be solved, synthesizing solutions from the feature set articulated by vendors.  They embrace change and are excited about applying new capabilities to solve existing problems and new, previously unexplored arenas.  However, while important, this group represents a very small fraction of the business population… 

Everyone else is not interested in change, typically, and needs to feel that a problem is truly critical before investing resources to address it – they are interested in solutions, not features and functions. These groups (the Early Majority, Late Majority, and Laggards) represent the overwhelming majority of the population.  [Note:  This is one of the essential points in Geoffrey Moore’s book “Crossing the Chasm”.]

What does this mean with respect to doing Discovery?

Early Adopters and Technology Adopters often don’t need to have Discovery done (and some may not respond well to it).  They are eager to hear about new products, new features and new options – they ask us to do feature/function Harbor Tours.  Worse, they indirectly train us to believe that these demos work well for everyone, because they tell us how exciting our new offerings are.  And they may make a purchase based on what they’ve seen in a feature/function Harbor Tour demo, resulting in a (frightening) positive feedback loop supporting feature/function-let’s-just-show-them-a-demo…  [Note:  some Early Adopter and Technology Adopter purchases are starting points for a “Land and Expand” strategy…]

On the other hand, Early and Late Majority populations need to have Discovery done – they will generally not be comfortable making a purchase without completing rather substantial research on their part, which should include one or more sessions of diagnostic Discovery questions and discussion with a vendor.  [Note:  Even “Mr. Crusty” still wants and needs to have Discovery done, but he/she will only allow a vendor do to so once that vendor has earned sufficient credibility…!]

But wait – there’s more:  Many Technology Adopters are unable to drive a purchase – and simply spend their lives (and the lives of the vendors’ sales teams) looking at technology.  How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m always interested in exploring new technologies…”  This is likely a recipe for a “No Decision” outcome.  Vendors may still need to perform a reasonable amount of Discovery to determine if the opportunity is a real one…!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Peter Cohan
Have you ever seen a bad software demonstration? Peter Cohan is the founder and principal of Great Demo!, focused on helping software organizations improve the success rates of their demos. He authored Great Demo! - how to prepare and deliver surprisingly compelling software demonstrations. Peter has experience as an individual contributor, manager and senior management in marketing, sales, and business development. He has also been, and continues to be, a customer.


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