The Blind Spot

While in London last weekend, I ran into this intriguing and surprisingly common dilemma: getting people to switch over to something new and better. This particular example manifested itself with London taxi cabs.

By way of background, it’s important to understand that from my perspective London taxis are superior to American taxis in essentially every way: Roomier, easier to get in and out of, diesel, seat 5-6. Plus, they have a distinctively retro look that make them immediately identifiable. Therein lies the problem…

Until recently, they were the only taxi available. Essentially all of them hail from LTI(sorry about the pun). Recently, however, Mercedes has arrived with a “better” taxi: better ride, quieter, seats more people, more fuel efficient. But they don’t look like taxis. So people don’t hail them, and the cab drivers(and their potential fares) suffer.

Getting past the customer’s blind spot. Whether with taxis, technology or services, how do you overcome habit? How do you make the customer aware? Do you make provocative statements, or connect them with case studies or customer references, or convey the simple migration path to a better future? In my experience selling to payers, the biggest single challenge isn’t overcoming price or a competitor’s feature set. It’s the status quo. We’re competing with the current paradigm. Payers are by their very nature complex, ponderous organizations. (Which is why, when you find one that isn’t, savor it. More on that in a future post…) Think layers, systems, processes, regulations, business units. So… doing something new means coordinating it amongst or in spite of all the other crap they’re already doing. Half the time, they aren’t even 100% sure that doing what you’re proposing might not break something else!

In selling, it makes sense to start with all the obstacles to adoption from the customer’s perspective. Gain an intrinsic understanding of what it takes to stop doing things the way they do them today, but at the same time understand the various reasons why they do what they what they do today. That understanding will inform your strategy.

BTW, do you know how Mercedes is overcoming their taxi problem? Word-of-mouth. Those riders able to ‘see’ and then hail the unfamiliar taxis are telling others about them.

Eye-opening, huh?