During one such conversation with an MSP recently, I asked the business owner what issue they found frustrating in working with clients.
Their answer both surprised and amused me because they said: “How can I sell to Technoreluctant small business owners who still think FAX machines are cutting edge technology!”.
Working with Technoreluctant Clients
Of course, this MSP shared this challenge with me tongue-in-cheek (although I do hear of MSPs who still support clients who insist on using Fax machines), but I understood what he meant.
How do you sell technology to those Small & Medium-sized businesses (SMB’s) who are stuck in their ways?
These are the type of clients who look upon IT as a cost, not a competitive advantage.
In the worst cases, these businesses are run by owners who are technological Luddites who are proud to let you know that a “pencil & paper works just fine for me!”.
Of course, as the global COVID-19 pandemic proved beyond any shadow of a doubt, every business needs technology to thrive.
But, how can you help these technophobes to understand this?
Simply put – you don’t sell to them at all. Instead, you must focus your efforts on educating them.
Nobody likes admitting they are wrong
As technology-savvy professionals, you and I both see out-dated methods in businesses every day.
Examples include handwritten order notes, organisational systems based on sticky notes and filing cabinets. Then there are snail mail and telephone order systems, and, of course, organisations that insist on using fax machines when better options are available.
And before I get inundated with emails correcting me — yes, I’m aware that some archaic industry bodies (ironically including the healthcare industry) insist that, for “data security purposes”, fax machines are used.
Trust me; even they will soon get with the programme!
The point is, in many cases, these processes are slow and laborious methods that used for doing things because well, they’ve always been done that way, right?
They certainly won’t thank-you for opening their eyes to the truth. They won’t shake your hand for highlighting how they are running their business inefficiently.
No, they’ll just slam the proverbial shutters down, ignore what you have to say and retreat to their comfort zone.
Think about it – if somebody you hardly knew told you that you were running your business wrong, how would you react?
Few amongst us receive such blows to our ego lightly – even if the person offering the advice was doing so from the right place.
There’s perhaps a good chance that you’re reading this blog post and it’s making you uncomfortable as you spot some traits you don’t care to acknowledge!
The bottom line is that unsolicited advice is rarely warmly received, but most people are typically open to learning – provided the knowledge is shared with them gently.
Changing Technoreluctant perspectives through education
Instead of telling your clients what they should do, try asking questions and gently offering a new perspective.
If you speak to a client and it’s clear that their business is losing time and money to an out-dated paper filing methods, resist the urge to jump to their rescue and “sell” them an electronic document management solution.
Even if you suggest changes to a client and they tell you “Can you put that in a proposal?”, as I’ve shared in my article Stop Writing Sales Proposals, they are probably just being polite.
Instead, consider asking them the question “What benefits do you find in doing things this way?”.
Let Technoreluctant Clients Tell You What They Want
My experience is that, typically, without saying another word, the client will begin to share with you how the system came to be, how it works for them, and then they will talk about the inefficiencies in the system.
They will share with you how they think this process or that system could be improved, and what they’d like to be able to do!
By listening instead of talking, you’ve allowed the client to share with you what they like about the current system.
They will let you know how they feel it could be improved. They will probably tell you that if they could wave a magic wand, how it would look.
The temptation is now to “sell” to them – to offer them a solution to their problem.
But again, resist this urge – and instead ask another question. “Is that something you’d like to explore changing?”
At this stage, the answer is either “Yes” – in which case you have got permission to discuss solutions. Or, more likely it will be a “Maybe in the future” or “Not right now”.
In other words, the client is telling you that the pain they’re experiencing with this out-dated system is not significant enough for them to consider fixing just yet.
But the seed of change has been planted in their mind. Now it’s time to nurture it.
Nurturing your clients through education
From now on, you can look for opportunities to nurture that seed of change through educating the client.
For instance, in our example of your Technoreluctant client using a paper filing system. Every time you help another client with a document management system, you could ask their permission to connect them with your other client.
You could drop your client an email saying “We’ve just helped XYZ company with a solution, and based on our last conversation; I thought you might be interested”.
Or perhaps the next time you see an article or a blog post about document management, print off a copy (old school!). Then, post it your client with a simple handwritten note that says “I saw this and thought of you”.
By doing this, you’re offering education to your client or prospect with no pressure. You’re effectively adding value to your relationship with the client instead of selling to them.
The Founders Guide has a great article on Using Technology To Connect With The Technophobic that contains a number of ideas.
They may not be ready to change their mind for weeks, months or even longer! But, when they are prepared to, then they will call you.
Nobody likes to feel “sold to”. Additionally, absolutely nobody, especially business owners, wants to hear that they are doing something wrong!
Some clients are at the cutting edge of technology and will educate themselves, pushing you to help them with solutions.
But other clients aren’t ready to move so quickly. While these Technoreluctant clients can be frustrating for your IT company to help — remember that everybody is different.
Resist the urge to “sell” to people or point out how they could be doing things better.
Instead, ask questions and gently educating them. You’re effectively nurturing that relationship and helping point them in the right direction.
And you may even end up selling them a replacement solution for that dusty old FAX machine — finally! 🙂
What’s the worst example of Technophobia you’ve seen? How have you helped your Technoreluctant clients to get up to date? Leave a comment below or get in touch.