Putting the Cart Before the RFID Horse

Vendors believe they can sell RFID as part of business process transformation, but end users say they want incremental change.
Published: February 24, 2010

By Mark Roberti

Recently, I wrote about providers of radio frequency identification solutions speaking a different language than end users (see Why RFID Vendors and Users Speak Different Languages). That’s not the only disconnect I see. Vendors are also trying to sell end users transformational change, when they want incremental change.

RFID solutions providers understand that the technology can do more than just tell you where your assets, tools or inventory items are. It can enable transformational change. More sophisticated end users and some potential end users understand this, too, and they want transformational change—but they want to achieve it incrementally.

It goes back to my column, Battling the Status Quo. Change brings risk, and most companies don’t want that. Even small-scale, tactical RFID projects have risk. But here’s the interesting part: If businesses are going to take the risk on an RFID project, they don’t want to do it just to achieve a short-term return on investment—they want both a short-term tactical benefit and a long-term strategic benefit. So the right strategy for selling RFID is to explain not only how your system will deliver benefits in the short term, but also how it can be used for longer-term transformational change.

This makes sense, and it’s arguably the proven way to sell new technologies. In her book, Selling to Big Companies, author Jill Konrath says technology providers need to get their foot in the door, build credibility and then make the bigger sale. Konrath will conduct a training seminar at RFID Journal LIVE! 2010 (see Selling RFID to Big Companies, RFID Journal to Feature ‘Selling RFID to Big Companies’ Workshop, Helping RFID Vendors Connect With RFID Buyers and What End Users Want From RFID Vendors for more information).

If I were in charge of sales and marketing for any company that sells RFID hardware, software or services, I would tell my team to focus on customers with a compelling need—for whom the status quo is unacceptable, to use Geoffrey Moore’s term in Crossing the Chasm (see RFID Crosses the Chasm and Battling the Status Quo)—and solve their problem, but to also let them know that we can discuss bigger benefits down the road.

Once the system is in and delivering benefits, a company would have boatloads of data it never had before. And that would deliver a significant benefit to a technology provider—credibility—since it would have solved that firm’s problem. Now talk of transformational change seems less risky and more real.

So here’s my advice: Use RFID to get your foot in the door, and then think about selling the bigger solution.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark’s opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog or click here.