It's Not About Technology

by Ken Smerz, as seen in LiDAR Magazine, published Oct/Nov 2015

Story time…

Not long ago I was sitting in a board room making a presentation to 7 executives from the largest pharmaceutical company in the world about laser scanning and 3d modeling for their pharma manufacturing sites around the world. The basic premise was to demonstrate and prove how this technology could be used to cut costs and improve efficiencies. (And to land a giant contract for my company.)

The presentation could not have gone any better. On the giant screen that covered the wall I’d clearly demonstrated how laser scanning works and even given a variety of case study material. I’d also done real-time laser scan demonstration and showed the audience what they looked like in a point cloud. They loved it. The meeting was high energy and full of verbal and non-verbal positive responses. What cloud possibly go wrong? I was like David Copperfield…maybe better! And, as it turns out, that was the problem.

As the meeting came to a conclusion, I’m ready to sign a multi-year contract to laser scan and model their plants throughout the world. So with the confidence of Homer Simpson to a fresh donut…I go for the close. “It’s obvious I can save you $500k this year, on this site alone, not to mention others like it. When would you like to start?” I asked.

The senior executive of the group suddenly became quite, slowly leaned back in his chair folding his arms over his chest, collected his thoughts and said, “I think laser scanning is great, but we’re just not ready to implement this sort of change.” It was like I’d stepped on a rake. How could I have possibly not convinced them?

Later that day one of the executives who’d been in the presentation explained that the technology was very impressive, and at the same time threatening to their institutionalized was of doing things. It was a threat to the status quo. And because it was a blue collar community, the technology I’d proposed using were a potential threat to the union culture because it was likely to reduced man-hours.


Lesson Learned

How could such an easy opportunity—with clear ROI—slip right through my fingers? How could such a great presentation end up dead? In the aftermath of what turned out to be a very expensive sales call I did the post-mortem.

I had nobody to blame but myself. I had spent 100% of my time selling the technology instead of offering to solve a problem. (Note: People pay to have problems solved.) I had focused on the things that I felt were important and that I wanted to impress upon them. I didn’t take the time to understand what their needs were, or how to integrate our solutions with the team they had in place.

If I could have done it over, I would never have used the term laser scanning or done a real-time scan demonstration. Sure, it was fun, but at the end of the day, they didn’t need to know how we captured data or what software we used. They really didn’t need to know what a point cloud was.

What might have worked is showing them how I could as-built their factories, provide facilities management tools, and ultimately reduce labor and materials cost. I should have impressed upon them our ability to accurately measure their environment, safely, without contact from a distance, and put it all in a computer for everyone to use. I’ve since changed my approach completely.

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