One common denominator of successful sales people is their skill in developing relationships. Part of that skill is their seemingly innate understanding of their buyers. But since most of us don't have that innate ability, we need other ways to understand our buyers and their view of technology adoption.

One of my favorite devices for analysis is the bell-shaped curve. These curves have been used to model many different types of processes, and technology adoption is no exception. Everett Rogers generalized the concept in the early '60s with his publication of Diffusion of Innovations. Later, Geoffrey Moore popularized the technology adoption curve in his book, Crossing the Chasm. Google "technology adoption curve" to learn a whole lot more.

The technology adoption curve or, as Moore calls it, the technology adoption life cycle, identifies the types of buyers that embrace technology as products mature over time. To summarize, the model shows five categories of buyers:

1) Innovators (2.5%) are those who like to live on the "bleeding edge" and are not afraid to purchase unproven technology - a great category of buyers for a new concept.

2) Early adopters (13.5%) are the trend setters, typically people that want products earlier in the product life cycle, believing it will give them a competitive edge.

3) Early majority (34%) adopts new technology after a product's value has been proven. They want references and will often look for competitive bids.

4) Late majority (34%) buyers are not comfortable with change and are somewhat skeptical. You will have to lead them to the water and help them drink.

5) Laggards (16%) only buy because they have little choice; are price sensitive and tough to implement.

The first step in using this model is to do a self-assessment. How you adopt technology affects how you sell technology. As an extreme example, imagine an innovator trying to sell to a laggard, or vice versa. To put this in context, where are you in the adoption of social media technology in marketing your products and services? Social media technology adoption most likely falls in the early majority category. So if you haven't adopted social media technology yet, you might have to say you're a late majority technology adopter or, heaven forbid, a laggard.

A worthwhile next step is to analyze your product portfolio and determine the maturity level of the products you are offering. Take online enrollment, for example. These solutions have been around for some time and most buyers are in the late majority category. Wellness is tough to analyze because it has been in use, in a variety of forms, for quite some time. However, consider the new wave of outcomes-based wellness solutions. One could argue that they are not yet proven, putting them in the innovator category. One last example is health exchanges. These solutions may be in the innovator category, although one could argue they are in the early adopter stage because HIX solutions are often based on proven benefits admin technology.

After assessing your product portfolio, you can now begin to apply the technology adoption curve analysis to new and old clients considering your technology solutions. Analyzing how it all fits together may lead you to different approaches in selling, because you now have a better understanding of you, your products and the buyer.

Lamb is VP and group head of the EbixBenergy business unit at insurance software company Ebix Health. Reach him at john.lamb@ebix.com.

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