Selling your invention to a corporation means addressing the concerns of everyone from the IT manager to the president
Just because your business comes up with a great idea doesn't mean it'll sell. "A lot of inventions come to be with the idea that it's great and it'll make everything better. But that's not what drives industries," says David Melnik, whose company Venturecore Holdings markets PediaVision, a technology he created to assess children's vision problems by taking their pictures. "Businesses want to know whether it's going to save them money and make them money."
The PediaVision Assessment Solution—consisting of a handheld screener, a harness to attach it to a desk, and a Dell (DELL) laptop programmed with special software—sells for $10,500, and the company has sold upwards of 100 since introducing it in 2008. In a recent talk with BusinessWeek's Rebecca Reisner, Melnik, who also created the technology used in airport self-service check-in kiosks, shared his strategy for devising different pitches that will appeal to the various players in organizations that are prospective clients. Edited excerpts of their conversation follow.
How is pitching PediaVision different from pitching the airline kiosks?
With a medical product, you have to convince physicians of its medical efficacy, that good benefits are being delivered to patients. It's just like any other business—you'd think in the medical arena it would be different, but it's not. You need to show that it's profitable and easy enough to integrate. And you might need to be ready to train the staff in the medical office.
Then there are the insurance companies that need to pay for patients to use PediaVision in the doctors' offices. So you need to get close to physicians' professional organizations—in our case it was ophthalmology and optometry organizations and pediatricians' organizations—in the hopes that they will advocate for your product to the insurance companies.
With the airline kiosks the challenge was keeping people from different units of the corporations happy. They all have different kinds of concerns, and you have to have the information ready.
Say you're pitching to people in the finance end of a corporation—what should your strategy be?
With the finance side you need to have answers ready to these questions: "What's my total cost of ownership?" and "What's the rate of return I'll get on this—how soon will I get my money back?" and "What are the investment risks?"
How about the folks in the marketing and distribution side of the business?
They don't care how wonderful your technology is or how easy it is to implement. You have to tell them how it enables them to do things they can't do today and how easy it will be to reach their market with it.
And the operations people?
You want to tailor the message to explain how it will help them run their business more efficiently, how it will make things faster. In the case of the airline kiosks, the key was explaining how they would help flyers get through the airport more quickly.
You need to tell them how it fits into their technical environment, how they can manage it, how easy will it be to train people to use it, and how efficient and flexible it is to use.
Getting back to PediaVision, is it really that hard to market a medical device that costs only $10,500, when physicians are paid so well?
Pediatricians are among the lowest-paid doctors. They tend to make $120,000 to $140,000. So you have to convince them of the fact that they'll make more money with PediaVision. We think PediaVision has the potential to generate $250 million a year for the pediatric profession.