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Why market-led development needs to give way to market-led innovation selling

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

The companies I have represented have each, to some degree, been guilty of technology- or product-led development.

Having quickly come to terms with the fact that this approach fails to understand market requirements, I have been a long-standing champion of market-led development.

Market-led development is generally regarded as “doing something with a clear end user and market need in mind”.

In a nutshell, in product-led development people are too excited by what they can do – they don’t stop and think, “should I?” (Crichton, 2021). The “someone, somewhere must need this” as an approach to product development is utterly futile – dead and buried, especially in the space and geospatial application domains.

It’s staggering to hear about projects and initiatives from the perspective of what is technically “now possible with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data”, compared to the market need satisfied by SAR-based imagery, analytics and intelligence.

Conversations around market-led development are long-standing (Gripper, 2012); however, even this generalisation is not enough to solve the specific challenges of the B2B technology innovation arena. As technology providers aim to displace incumbent carbon-thirsty operational elements to deliver on a net zero and climate-resilient sustainability agenda, market-led development needs to give way to the stronger concept of “market-led innovation selling”.

Broken down, market-led innovation selling requires two key stages, the first of which is much more complicated:

Stage 1: Create the conditions within which a sale could occur

Stage 2: Pitch, bid and make the sale

Stage 1

Creating the conditions for a sale to occur in stage 1 is not so easy. On a daily basis, I use the Sandler approach to selling to get deep inside the personal reasons to be engaged and understand their short- and long-term motivations (Sandler Systems Inc., 2020). I also question and gauge the aspirations of the organisation in terms of what success might look like, how that is measured, and mood around risk and reward and timescales and budget.

Before undertaking any sort of latter stage technology readiness level (TRL) space-enabled or geospatial innovation, we need to consider the macro-level elements of industry legislation and requirements. These include operational systems (beyond a conceptual understanding); buyer behaviour and inherent industry biases; perceptions of change, transformation and risk; and size of budgets. The latter is especially important as the budgets may need to cover both traditional and innovative service offerings for a short time.

Only through the deepest understanding can you know – if indeed it is at all possible – how to intervene within existing supply chains and implement technology solutions into operational environments to deliver the decarbonisation and climate resilience impact. Once you have success at the macro-level, you can then press the micro-level to develop your ambassadors.

In B2B, people are buying the services of people, which means that others need to be convinced by me and by the company I represent. Similarly, in market-led innovation selling, we need to be convinced that the internal ambassador at a target end user entity can successfully make the necessary business case to their wider organisation and so create the conditions within which any innovation sale could occur. Then and only then can we move to stage 2.

Stage 2

Stage 2 is consistent with traditional B2B selling and comes with all the risks of regular business as usual selling.

  • What does the competition look like?

  • Is it an open tender or is it a direct negotiation?

  • What influence can we have in the statement of work?

  • Can we work with Tier 1 framework holders?

  • Should we bid directly, or should we form a partnership?

  • What obligations are placed on us in the contract T&Cs?

  • What are the residual technical, commercial, partnership and country risks?

Andrew Iwanoczko is a Founder and Director at Callala, helping organisations realise their potential through market-led innovation selling, and by delivering impact with innovative climate-positive technology products and product development.

1 Crichton, M (2021), Technology isn’t a product – a product innovation approach Accessed: 14.07.2021

2 Gripper, J (2012), Engineering in a product-driven versus a market-led company Accessed: 05.02.2022

3 Sandler Systems, Inc. (2020), Sandler Selling System Accessed: 10.02.2022


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