It was 2008. The wireless phone industry was rapidly taking off, and the first generation iPhone had launched not long before. In this age, it was still difficult for sales representatives to convince customers to add mobile internet to their monthly wireless plans.

Text messaging was relatively new—not every phone was capable of it, and consumers had only begun adopting the behavior within the last few years.

Working as a sales rep at AT&T Wireless presented a set of challenges that would be unfathomable in today’s environment. Change-averse customers were hesitant to trade their flip phones for smartphones, to add any additional features such as text messaging or mobile internet to their plans.

In fact, mobile internet barely even functioned at this time. Sure, it was better than the earliest iterations, but it was by no means fast. Often, users had trouble justifying the additional monthly expense.  Some of the sales reps were even skeptical at the time. Surely these smartphones would remain popular with businessmen and women. At some point, the tide began to shift.

Smartphone sales began to take off. Mobile internet became faster each year as the wireless carriers duked it out to achieve the highest speeds in the lowest amount of time. The cellular wireless industry had changed forever, even though many of its customers were rather skeptical of change.

So what happened?

Why was this early tech movement so significant? What lessons can be learned from the onslaught of popularity and corresponding sales?

First, positioning the smartphone and the corresponding wireless features was important. Not every customer walking in the door was a business executive or a small business owner. Not every customer felt they needed the capabilities of a smartphone.

But this is where the successful sales pitch comes in

How does one position a product or service in a way that the customer perceives it as a need, a solution to a problem?

Exploring the pain points of the end consumer for a product or service is a great place to start to identify this process. Behind every revolutionary change in every industry is an idea brought about by the feeling that something was missing, that something needed to be added in order to solve more problems.

Smartphones became the answer

Smartphones became the solution to not knowing directions to the new restaurant in town—or not being able to look the restaurant up to request a reservation in the first place. Smartphones became a way to keep in touch with loved ones instantaneously. Smartphones became a portal for social media to truly explode.

All of this was marketed smartly to a largely change-averse generation, an older crowd used to simpler times and simpler machines. Now, grandma has a way to look up her doctor’s number when she’s away from her computer. Now, the pre-teen in the family has access to location services so that parents know where to find them in the event of an emergency.

These changes came about simply through positioning. And it’s a good lesson to carry forward to other industries. What problem is your product or service solving? By positioning a brand in a way that benefits the customer, even the most risk-averse opponent of change may just come around to the next big thing.

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Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations: 5WPR is one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.

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