As I have frequently stated in prior posts, inventing is a tough business and few inventors achieve success. Many novice inventors perceive that all they have to do is obtain a patent for their invention, then to “sell their idea” to an enthusiastic company anxious to commercialize the product.
A more accurate view is that a patent is merely the opening stake that gets you into game. Then, the real challenge begins – to fully develop the concept and market it effectively whether as your own business or by licensing your IP. The latter is where 95% of all patent holders fail.
Setbacks: Stepping Stones to Inventing Success
Any successful salesperson knows that you get far more “no's” than you do “yes's”. A .300 batting average is considered outstanding in baseball, but it means the batter strikes out 70% of the time.
Inventors, however, always love their products (as they should) and assume that everyone else will love them as well – highly unlikely.
The first company I presented to was quite enthusiastic, but after months of missed connections and rarely returned phone calls, I realized it had died a quiet death – I had no strong internal advocate for my product. I was mortified. Next, I presented to the largest company in the wallet business – they were very enthusiastic. Also, I had a strong advocate in the CEO – and just one staff member who was non plussed about my product. But in the second meeting, it became clear they were not going to move forward with licensing my product. They suggested I take it to QVC as it was a good sell on TV product. I was extremely disappointing and a bit angered and considered just giving up on my product.
Those were two big setbacks for me.
Over time, I was able to reassess the situation more calmly and I realized that there were valuable take-aways from both of the setbacks. In the first company, the team leader, who should have been my internal advocate, was instead the biggest skeptic. His employees were enthusiastic, but certainly weren't going to oppose their boss. In the second company, I had a strong internal advocate, but the one skeptic had enough influence to blackball an otherwise promising project.
My positive take-aways: I needed a strong internal advocate and no strong naysayers who would blackball the project. I followed the advice and took it to QVC – where it was quite successful. Sell on TV has been the successful path for my first product and I almost overlooked that good advice because of negative setbacks.
I encourage inventors to approach every prospect meeting with an open mind. Plan the meeting to maximize the positive impact of your presentation, but then listen carefully to what everyone says. Consider a setback to be a learning experience.
If you learn from setbacks and then re craft your plans going forward and are persistent, you will succeed.