You know the feeling: The one you get when you’ve uncovered an enormous customer need and you’re actually in a position to deliver a solution without reinventing your entire company. It’s so energizing that every time you blink, the potential revenue numbers that display in your cartoon-like eyeballs get bigger and bigger.
Think about the last time that happened to you. I’m guessing you weren’t on a mission to uncover a new customer need. The opportunity just presented itself through a run-of-the-mill conversation. If that’s the case, we have to ask ourselves: Are we so focused on trying to unearth customer problems that their most critical business needs are flying right by us?
For the past 14 years, I’ve been observing a dynamic that happens every time I’m with a client. When we elevate the conversation to the point where we’re simply talking about what their customers do and why they do it, the most critical business needs start flowing a mile a minute — and I’m not talking about small stuff or end-user whims. I’m talking super-sized needs that matter at the upper management and executive levels of the customer organization.
This brings me to two conclusions:
- The easiest way to identify the most critical customer needs is to stop looking so hard for problems and just put more effort toward understanding what they do and why, at all levels of the organization. Every need, issue or challenge you ever wanted to know will present itself as a byproduct of simply understanding the customer’s business in greater detail.
- While product knowledge is essential for product managers and marketers, it’s also their biggest encumbrance when it comes to uncovering needs because it inhibits their ability to see customers the same way customers see themselves. A baseline requirement of the job in this case, becomes a huge liability.
Whether your role is product management, development, marketing or sales, there’s a simple and systematic way to steer every conversation to what customers do and why they do it without any product bias. It puts everything into perspective and yields three valuable benefits.
- Your product and service solutions will address needs that are more valuable and more strategic to your target customers at all levels of their organization;
- Your marketing messages will open more doors for sales at the decision-maker level; and
- The credibility of your sales presentations will skyrocket – enabling you to more easily differentiate and win more deals.