Product managers want to speak to prospects. It’s not all the time straightforward, they usually don’t all the time inform us what we need to hear. But when we pay attention rigorously, we will study rather more than what they really say. Here’s what my boss as soon as taught me about the way to actually take heed to our prospects.
In SVPG’s Coach the Coaches workshop held final month in London, Marty Cagan talked about the truth that product managers should have direct entry to prospects. To most of you, this most likely sounds trivial (or at the least so I can hope), however I’ve seen and skilled firsthand firms the place salespeople are reluctant to let others speak to prospects instantly. I’ll get again so far in a couple of paragraphs, however first I need to share with you a narrative a couple of particular man I had the privilege of studying from.
In my first function outdoors of R&D, the one which finally led me to product administration, I reported to the Director of Options of the corporate, a man referred to as Raviv. Raviv was a seasoned supervisor with a few years of expertise. He was already a seasoned supervisor after I obtained my first managerial function again in 2000 (I do know that as a result of he taught us mission administration within the administration coaching class I attended again then). He wasn’t all the time a simple boss although. He labored across the clock, was very meticulous, and all the time wished issues to be excellent.
A type of issues he wished to excellent, or at the least so I assumed, was do’s and don’ts once you speak to prospects. As a beginner from R&D who didn’t have a lot face time with prospects earlier than, Raviv felt the necessity to put together me for every assembly. He would go into particulars of what we will and can’t say, emphasizing repeatedly that no matter I say now represents all the firm and never simply myself. He stored explaining the dynamics of a B2B sale and gave me the sensation that all the things is so fragile. One mistaken phrase may break a superb deal.
Sooner or later, after so many instances he defined it to me, I knew I obtained it. I obtained the ideas, I already knew the way to keep away from the landmines of a fancy dialog, I discovered the way to say no in a method that leaves sufficient opening for the dialogue to proceed, and practiced repeatedly the persistence required to say ‘let me verify it and get again to you’. When Raviv stored giving me his prep talks earlier than every buyer assembly (normally over espresso outdoors, we have been really visiting prospects of their workplaces again then!), I began feeling that he was over defending the shoppers and offers in play. I advised myself that it was his drawback, that he was virtually paranoid about shedding offers the place issues appeared to work simply positive.
It was solely two years later, after I was already a product supervisor at a special firm, that I noticed how a lot he was proper. I discovered firsthand how fragile enterprise gross sales processes have been, and nonetheless was in a position to acquire the belief of the gross sales staff who wished me to hitch conferences with prospects since they knew I’d assist and never break issues. I discovered myself utilizing the talents that Raviv taught me each day. I felt so grateful.
Now, again to Marty Cagan’s workshop. Marty shared that at HP, the gross sales staff created a coaching referred to as “Attraction Faculty”, to show product managers the secrets and techniques of correct communication with prospects. After I heard it, I instantly realized that I had my very own Attraction Faculty — the one Raviv created only for me.
Sadly, I didn’t get to thank Raviv in particular person since he handed away earlier than I had the prospect to take action, however I nonetheless use his classes on a regular basis, and educate them to others since I do know most individuals don’t get that sort of correct coaching. Right here is among the most necessary ideas I discovered from Raviv: the way to actually take heed to your prospects.
Raviv working towards his bike-riding passion. One other factor he did wholeheartedly, like all the things else he was engaged in.
One of many issues Raviv taught me was the way to pay attention, and it additionally included the way to reply. Or higher but — the way to NOT reply.
Raviv all the time most popular to finish the assembly the second we had all the data we wanted and get again to the client with a thought-through response solely afterward. Taking the time to suppose by means of the response allowed us, in fact, to reply extra responsibly and return a greater reply.
However Raviv didn’t depart it at that. His strategy of listening continued lengthy after the assembly has ended.
After every assembly with a buyer or stakeholder, we’d set time to take a seat collectively and talk about our response. Raviv began every of those discussions with the identical query: “so, what did they really inform us?”.
The query wasn’t in regards to the phrases they used. It was in regards to the underlying messages — typically clear and typically hidden in what they stated, their physique language, how they reacted to sure questions and likewise the issues they didn’t say.
To get to completely perceive our prospects, we wanted to research all the things listed above. We spend a superb chunk of our discussions speculating and attempting to resolve what they really advised us — in phrases and in quite a lot of different methods.
The selections we took and the response we gave have been primarily based on our understanding of what they have been attempting to say (together with all of the hidden alerts), not essentially on the phrases they really stated.
This functionality of attending to the underside of what folks really want, even when they didn’t inform us explicitly, lies on the coronary heart of the product chief’s work. Henry Ford’s horses and all.
Sadly I typically see a special sample nowadays. Everybody is aware of we needs to be data-driven. Everyone seems to be in search of validation and solutions from potential prospects and stakeholders. However I too typically hear “I requested them, however they didn’t say what they wanted. So what ought to I do now?”, and even “however I gave them what they stated they wished, why aren’t they joyful?”.
Properly, that a part of determining what they actually need is on you, not on them. They don’t seem to be product folks. They’ll solely speak of their language and characterize how they suppose. The refined artwork of attending to a deeper understanding of what they want is your job to grasp.
I can’t probably embody in a single article all the things it is advisable to know and what to do precisely to get to completely perceive your prospects. Furthermore, that is significantly better achieved in an ongoing mentoring course of like I obtained from Raviv and I provide my prospects in the present day — on-job coaching with actual issues to resolve collectively.
However you can begin immediately with the behavior I discovered from Raviv and talked about above:
After every buyer assembly, take the time to replicate on the assembly. Ideally do it not instantly afterward, give issues a while to sink in.
If there was somebody with you within the assembly, do it with them — a dialogue in these circumstances is healthier than pondering alone.
Ask your self the next questions:
- What did they really inform us?
- What did their physique language suggest?
- Which questions resulted in a stronger emotional response, and why?
- Which subjects have been they engaged in, and which have been they extra reluctant to debate?
- What does it imply?
After you will have a probably deeper understanding of what they really want, there is a vital validation step that you simply don’t need to miss. It doesn’t require speaking to the client once more. It requires a actuality verify in your aspect.
To do it, it is advisable to ask your self this:
“In the event that they actually meant <what you suppose they meant>, would they speak and reply as they did?”
When the reply is “sure” and all of it is smart, you’re good to go. Now you can make selections primarily based on this new, deeper understanding of their wants, even when they didn’t describe them explicitly.
Bonus tip: the identical technique works nice additionally along with your managers, traders, friends, and another stakeholder. Product management begins with the flexibility to essentially, deeply perceive folks — prospects in addition to everybody else.