Influencing the Product Roadmap during the Sales Process
May 2, 2012 by Randy Paroda
As any successful Product Manager will tell you, their primary role is to reflect the ever changing needs of their target industry. They are the internal champions for customers, fighting for features and functionality that can make user experiences more beneficial. As the product owner of Blue Mountain Regulatory Asset Manager, I rely on input from internal and external sources to gather and reprioritize ideas for the Product Roadmap. Our most valued inputs come from our customer base and often their first meaningful opportunity to share ideas occurs during the sales process. Unfortunately, very few take advantage.
Talk Weaknesses During the Sales Process
The early sales process is much like a game of “cat and mouse”. Buyers are trying to evaluate a list of potential sellers against a “checklist” of features. Sellers are trying to convince the buyer that they have a great product and should be part of the final evaluation. Both sides spend a significant amount of time talking through the strengths of the product and not much about its weaknesses. Each is missing an excellent opportunity. If the two parties complete the deal, there are still opportunities to discuss enhancements at other stages of the relationship, but if the deal does not occur, both sides lose.
Communication = Win-Win
A Seller wants to sell, but they also want satisfied customers. A Buyer wants to buy the best product available for a reasonable cost. One way for Sellers to ensure happy customers is to provide the features and functionality needed to closely match the business processes of that customer. One way for Buyers to keep costs down is to increase competition by sharing with ISVs the shortcomings in their offerings. We've found that when both sides constructively address shortcomings, the result is a healthy exchange where both sides benefit.
Haven't we met before?
If you’ve been in an industry for any length of time, one of the recurring events is replacing outdated software. We've certainly "lost deals” only to have the same opportunity return several years later. What helps us win the second time around? Often our product has evolved to more closely align with the buyer's needs. Bottom line is you shouldn't rely on others to influence the ISV. Speak up often and early. It may help you make the costly mistake of installing one system only to have to tear it out a few years later - a cost measured in dollars, time, and your reputation.