Forget Dating Customers, 5 Ways Product Managers Can Get Real Relationships

by drjim on April 5, 2010

Customers Who Love Your Product Are The Ones That You Want To Have

Customers Who Love Your Product Are The Ones That You Want To Have

Why are you doing things the hard way?

How do you measure success for your product? For most product managers this comes down to one number: the number of customers that their product has. However, in today’s tough economy, this type of thinking might just be a bit shortsighted. Instead of thinking of all of your product’s customers as being a bunch of people that your product is dating, maybe it’s time to start to think about what it’s going to take to make your customers fall in love with your product

The Benefits Of Taking The Long-Term View

Ultimately it’s going to be up to your sales team to make the sale. However, as the product manager you are ultimately responsible for getting your product ready to go on a date with the potential customer. Just as in real life dating, if you just throw your product out there in front of a prospective customer, who knows what’s going to happen (but it’s probably not going to be good!)

What should you be doing instead? The first thing that you want to be doing is to set your product up so that it can get a second date with the potential customer. How are you going to do this? Simple, you are going to have to work with your sales teams and teach them how to listen to what the customer is saying. Instead of loading them up with product facts, you need to take the time to teach them what to listen for — just what customer problems does your product solve?

In order to make sure that the relationship goes on beyond the first date, you need to make sure that the first contact that a potential customer has with your product (sales call, brochure, web site) doesn’t come across like a “sales call” type of conversation. Instead, what you want to do is to start to build a relationship with them – show them that your expertise (and your product) can help them solve their problems.

The Right Way To Get A Customer To Partner With Your Product

Dating advice has always been freely available and yet still so many people find that they struggle to do it correctly. The same thing can be said about product mangers who are looking for ways for their products to get into relationships with new customers.

Although every customer is different, it turns out that there are five steps that a product manager can take in order to turn a customer date into a real relationship:

  1. Research and understand a customer’s needs: Just like you wouldn’t go on a date without having first done some research on who you are dating, a product manager needs to learn as much as you can about each potential customer. Knowing what their business is and what their needs are will be the key to having a successful date.
  2. Be willing to partner with a customer and become a resource: anyone can go on a date with a customer – there’s no commitment there. If you want it to turn into something more, then you’re going to have to make your company a resource that the potential customer can use as a resource.
  3. Become a product success teacher: nobody ever said that a potential customer is going to know how to date your product either. Although a suitor might think that they know how to use your product to solve their business problems, they probably don’t know all of the ins and outs. This is where a product manager can add value.
  4. Have faith that your product is #1: at all times you have to be your product’s biggest booster. Sure a potential customer may be thinking about dating other products, but you need to keep them focused on developing an exclusive relationship with your product.
  5. Be positive: you would be amazed at just how important your own attitude is to the success of any relationship that a potential customer might be thinking about developing with your product. If you think highly of your product then it shows and this can make it easier for a suitor to commit.

What All Of This Means For You

Sure customers are nice to have, but getting your product into as many long-term relationships as you can is even better. Having a lot of potential customers date your product is good, but as a product manager you need to find ways to turn these dates into real relationships / sales.

To make this happen you will have work with the sales team and teach them to become good listeners. What you want to do is to position your company as a resource for a potential customer and your product as a solution to their business needs.

Nobody ever said that this customer / product matchmaking thing was going to be easy. However, if you can do it successfully then you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve made the world just a little bit better for at least one customer.

Question For You: what do you think is the best way to get your sales teams to talk less and listen more?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So what’s the most exciting thing that you did last week? I have no idea what your answer might be, but I’m willing to bet good money that going to the grocery store was not high on your list. Over in France the product mangers at a company called Chronodrive have figured out a way to solve this problem. What makes their solution unique is that it actually works unlike so many other attempts in the past (can anyone say “Pets.com”?) Would you like to know what they did?

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