Tag Archives: product management

Grain of Salt

In Business Development take everything with a grain of salt

The more I collaborate with the business development team, the more I understand that as a buyer, one needs to be careful about what he agrees on.

Usually, I see things only from our perspective, the company that slightly exaggerates in its promise whenever selling something to a customer. Well, maybe not exaggerating, but making a donut look a lot like a wedding cake.

However, in business development there are always at least two parties that have an interest in the deal. This means you never know whose wedding cake is actually a donut; and that can happen even when you least expect it.

I can’t really talk about what made me write this post but I can talk about numbers out of context.

Imagine you told me that there are virtually 10.000 units to which we can provide our service and after we sign the agreement (an agreement that doesn’t specify that number). Once it’s signed you tell me that I misunderstood it, what you said is that the plan is to get to 10.000 units, but for now there are only 400 units.

While for me that is borderline frustrating and I am not sure I could be on either of the sides for too long, for some is just the way life goes.

Anyway, the key learning point is to always be extremely inquisitive before you go into an agreement and put stuff on paper.

Photo by  ulterior epicure

 

The first draft phenomena

You know what grinds my gears? Management Issues

Here is a weird trend I noticed lately: the first draft is not the first draft anymore. The first draft is the final version. Drives me crazy!

So this is what happens:

First people will tell you things like:

  • “Can you please quickly draft some ideas. Nothing big, just so we have a start for our conversation”
  • “Can you please send me a short list of things that we should include? Be careful, don’t make it science project.”
  • “Can you take a few minutes to draft a press release. I just want to see the direction you are going with this. Don’t spend to much time on it.”

Then you send the draft and all of a sudden you hear things like:

  • “Cool. I am going to present this in the MT meeting tomorrow.“
  • “Ok, sounds good I will send this to IT. They will build it.”

Noooooo! Noooooo! Noooo! This is not meant for that. 15min is not enough to come up with the whole thing. Stop treating it like the final thing.

OR

The other equally annoying part is when people forget this is supposed to be a “quick thing” and start saying things like:

  • Why did you use this word?
  • Wouldn’t it be better to reverse these paragraphs?
  • Why didn’t you mention the other thing?

Grrr!! We just agreed this is going to be a conversation starter not the bloody “Declaration of Independence ”. Stop treating it like the final thing. Work with me. Don’t attack my 15 min work!

Key Learning Point

My advice?

1. Try not to treat your first draft like a … first draft, but as a proposal that will represent you going forward. At least this is what I am doing from now on.

2. Spend more time for your first draft and review it yourself a few times.

Just remember, in many cases, your first draft is the first impression. Whatever you present to your team will influence the discussion. It will be a huge brick to the foundation.

Why and how to define your tasks

Let me tell you a short personal story…

A few weeks ago my manager comes to me and tells me: “Hey Andi, one of the company we worked with (let’s call it T) will help us to create a cool “How to use our product” video. For FREE!

All I could say was: “Sweeeeeeeet!!!” (not really, but I did not question the offer a lot)

Excited by the idea of getting free professional help, I quickly jumped on board and created a doc with all the things we should include in the How To film. I talked about how our customers can set up the platform, how they can gather content, how they can analyze the results and so on. Being a proud product manager, I wanted to tell them everything about the cool features we built in and all the technical possibilities.

Soon after I finished my doc, we sent it to T for review and next day we had a short meeting to see if we are going in the right direction.

When the specialist dropped by and we started talking about the film, I realized I prepared for the wrong How To. This was not supposed to a movie that would explain the features of our product to our clients but instead a movie that would explain the benefits our clients would get if they would use our platform.

Now, I felt a bit … unprepared let’s say.

The good thing was that we had an early feedback session and I was able to rewrite the script over the weekend so on Monday morning the producer could take a look at it…

So this was the story.  Now let’s see how I could have prevented this…

Key Learning Point

This whole experience made me think once more about that famous quote from Abraham Lincoln: “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my axe”. He was so right.

  • Ask for all the details you need

Make sure you don’t jump on the task without getting a clear overview of all the things you need to do. They say “Assumption is the mother of all fuck ups”. Stop assuming you are on the same page with everybody else. I can’t tell you how many times I thought this, only  to realize we were saying the same words but we were thinking about different things.  So ask!! It will save you time and embarrassment in the long run.

  • Write everything down and send it in an email

Not saying this was not my fault. Not saying it was entirely my fault either. But the thing is I can’t prove anything.

The next thing is to cover your back. Sounds weak but yeah, do it. When people don’t assume stuff, they forget stuff. And what happens then? They start making things up, things that you did not agree upon.

It’s easy to blame someone else if there is no proof. The truth will always be somewhere in the middle…

  • Reconfirm

Once you have the notes. Read them aloud or send them in an email and ask for confirmation. Ask: “Is this what we want? Do we all agree”.

Think about this 3-step process as sharpening the axe. Yes it might take a bit longer than anyone would like to but when you have a sharp blade you cut away much, much faster.