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Monday, November 11, 2013

Junkman

I got a chiding comment about Civility. “You write about longer conversations opening more options. You should be selling what your company is offering.”

Fair enough.

Through a quirk of career, I was a product manager designing offerings before I ever got into the field. As a matter of fact, I fought going into the field because headquarters was where careers were made. I hated to leave the bridge because things could change while I was out of the loop.

As a product manager, I would try to ask the technical staff what they were building, but mostly I was told what to emphasize by my superiors. Which I emphasized, since my game was getting promoted. I had a good thing going as a product manager.

In the run-up to Y2K, I was wooed by an IBMer sales professional. He had come out of the Marines, started at the bottom shuffling punch cards, and worked his way up to Corporate VP of an IT Firm.

When I look back, it was silly what he had to do to overcome my ignorance and fears, but I was his project, he gaffed me on board. Once I started working with customers, I found that even my most successful marketing had been by accident. Customers had all the power and all the knowledge of what they wanted.

As a recovering product manager, it was easy for me to replace management advice with customer advice. The customers and I would work hard to flesh out what they wanted enough to pay for.

Then I would take it back to headquarters and try to get the order filled. There were some amazing repercussions.

We were told to increase service revenue as much as we could. The goal was to have service revenue equal product revenue. We got my projects up to services at four times product, which resulted in the head of service delivery telling me I had used up my service quota for the year...in April. I was done.

Turned out it was easier to get service providers than product, so our team recruited an outside installation team, and we lurched forward.

In a six month period, we created a new template for doing business, which resulted in the four largest transactions in the company’s history, all from taking extraordinary time to define what the customers really wanted. Like a junkman, I’ll take whatever is offered and work with it until we get something we can use.

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