Well I have been traveling out of the country a lot these past few weeks so its been a while since I posted. I will try and do better in the future. During my travels I had a lot of interesting discussions with people about a wide range of technology issues, solutions, and technology acquisitions and one theme kept coming up again and again which is the misalignment of problems and solutions. This got me thinking about a blog post Dave McClure did a while back titled “Your Solution Is Not My Problem” .
In this article, Dave discusses one of his pet peeves about pitches that he and other VC’s receive. The net of his beef is that people always start off by describing their solution without having first defined the problem that the solution is intended to solve. Dave’s point is that if he doesn’t understand or believe in the problem, then telling him about your solution to it, is meaningless and a waste of time. If you really think about this, you will come to realize that this is a really profound concept that applies not just to assessing an elevator pitch, but to many other areas as well.
Unfortunately, I find that too often we go around saying “Here is my hammer. Show me your screw!”
I can’t tell you how many times I see people selling their solution to clients without having identified if the client even believes they have a problem never mind whether your solution fits that problem. It drives me crazy to have to constantly play the bad guy stopping sales reps from pitching a misaligned solution to a client or explaining how a proposed or worse yet newly developed product or solution doesn’t address a client problem and thus won’t sell. Then, if and only if, the product or solution truly does address a well articulated, painful problem to which we can associate a dollar value, do we get to examine whether the solution we propose is truly able to solve the problem better than the alternatives. If you cannot do that then you are in big trouble and you solution will fail to be successful.
The process, whether you are selling a product, solution or your company needs to be as follows:
1) Define the problem. You and the target audience need to agree on what the problem to be solved is or else there is no common ground on which to have the rest of the discussion that’s needed to result in a transaction.
2) Once you have agreement on the problem to be solved, then and only then can you define your solution, and you better make sure that your solution is truly aligned with the problem as defined in step 1 or you are wasting everyone’s time
3) You need to convince the target audience that your solution is the best solution to the agreed problem. Remember its more that just the software or product that is being assessed. Your solution includes you, your credibility and the credibility and viability of your company to support, maintain and improve the solution for the time horizon the client intends to use it for.
So if you want to have a successful solution, you need to make sure you know its a screw, whether its a Philips or a Robertson and that your solution is the right screw driver and not a Hammer. Even better, convince them your solution is a powered screw driver.
(Guest post by Paul Michaud, Global Executive IT Architect for the Financial Markets sector at IBM. Paul blogs @ Technology Musings)