============================================================ Got an idea worth working for? A case study. ============================================================
CONTENTS: 1. Does this problem sound familiar? 2. Have you ever been to a sales "shoot out?" 3. Is this an idea worth working for? 4. But, will I lose this client? 5. Did we do what customers wanted? 6. It all began with that idea worth working for.
As I've said before, businesses don't work by themselves; people work. And thing that makes people work is an idea worth working for.
Here's how this principle worked for my client and me.
============================================================ 1. Does this problem sound familiar? ============================================================
I arrive for my appointment with Carole, a product-marketing specialist who works for their VP of Marketing. In lobby, we have a brief meeting where she explains situation.
"Our 800 number is ringing off hook! We can't handle all customer's questions and complaints. We cover everything in our product manuals, but our customers refuse to read them."
"Why won't they read them?" I ask.
"Our manuals were written by programmers and engineers. Our customers are radiologists and physicians and they refuse to read them!"
"Well, I'm sure I could..."
"Wait, there's more. We're designing our new 'flagship' ultrasound imaging system, and we don't want to make same mistakes again."
I say, "Good idea! It's always best to develop documentation as you develop system."
"I agree," said Carole. "Our last effort was a hasty, last minute compromise - after we had already built system. Now, we're paying price. This time we're going to do it right. Let's go meet Greg, my boss."
============================================================ 2. Have you ever been to a sales "shoot-out?" ============================================================
We take elevator to second floor, where Carole gives me a brief tour of systems development area. She then escorts me to Greg's plush corner office with its view of Silicon Valley and south to Los Gatos. Carol introduces me to Greg, then tells him about our prior phone conversations and today's brief meeting.
After some cordial conversation, I ask Greg, "Can you tell me a little about your typical sales cycle?"
"Why? I thought you were a technical writer."
"Actually, I've spent a few years in sales and I'm well aware of need for good documentation when selling. Maybe we can write documentation to help you sell more systems. I assume you'd be interested in that."
"Hmmm..." he said. I could tell he was skeptical. "Well, OK. We take part in what we call a 'vendor shoot-out.' "Our shoot-out is most important part of getting order - if we don't ace shoot-out; we don't get sale. "A shoot-out occurs when all competing vendors bring their equipment to a specific room in a hospital or clinic. In room, there will be a real (or pretend) patient. We vendors then gather around 'patient' to demonstrate our equipment to physician and radiologists."
"Brutal!" I exclaimed. "Exactly how does that work?"
"The vendor's technicians take turns showing physicians and radiologists how their system works with patient..."
I interrupt with a question; "Do physicians and radiologists get to 'test drive' system?"
"Oh, no! The systems are so complicated that we must use experienced computer technicians for demonstrations."
"Are these technicians same programmers or engineers who developed system?"
"Yes. Unfortunately, they must be there to handle inevitable problems and crashes."
"So, when do physicians or radiologists get to try system?"
"They don't. No vendor is willing to take that risk because of possibility of a crash!"
============================================================ 3. Is this an idea worth working for? ============================================================
I ask, "Suppose you wanted to buy a new car and salesman would only let a mechanic take you for a demonstration drive. Would you buy a car that you couldn't drive your self?"
"No, but this is different. After they buy a system, winning vendor will give extensive training to buyer's technicians who will run equipment."
I respond, "OK, what if your new system were so simple to use that physicians and radiologists could demonstrate it to themselves? Would that be an advantage in selling?"