I recently joined my sales colleagues on some client visits – here’s why I plan to do this a lot more.
If you are building software for the external customers of your company then you shouldn’t only rely on secondary feedback from the people who visit them. IT teams supporting internal systems have easy access to their customers – they are in the same building and hopefully they take advantage of that. If you build software for people that are not in the building then you definitely need to spend more time out of the office for 3 main reasons. [1st of 5 paragraphs]
#1: Pressure. Your sales colleagues have time-based targets – this focuses the mind on closing deals and keeping customers happy. Feel that pressure for a day by understanding how your software product helps drive new sales or retains existing customers. Often it’s really simple things like screen layout or response times, it’s very rarely the font size of headings on your project charter template – get focused on what really matters. [2/5]
#2: Perspective. I tagged along for sales meetings in one of our regions for 2 days and met a number of clients in their offices. Every time I walked into our client’s offices a simple message became clear: your software matters here because this is where people actually use it. If it doesn’t work, this is where they will moan about it – back at my own office with the development teams I needed to remember that. [3/5]
#3: Purpose. Software makes a huge difference in people’s lives – it can radically change it, often for the better. The admin clerk might halve the amount of paper on his desk if you provide an automated process for what he does every day. Seeing the end result and hearing people talk about it reminded me why I do what I do – getting this firsthand was invaluable. [4/5]
Ultimately I really enjoyed the experience; our sales people valued it, our clients were impressed and I had a day out of the office. I took notes which led to some actions and a few connections and hopefully further sales and improved service. Never forget who is the real customer of what you are producing – spend time with them and get some pressure, perspective and purpose. [5/5]