Project Management

Sell Problems, Then Solutions

Rich is the CEO of Mironov Consulting. He coaches product executives, product management teams and revenue-focused agile development organizations.

As good product folks, we know that customers must recognize a problem before they consider buying our solution. Companies that don’t have supply chain issues (or think they don’t) are not in the market for ERP systems. Organizations that don’t think they are hacking targets don’t invest in security infrastructure. “Couch potatoes” don’t care about traction metrics for running shoes. Households without pets (mostly) don’t buy cute doggy sweaters. We don’t shop for antidotes to unrecognized diseases.

But I often see product managers and leaders forget this when dealing with internal stakeholders and executives. We push our companies to adopt product-side practices and processes without clearly framing and ‘selling’ the underlying problems. We fail to describe improved outcomes in non-technical terms. I think of this as “selling philosophy”—tossing out-of-context keywords and obscure tech terminology at market-side executives who don’t understand (or deeply care) about the fussy distinctions that we techies treasure. I hear product leaders say these to CEOs:

“We need to be more agile and less waterfall.”
“We’re sales-driven, not product-driven, so major deals keep getting priority over roadmaps.”
“Operations keeps telling us exactly how …

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