Monday, November 24, 2014
The working life with engineers: Not every blank has to be completed
I went to this conference for work. It was about marketing stuff and there were a few breakout sessions where we talked about marketing strategies.
It was an engineering conference. An engineering conference with some marketing stuff.
Based on the questions people asked, I think I was one of two non-engineers in attendance.
We had this breakout session about how to understand the customer. We did an exercise where we were supposed to identify the problems facing the VP of sales. The only information we had was the job title. We had a worksheet containing spaces for the VP's age, industry, boss's title, job duties, and major problems.
The bottom half of the sheet was devoted to major problems.
Most of the top half was for the job duties.
There were lines for age, industry, and boss's title.
We had half an hour to do the exercise.
Remember, the point of the exercise was to understand the customer's issues. What are the problems the customer faces? Once you understand the customer problems, you can figure out if your product solves any of those problems.
The major point of the exercise was to get people to understand that you do not succeed in sales by listing all your product features - it is by understanding what your customer needs and by addressing those needs.
The first thing we were supposed to do was appoint a spokesperson for the group. One of the other women said, "CF likes to talk. She can be our spokesperson."
Ouch. I had actually been trying to keep my mouth shut. Apparently, I had not been successful.
So I tried very hard not to talk a lot during this exercise. I did not want to dominate or be considered bossy or overbearing. I bit my lip and said nothing.
But after five minutes of listening to people discuss just what industry should the VP be in - and what stage - startup? mature? - I had to speak.
Very carefully, I said, "I suspect that the problems that a VP of sales faces are pretty common across industries. They are all concerned about whether customers and prospects can reach them. They are all concerned about the CEO asking what sales are about to close and will they make plan this quarter. They are all concerned about knowing if there is anything in the pipeline."
A few heads nodded in agreement.
I continued. "Perhaps we don't really need to be that specific about the industry. Perhaps we can put down anything and just focus on brainstorming about the problems." I wanted to add, in all caps, "BECAUSE THAT IS THE POINT OF THIS EXERCISE!"
But I didn't. That would have been really rude.
Another person on the team said, "OK. How about manufacturing as the industry?"
Then one person asked, "But manufacturing what?"
Lord have mercy.
Another person sighed. "Widgets. They are manufacturing widgets."
The Italian guy with the jaunty scarf and the graceful hand movements that accompanied every word that came out of his mouth asked, "What is wiz-EET?"