Product Development and Transparency to Customers
A.T. Gimbel shares his insights on product development and disclosure of shortcomings when making early sales.
How to balance making sales and being transparent about your product’s capabilities
I was speaking with an entrepreneur the other day who was asking about how transparent they should be with current product capabilities to future customers. Their product was good but not quite all the way there. Should they be overselling what they have and finish the remaining product features before they implement? Should they openly disclose all product shortcomings? Is there an appropriate middle ground?
Sales people love to tell customers what they want to hear. “Of course the product can do that.” In environments with long sales and/or implementation cycles, you can sometimes get ahead of selling product capabilities that are under development and would be ready before going live. However, it is always a balancing act of getting too far ahead of commitments and having things change on the roadmap. If you sell and then don’t deliver, you can push bigger problems down the road.
Product people generally never feel the product is good enough; there is always “one more feature” to build before it can be sold. This approach can be really helpful when working with development partners on new products. You can collaborate together on open items, prioritization, and testing. However, too much focus on product shortcomings can undermine closing any sales as the customer might just ask to wait until that feature is ready before buying.
The best answer is often a hybrid. You want to push sales deals that fit your profile and prove what is critical to close the deal. You also want to be transparent about what the product currently does and what is in the works. In the end, focus more on the value your product provides versus all the features of the product.
You never want to lie about product shortcomings. While you may be able to cover up something in the short-term, eventually your customer will find out. Not only will they be disappointed in the product, worse they may lose trust in you. Stay true to working together to craft your solution to solve your customers’ problems.