True innovators identify the spaces in between
By David Nachman
May 31, 2012 – Driving change that truly has an impact requires an objective look. Objectivity can be obtained in many ways, through data, through observation, through deep probing questions, by talking to someone outside your industry, but often true opportunity for change is in what isn’t being said and done.
I realized this truth in my tenure at a previous technology company at a day in the life visit with a client. We started the program with the idea that we could only learn so much from asking our customers what they needed. Our hypothesis was that through observation of their day-to-day workings we would learn better how they used our software or more importantly when they didn’t use our software.
All the visits were valuable, but one visit in particular shapped our software development direction drastically. The “aha” moment came when I walked into a customers office and saw sticky notes all around his computer screen. I asked him what the sticky notes were for and he mentioned that they were call back reminders, details on candidate status’, etc. As I observed him for a number of hours, I learned that he was using a combination of our software and the sticky notes to effectively do his job. Throughout the day a few sticky notes were taken down and more were added. It was through this observation that we realized that our software could truly replace this manual task of sticky note reminders with automated software.
Through this experience I learned that people don’t often know what they need, they just know what they want. After this epiphany moment, I begin to more actively listen and found that there is so much chatter in the world around us from mainstream media, social media, and casual interactions with co-workers, friends and family. What I noticed is everyone was saying the same thing, and that’s when I realized, finding what is missing, what is not being said in the conversation, is where the real value lies.
There is a message in this concept of the spaces in between for just about any business person. Most of our customers are in a sales role, and in a sales situation, listening to understand is such a critical part of the job. Inside sales associates often go from one conversation to the next, and get so stuck in a scripted conversation they can forget no one customer is the same. Truly asking probing questions and selling in a way that fits into what each unique customer knows they want but also what they might not even know they need, is the secret to successful selling.
About the author: David Nachman was recently appointed to Executive Vice President of Marketing, Product and Business Development. Nachman brings an impressive track record of successful ventures, with more than 20 years of experience executing effective growth strategies, both as a senior executive and as an advisor.