Early in my career as a software engineer, I got the opportunity to give a product demo to a group of prospective customers.

Barbara Finer

Not only did I find out that I liked explaining my product but I was also good at it. After my demonstration, the prospective customers asked to sit down with me and explain how they were planning to use the product to see if I thought it could do what they wanted. I am sure that the sales team was quaking in their boots, but what could they do?

As it turned out, I listened to what the prospect planned to do with my product. There were things they wanted to do that I hadn’t designed in.

However, it was obvious that the product would be better if I added those capabilities in the next version.

We can argue about whether making promises in front of a customer was the right thing to do however it was really obvious that we just didn’t have a robust enough understanding of how the product would be used, despite MRDs and PRDs. I added the features. 

The result was an eventual sale, a very happy internal field marketing and sales team, and the defining moment in my career.

Later, as a Product Marketing Manager for an industrial automation product, I was given the opportunity to follow a Six Sigma-like ‘light’ training and observe a factory where my product line to be used. By seeing the whole process, we determined that we could save time for the production people by locating our interface in a different physical place.

The 10 steps up and back several times a day saved minutes per user per day. Doesn’t seem like much, but it was. That and the fact that we observed and listened.

Recently, I worked for a communications company. The corporate and field marketing teams we not allowed out to talk to customers and prospects.

Smart companies get their employees to feel pride of ownership for company success. Innovation is not successful in a vacuum. All functions in a company need face-to-face time with customers, proactively, not reactively. Customer-centric companies win.

Barbara Finer, Founder of QuiVivity Marketing Partners, serves as an outsourced marketing resource for B-to-B companies.