Dvir Shapira, Chief Product Officer at Venn Software, appeared as a guest on the “SaaS Scaled” podcast, hosted by Arman Eshraghi, CEO and Founder of Qrvey, provider of embedded analytics for SaaS applications. Dvir and Arman discussed Dvir’s four pillars to confirm you’re on the right track with a new product, including how product managers can get to the heart of the problem.
You can watch or listen to the podcast here and we’ve covered some highlights of their discussion below.
How do you know you’re on the right track with a new product?
From my experience at both startups and big companies, most projects fail because they’re not solving the right problem. I came up with my own framework for identifying the right problem and I usually separate it into four different pillars.
Before you even identify the problem, you need to identify your buyer. You want to identify a few different personas, including the buyer or decision maker, the user or several users, and some influencers in the buying process.
- Next, you want to make sure that this is top of mind for the buyer. This person needs to go to sleep with this problem, have lunch with this problem, and take a shower with this problem. It needs to be on their mind constantly.
- It needs to be urgent. I’ve seen a lot of problems that are just not urgent enough and then just get pushed back over and over again and more urgent problems take precedence.
The next two pillars are tied at the hip:
- This person is willing to spend a lot of money to solve this problem. I’ve seen a lot of problems that people suffer from but they’re not willing to spend a lot of money to solve. And to be honest, as a product manager I don’t care about these problems. I want to make sure that I can sell the solution, especially in the B2B space.
- The person who’s willing to pay to solve this problem has the budget. Throughout my career, I’ve seen a lot of cases where we’re talking for a month with someone who’s suffering and willing to spend money, but the boss who holds the budget does not consider it to be important enough.
Make sure all four pillars are in order
In order to make sure that all four pillars are there, you need to start out talking to buyers. As product managers, we have the tendency to go out and talk to users. Users are important because they help you shape the product, the features, and functionality but I want to start talking to potential buyers first. I want to understand that someone’s going to buy this product before I start shaping it.
There’s a journey that you take as a product manager. You start talking to buyers, you make sure they’re aware of this problem, it’s important and urgent enough for them. It’s propagated all the way up, and now takes enough mindshare for the decision maker to be willing to spend time and money evaluating the product. And only then do I start talking to the users and try to identify the exact features and functionality that we need to shape the product.
What questions do you ask potential buyers to make sure your pillars are in place?
This is really important because I’ve seen a lot of product managers pitch a product to a potential customer and get the nod. “Yeah, that’s pretty cool.” They see that as the customer validating their product and it really isn’t. People are being polite, or it might be a ‘nice to have,’ but it’s not enough for someone to actually spend time and money on your product.
- Interview people and don’t bias them. So, I ask open-ended questions about their top of mind problems. I may try to focus them on a certain space, but I want to make sure that they share their view of their problems with me, and not me forcing something on them.
- When you get to the point where you show your product or pitch your idea, there’s a big difference between the nod and excitement.
I’ve been a product leader for many years now and I can count on one hand the number of times that I’ve seen real excitement from customers. If they start asking you follow-up questions and thinking about different types of implementations that you wouldn’t even consider 🡨 That shows that it’s resonating with them.
How would you advise product managers to find the best solution?
You’ve got to be very open to changing course. We tend to fall in love with our ideas. You must also be very open to getting feedback not from just one customer, but you’ve got to collect more data points and find the commonalities and trends.
It’s a partnership between product and engineering. I always try to take the customer perspective, and not our internal perspective. We have the tendency to just try to come up with something out of the products and technologies that we have, rather than looking at what the customer is expecting.
I think customers, a lot of times, make assumptions about your technology or even what kind of technologies are out there and based on these assumptions, they come up with requests. The first thing that I teach my product managers is to get to the heart of the problem and then go back towards the solution, just peeling off the onion.
Customers will always tell you what they want, and not what they need, and in many cases, they don’t even understand their problem fully. After getting to the heart of the problem and why existing solutions are not good enough, you can go back to your engineering team, brainstorm and see if you can come up with technology that can solve these problems.
Once you understand the problem and step in your customers’ shoes and feel it, it’s much easier to come up with a differentiated solution that really solves the problem.