Propositions, products, and why you need them – Part 2: Defining a product

5 August 2019

Before we start, make sure you read Part 1 of this piece first, by clicking this link.

In the last post, I discussed the importance of a proposition and how it can help your business stand out. Here, I’m going to be talking about products.

Whereas you can only realistically have one proposition, there is no real limit to how many productions you can have; indeed, the more the better, for reasons I’ll go into shortly.

If a proposition is what makes you unique, a product is what makes you suitable – it’s the skill, service or physical item that answers a customers’ specific needs. What’s important to remember is that a product doesn’t have to be a physical thing, though it does help to thing of them as such. In reality, a product is anything you’ve defined and packaged up in such a way that you can talk about it knowledgeably, and that a client can clearly see the suitability of against their requirements.

Much like a proposition, it sounds such a simple concept that everyone must do it, right? I mean, we all know what we’re selling and how it works, yeah?

Actually, rarely…or more accurately, almost never to the level of detail that we should be doing.

Lets use a practical example – a box (again, sorry). We all fundamentally know what a box is, and we could probably make one on the fly given a brief and some cardboard. We could certainly talk about the process if we found ourselves presenting to a client who was looking to source a new box.

BUT…we’d be estimating, and talking vaguely. We wouldn’t be able to give out exact sizes, stress test results, suitability for different kinds of products, etc. We’d very much be covering the general concept, and hoping we were doing enough of a job to win the work.

Now imagine if you’d actually specified that box up already. You’d know exactly how strong it was, the internal and external dimensions, and pretty much anything else the client might need to know, because you’d already taken the time to figure it all out, rather than relying on your previous experience and knowledge of such things.

And that’s just for a box (no offence intended, if that’s your industry). Imagine responding to a client brief for a complex, potentially bespoke intranet system. You know you can do it – you’ve been delivering software for 20 years – but you’ve not defined your intranet product, rather you’re pitching experience and previous projects of a similar nature.

Your competition DOES have a defined intranet product. They’re able to talk about per-seat costs, integration capabilities, scalability and how the product can adapt in the future. They know all the advantages their product can deliver, and they can knowledgeably answer client questions without being put on the spot, because they specifically know what they’re being asked about, rather than just being skilled in the general area of development. All else being equal, a client will always choose the team with the specific, rather than general, answers.

Remember, kids – a concept is fine

In this sense, products are similar to propositions in that they’re basically just an understanding or definition of something, but the intentions are quite different – a proposition is what will get you in the door, whereas a product is what will win you the work.

The best bit is, you don’t actually have to BUILD the product – you just need to understand it enough to talk about it confidently and factually. In doing so, you give your client the choice between yourself, who demonstrably has a product (even if it’s just a concept) that meets their requirements, or another team who understand development and can definitely turn their hands to an intranet, too.

A product helps you win

Winning gets a lot easier when you know what you’re selling, which sounds ridiculously obvious, but we’re just not doing it. And it’s not just the ‘winning’ aspect that makes products so great, either – they’re fantastic for helping you decide what work to go for in the first place, and which opportunities you should be walking away from.

With a well defined product or two, you’re able to very quickly match up your expertise and knowledge with the client’s requirements, and make a judgement call on if it’s worth your time responding. Put simply, if your USP for a particular opportunity is that you’ve been delivering similar projects for 20 years, then you’re immediately on the back foot compared with a rival who has a closely matched product on offer.

Armed with your own products, you can pick the opportunities that match closely, knowing that you have an immediate USP. And because you understand your product, your responses and pitches will go much smoother, simply due to your own understanding of what it is you’re selling.

When taking such an approach to business development, you’ll find that the number of opportunities that you should realistically go for reduces significantly, but that you stand a much better chance of converting the remaining opportunities into wins, because you’re speaking confidently about highly suited products and concepts that your client actually wants.

In summary, defining products helps you understand what it is you’re selling; helps you find the right opportunities to match your suitability; and helps your clients feel confident in your ability to deliver against their requirements.

So, what are you waiting for? Get defining!

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Propositions, products, and why you need them - Part 1

Remember the days when you could just be good at something, and people would hire you to do more of that for them? Those days are long gone.

Selling your wares in 2019 (and beyond) requires more than years of experience and a list of case studies: you need to know who you are, what you can do, and how that can help the client.

Come with me, on a voyage of propositions and products.

Read more