Communicate Like Adults

Apr. 15, 2021

A few years ago, I helped an executive in pitching his product to his clients at a conference. Together, we examined his clients' situation, problems and needs, and weaved a compelling story line leading to a strong call-to-action. There was only one tiny problem: The software wasn’t released yet. But the executive really wanted to show a demo of the solution to get feedback and maybe a buy-in. So, we had a meeting with the product manager…

The product manager was one of these young hot-shot guys, oozing of self-confidence. He said: “No, we are not ready — yet. And frankly, I do not see the value of rushing”. The executive explained that it was a great chance to show the demo to the most potential customers, and it would help shape the product. But the product manager replied: “The software is still too buggy, we will look foolish“. What an arrogant prick, I thought to myself. He wasn’t helpful at all. And he wouldn’t even try to understand the executive’s position.

Screenshots instead of the demo

So, in the end, the executive only showed screenshots and tried to explain the system as much as he was capable of. The audience wasn’t very impressed. They had many technical questions, and it didn’t help that the executive was all by himself.

You could say the product manager showed strength in saying “no“. Though it would have been better to be more diplomatic and understanding. At the same time, the executive sounded quite demanding. He didn’t properly explain the value such a demo would have for the business success (and the ongoing work). All he said was “I want the demo”. It was a round of silly hard ball with many losers. Meanwhile, the main competitor introduced a far superior product and the executive cancelled the entire product development. He lost his trust in the product manager and this was his sweet revenge.

What is the lesson learned: Better communicate your why and the value of the proposed measures. Try to understand the situation and benefits to all parties involved — and act like adults!