Requirement Identification is very often done badly by salespeople, often because they do not feel able to do it well. Let me give a few reasons why you might want to do it well, you have to invest the time in the skills necessary to do this phase because:-
- Gathering Requirements is a perfect excuse for meeting executives that will become harder to meet once a formal procurement process (RFP) gets under way. Access to executives tends to be in supervised formal meetings not conducive to forming relationships. If you think it might be helpful to have a friend or two in the account, you may want to do a thorough Requirements Gathering process
- Requirements Gathering gives you a perfect opportunity to build credibility with the same executives. A professional call on an executive will give him confidence that you and your company can and will deliver a successful outcome. If he is faced, three months later with a choice between two very similar proposals and one vendor has met with him and left him with an impression of competence it is clear which proposal he will vote for. (The opposite is true, if you give him the impression you are not competent then……)
- Requirements Gathering is a perfect opportunity to help the executives understand that there might be other requirements that they are not aware of. This is what is called shaping the requirements. So after you have gathered the usually short list of features & benefits the business is looking for you have an opportunity to add credibility to yourself and your company with statements like” when we did a very similar project with ACME Corporation we helped them to achieve some real value by also doing XYZ at the same time”. The best position to have with a customer is “trusted advisor”, someone who not only can ask the standard consultant question “What do you want” but someone who by experience elsewhere can offer advice on best practice.
- By the Way – adding value by suggesting an additional feature or benefit is an opportunity to get the customer to value a product differentiation. I am not very keen on the phrase Unique Selling Proposition as very few of them are Unique. However if you can get one or two of your product’s differentiated features in the Mandatory or Top Ten Requirements you will discomfort your competitors.
Enough reasons why you should do requirements gathering? I hope so. So how do you do a Requirements Gathering interview? Clearly you will have to do some work yourself as each product needs a different requirements gathering process. However the resources you should go to, and the basic approaches to developing one are the same everywhere.
In a well organized company the department responsible for implementation will have key questions they need answering before implementation. If you are working in a capital equipment market then go talk to your engineers or consultants. They will probably be very helpful; most of the issues they encounter in implementation come from poor requirements gathering in the sales phase. Who has not heard that classic sentence “Who sold you that then?”.
The second place to go for insight is again an existing customer. Either at the first lunch you took him (see Business Development above) to or a second one you can ask him what were the objectives of using your product, what conscious requirements they had at the beginning, what worked, what did not work, where there any unforeseen benefits or pitfalls. Again remember you are trying to educate yourself so that you can act as an advisor – be opened minded and allow the conversation to go where the customer wants to take it. This works as a source of information for a car salesman as much as a salesman selling 10 million dollar consulting engagements. Input like “I really appreciate XYZ because it comes in handy when ABC” should be incorporated into your conversation with the next customer who has similar requirements.
If you want to get really professional then there are courses, books and resources on Business Analysis that can help you develop a questionnaire for any product or Service.
One important skill here is the deceptively simple skill of asking questions.
One of the changes as you move through the requirements gathering – opportunity definition onto the solution presentation stage is that over time your behaviour needs to change. Initially you are mainly asking questions and listening (requirements gathering); in later meetings you confirm understanding (defining opportunity); and towards the end you present the value proposition (solution).