Start low

If you try to support everything you think your customer might want, you end up giving away far too much for free.

You want it in pink? Sure!

You want it in pink? Sure!

We have a product which is customized for our customers. In this case the customers are mobile carriers and the customization is done as part of the delivery. I spent years selling trying to sell platforms to mobile carriers at much smaller companies and it was a nightmare. They asked for a completely customized implementations, their systems were incompatible (even with each other) and then there was change after change after change. If you think this is any different when you’re a big company you’re wrong – they still want those bullets pink with a gradient, and will refuse to launch if it’s not right aligned on the Motorola RAZR.

Previously, our solution was to make our product completely customizable through a configuration system. Every color, gradient, font or image could be configured and additional headers, footers or logos could be added liberally throughout the pages. The problem was it was never enough. You give your all, and the bullets still don’t have the damned gradient. All of a sudden any chance of profit from a deal has been wiped out by cycle after cycle of nit picking.

Stepping back, it’s clear that the real issue is with the deal itself – not the technical implementation.  Hey, doesn’t the customer want exactly what they asked for, yesterday, for free? At the heart of the negotiation are the people – trying to get the best deal for their company and it’s in their nature to always ask for more. I think my kids have this down to an art.

So, if you offer them a hundred possibilities for customization they think it’s reasonable to ask for ten extra things that weren’t on your list. It’s human nature. If you turn down all ten you’re going to look like the bad guy. Much better to offer them ten options in the first place then you don’t look so bad pushing back on that one extra feature they really, really want. If it comes to the crunch you can do it – but look at the difference. We offer them the top of the line customization system and we end up doing ten extras for free, while if we offer them a basic set we perhaps have to do just one.

Yes, you could argue that you may not even get to the negotiating table in the first place but I don’t buy it. If your product is good, as in, good enough that users want to spend money and/or attention on it then the carrier likely wants it enough to concede. Product not good enough? Maybe it’s not a product, it’s a feature.

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One response to this post.

  1. […] Start low « usuallyalex, more often than not.. usuallyalex.com/2009/09/22/start-low – view page – cached If you try to support everything you think your customer might want, you end up giving away far too much for free. — From the page […]

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