Why do they always say no?

No, I will not be able to develop a new API in time for your March release.

If you’re having trouble getting anything from another team there may be one fundamental point you’re missing. Let me explain.

Whenever you go to that other team with your request the one thing they are thinking is “What does this mean for me?” Every time you approach another person this is the question they ask. Your carefully crafted email or that little speech you worked on in your mind over lunch. “Good point,” they may think, “but what’s in it for me?

But hey, we go to great pains when we make a real product to answer this for our customers. We think about how our product makes their life better – how they are going to use it and what segment they are in – then we package it accordingly. We think about the place, the price and the promotion as the means to convey the messaging of the product.

By the time they see our ad, click the link, or lift the box from the shelf they are getting the full experience. They can imagine their teeth so white and clean, that new iPod shining in their hand, or that breakfast cereal smothered in cold milk so delicious and crunchy. It’s a great product, the price is right, and it’s available today.

So, that’s how we get our customers to do what we want. Why is it that when we go to ask another team to do something we would expect any less? When you have that meeting where you present a few PowerPoint notes (the modern equivalent of the back of the envelope) and make that critical request I can imagine how the conversation goes.

It’s in the interests of the company. Says you.

It’ll be easy. Doesn’t sound like it to me.

Won’t affect your existing project. I think it will.

These are exactly the same kind of objections your customers have when faced with a purchase decision. If you offered a new type of vacuum cleaner by writing down a couple of notes on a flyer and sending it in the mail I’d by amazed if you sold any at all.

So then, when you’re asking another team for something remember that they’re thinking just like any other customer. They want to know what’s in it for them. You need to make a fully rounded pitch. You need to think about all aspects of your request, technically, visually, commercially. If applicable you should already have outline technical designs, or at least know the full scope of the changes. You should have mocks or UED which are final, not a few suggested ideas. You should know how the changes affect both you and the other team commercially – does it affect sales, partners, regional teams?

Sound like a lot of work? It might be, but if you don’t do this work, then how do you know if your request is actually any good? Will it affect revenue? Will it actually make the product worse? Answering these questions up front is always going to save time in the future – just like getting an architect to draw up some plans will save you a lot of time and money if you do it before the contractor starts building the house.

So then, get what you want by knowing what you want. That means you pitch a request like any other product – with the technical, visual and commercial details through through before you even approach the other team. This way leads to virtuous cycles and great products, the other way leads to political strong-arming and constant mediocrity. I know which one I prefer.

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