Product Managers Know That If At First You Don’t Succeed, You Need To Try Again
Okay, this is a personal article. For the better part of a whole year, I have been trying to attract the attention of a large customer. I have been met with failure at almost every turn. It has been very frustrating trying very hard. At times, it seemed that success was within reach. But it keeps getting snatched away. I would have given up if I was not a product manager. But, I am a product manager, so I know I need to keep trying. This failure turned out to be a learning experience that made me happy. Would you like to hear more about my story?
The Customer Who Would Not Say “Yes”
My story began about a year ago. My boss and I were meeting with a large customer. My boss was hoping to convince the customer to test our product at ten locations. It became evident to me during the meeting that our product could be of great benefit to the customer at all their locations. So I suggested it. My boss was amazed when the customer agreed to it. They explained that a deal this big would require them to issue a formal request for proposals (RFP). We were given the impression that we would be chosen immediately after the RFP was published.
This sounds like a great situation for product managers. The customer challenged us, and we accepted. They had already completed a pilot with us and liked the product development process. They asked us to do another pilot. The pilot was done at a site with a lot to offer – there were no significant problems. The pilot site at the new location was in serious trouble. Although the workers were positive, the odds against them were stacked against their heads. Although we believed our product could help, it was a difficult task. We accepted the second pilot and began to work. The pilot was a moderate success. It can be challenging to convince customers to change their ways, but the product has a positive effect on the customer’s site. Everything seemed to be going my way once again, and I knew I would have something to add to my product manager resume.
The customer then released their RFP. We were thrilled – this was what we had been waiting for! We began to create an answer to the RFP. Our graphic artists were involved in the creation of our RFP response. I think it was the most professional-looking response to an RFP that I have ever seen. We submitted our responses and waited for the winner to be chosen. It didn’t happen. Instead, we were told that we were among four finalists and were invited to give a presentation to the customer’s committee. After practicing our presentation, we waited to be selected. We were not selected. We ended up third. How did this happen?
Never, ever give up
I was shocked and disappointed to have missed this chance. Others would have just thrown up their hands and said, “Oh well.” But not me. To find out who won, I will go back to the customer’s buying department. It was not surprising that I found out that my vendor had won. I discovered that their price was only $7,000. I was able to get a copy of their proposal (public record rules are fantastic!) I read it. There were a few discrepancies that I noticed, and I reported them to the purchasing department. The incumbent vendor was awarded the contract.
Evidently, things weren’t going my way. I had followed the rules of the customer, but I was still a loser. Life isn’t fair, as we all know. This opportunity was too good to pass up. The other vendor hadn’t yet installed their product. After digging deeper, I found that the contact had requested that they first do a pilot on ten customer sites and then if the customer approves, move on to the remaining 240 customer websites. This was still an opportunity for me!
Like in large organizations, there was more than one person responsible for selecting the vendor and releasing the RFP. It was possible that there was another department within the company responsible for this functionality. I met with them to discuss their concerns. They told me they didn’t love the company that won the contract. I was able to tell them that I wanted to continue playing with the organization and that there might be another way. A separate community group worked with all of the locations. If I wanted, I could distribute my product to these groups and get them to use it. This would prove to the organization how excellent my product is. Bingo! This is why I didn’t give up on this customer.
What Does All This Mean for You?
I would like to be able to tell you that you will always succeed if your product manager does all the right things. Unfortunately, so much of our job is dependent on others; this is often not true. People sometimes don’t do what we expect. We all know what they should do, why they should do it, and why it’s good for them. But that doesn’t always make it easy for them to do the right thing.
My case was with a large customer that had a real need for my product. I did everything right and had two successful pilots. I assumed that they would choose me when it was time to buy. I was wrong. I could have lost the battle. They chose another vendor. However, I didn’t give up. Instead, I continued my research and found another route to reach this customer. Will I succeed? We will never know. However, although I may have lost the battle, I am determined to win it.
Product managers will always face setbacks and brick walls. We have the opportunity to decide what to do next when we run into setbacks and brick walls as product managers. It is easy to give up. If you don’t, you will never succeed. Be a product manager instead and vow to never quit. This should be an essential part of the job description for product managers. There’s a chance you will finally achieve what you want if you work hard enough.