I was talking to a startup founder recently and he was telling me about the feedback he was getting on his recent product launch. To keep things simple, we’ll describe his product as follows: he is creating a platform where buyers can meet with sellers to exchange information about products ahead of a sale.
Talking with buyers he was hearing conflicting feedback. On day one, he heard the buyers say,
“I think the sellers should pay for access to this system.”
But on day two, he heard the same buyers say,
“I think the sellers should not have to pay for access to this system.”
What happened? Did they change their minds? Not necessarily. I asked the founder to tell me more about the context of the two conversations and here’s what we uncovered.
On the first day, the founder was talking to the buyers about how the system would make money. The buyers expressed concerns about budget and concluded that the sellers should pay for the system.
On day one, “I think the sellers should pay for access to this system. really meant, “I have no money to spend on this product.”
But on day two, instead of talking about budget, they were talking about the reliability of the information being exchanged. In this context, the buyers wanted to make sure that they were only getting accurate information from a trusted source, concluding that if the sellers paid for access, they would no longer be a trusted source.
On day two, “I think the sellers should not pay for access to this system.” really meant, “I only want access to reliable information from a trusted source.”
Of course, the buyers weren’t this explicit about their needs. Instead, it’s our job as product managers to work to understand the “why” behind the words. When we do, conflicting statements often become constraints within which we can do our work.
Do you have other examples where your customers said one thing but really meant something else?