Genii Weblog

Preaching beyond the choir

Mon 29 Jun 2009, 09:47 PM

by Ben Langhinrichs
For many years, I have heard stories about how users have mentioned Lotus Notes, and gotten confused responses from others who equate Lotus Notes with Lotus 1-2-3, and think the product disappeared long ago.  I had not had that experience personally until recently, when I had it twice in three weeks, once with a college friend of my wife and once with a man who works with "Unix software development" and initially asked, "Didn't that disappear in the 1970's?", and when I replied that he was thinking of Lotus 1-2-3 (though even then he is inaccurate), and I was speaking of Lotus Notes, said, "Well, pretty much the same thing.  Nobody actually uses it anymore, do they?"

I could draw snarky, and probably undeserved, conclusions about IBM marketing or public perceptions, but I have a different point to make.  These are people who know nothing about Lotus Notes, nothing about the corporate email wars, nothing about standards.  My wife's friend, the Unix developer, my parents, a couple of neighbors - they know nothing at all about these issues that consume our time and focus.  And yet, when my wife goes on to say that I have a new product, and they ask politely what it is, she is able to explain.  She just says, "You know how sometimes you email somebody, and when they reply, your original email looks terrible?  His product fixes that."

Then something happens that has never happened to me in my life as a software developer.  People who know nothing about Notes or email fidelity or standards light up - my wife's friend, my Dad, my neighbor - and they say, "Yeah, I know just what you mean.  Do you think his product could fix my email?"  People get it.  They understand what I'm doing, and they want it for themselves.  Not people who think making rich text dance is hot stuff, or people who are worried about the coexistence of doclinks between Domino and Exchange, but ordinary folks who not only aren't part of the choir, they don't even know the choir exists.

You may ask yourself (if you have gotten this far), "So, what does this have to do with me?"  Well, think about it a minute.  I'm not likely to sell my wife's friend or my Dad or my neighbor on Notes, but what about a small business owner who uses Gmail and curses because it is limited and messes up emails to clients?  What if you could talk about Lotus Foundations, and say "Your email will get to your clients looking just like it left your mailbox, even if it is fancy and carefully formatted"?  Don't even mention iFidelity - talk about the results.  If my Dad can perk up about email - he uses a free email service that probably has more ads than features - imagine if a restaurant owner who wants to impress customers heard about a truly full-featured email client that sends mail which looks crisp and professional without paying a service to create fancy HTML emails.  He or she might just perk up too.

This is functionality that people get, not just here in the choir room, but out there where people aren't listening yet, but might be persuaded.

Copyright 2009 Genii Software Ltd.

What has been said:

832.1. Doug Finner
(06/30/2009 11:43 AM)

Waaay back in the late 80s/early 90s I did some selling for a couple of medical device companies. I had to take any number of sales training courses. Most of them were along the lines of 'Getting to Yes' where you structure your pitch to get the intended buyer into a box where the only possible answer to 'will you buy?' is 'Yes'. Suck city... Then someone turned me onto a book called 'SPIN Selling.




Needs Payoff

You NEVER talked product. You discussed issues the customer was having, find a point of pain, discuss that, then hammer on the implication of the problem (lost time, lost money, whatever), THEN if and only if you have a product that can address the pain, you'd pitch the solution.

I am forever amazed at how bad most people are at selling. I don't want specs, I don't want hardware, I don't want software, I don't even want a car; I want something to fix a problem (or make me seem more glamorous...which is fixing a problem too...).

I'd say you hit the nail right on the old noggin. Nice post!