Your first OSS date

“…don’t ask your customers what they like or don’t like about your product. Or what they’d change if they could. That’s all about you. If you want really insightful answers, ask them about themselves instead. You can find out a ton about you by asking them about them.
Jason Fried
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Let’s say you were out on a first date and your lucky beau spent the whole time trying to impress you with tales of how rich they are, how successful they are, how smart they are, how awesome their house is, how expensive their car is, how heroic they are, etc, etc. What is the chance that you’d agree to a second date with such a braggart?

Not very likely I’m guessing.

But if they spent all their time paying attention to you, getting to know you, asking questions about you and generally making you feel like the centre of attention (and affection??) then a second date is far more likely I’d imagine. If you then found out later in a more subtle way that they also have all those talents and achievements then that’s an extra bonus.

The analogy is in the way that some technology vendors, including OSS vendors, seek to sell their wares. They spend a majority of their time spruiking product features, installed base, their talented staff, past project successes, etc, etc. Some of my past colleagues have pitched that way and those meetings always made me cringe.

They tended to spend less of their allotted time to find out intimate details about the customer. That meant I/we didn’t get a good enough understanding of what solution/s best met the customer’s specific needs.

Every customer’s OSS is different in so many ways and most OSS have an array of features and configurations that leave most customers’s heads spinning, so make it simple. The confused mind says no. Pay attention to them, get to know them, get to know what their drivers are, get to know their decision making process / key stakeholders, get to know what their definition of success will be, use their words / terminologies, demonstrate your features in their language of success.

After all, it’s all about them, not about you. It’s your job to build a solution that helps them prosper and you will succeed by association.

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