How Enterprise Product Managers Can Find Product-Market Fit

Product managers for enterprise companies have a lot more to deal with just creating an amazing product. What they also have to do is to get buy-in from the relevant stakeholders internally to ensure what they’re building is not just going to benefit the end user, but will benefit the executives and the organization itself.

For example, consider a piece of software that a company is able to use to allow its independent sales reps to generate invoices for their customers.

In this case, you actually have three internal customers you have to sell to:

  1. You’re selling the enterprise’s upper management on the value of the software as a backend tool that will ultimately save them time, money, and frustration (due to errors or complicated implementation).
  2. You’re selling its employees, the sales reps, on the tool as something that will make their jobs easier, allow them to get paid quickly and correctly, and reduce the likelihood of mistakes.
  3. And all the way downstream, you’re--unbeknownst to the end user--selling an image of this company that paints it as digital native, in touch with customer needs, streamlined, agile, elegant.

Three users, three sets of needs, one product.

But in order to find this ideal product/market fit, the one that will allow you to handle all of these needs for an enterprise client that might seem more like a traditional analog business, it’s important to be asking the right questions to the right people.

The famous saying goes that people don’t necessarily want to buy the drill, what they want is the hole--this is none more true than in today’s digital economy, where the tools are generally only as useful as the results they provide to the user.

Making the Case

working-backwards

The best way to begin is from the bottom up. Focus on the final piece of the transaction from the start and work your way back up the chain from there. In the case of our example, this would be the end user, the client of the company who just bought something and has gotten invoiced by their sales rep. As a consumer yourself, you’ve probably been invoiced for something in the past.

Here are some important questions to ask this customer:

  • What functionality are you looking for?
  • What elements give you a good impression of the company?
  • It’s probably important to be able to pay instantly, with a variety of payment options. Do you like seeing payment status or tracking options in line?
  • Make some relationships with various teams inside the organization so you can better understand what their customers need. After you’ve got the product concept, you can move up a notch to your next audience.

The needs of your second audience, the reps who dispatch these invoices, are different from the people who receive them. Use your relationships to firmly comprehend their motivations. For some, the driving factor will be the promise of mitigating risk by having a central logging system to take care of billing. Others might fear losing the personal touch that automated invoicing doesn’t seem like it can provide. Again, always be asking the questions that will allow you to meet the needs of your users in the most universal way.

  • Can you add customization options that will appease both groups?
  • How important is it that customers receive their invoices immediately?
  • Would customers prefer to pay right away, or invoiced?

If your power users and product champions aren’t on board, you will encounter increased resistance across the organization.

Your final audience is ultimately the one that matters the most--the one who will either purchase or lobby for the purchase of your product.

Here are some important questions to ask:

  • Are they a C-suite executive looking to shore up the bottom line?
  • Are they unhappy with the status quo for reasons outside cost?
  • If you’re negotiating with someone who will need to advocate on your behalf, what’s in it for them?
  • How will they pitch it to their boss, and what can you do to help them enhance that pitch?

At the enterprise level, a certain set of standard features is basically required just to play ball: detailed analytics, big-time permission controls, heavy security, bulletproof uptime. But ask yourself what else you can provide that is specific to this particular product/market fit in order to differentiate yourself from the rest.

differentiation

It’s All About Asking Questions

While we focused on a particular example, regardless of the shape your product takes, achieving the right product/market fit when dealing with enterprise organizations is a continually evolving process that relies on your understanding every audience you’re serving and adapting to meet their needs.

Whether you’re offering point of sale software, project management technology, consumer experience solutions, or anything else, by making good relationships with the people who will ultimately benefit from and use your tools and always asking how you can more closely align your product with your market, you’ll be best poised to bring significant, statistical value to your clients.

If you do it well, you can let the results be your sales pitch when it comes to partnering with other enterprise businesses.