On walkabout in life and technology

No Sale: It Does Not Have What We Can and Will Not Use

As a buyer of software, I always focus on what the software does do. If it does what I need to do well, and the price is right, I buy it, I use it and I gain the productivity benefits from it.

As a seller of software, I find potential customers focus on what the product does not do, and use this as a reason to avoid purchasing. That’s fine as long as the missing feature is something they can and do or will use. But it makes no sense to me when the missing feature is something that they already have and do not use, don’t know how to use or have no reason to use.

As a result, they remain with a painful process or outdated system, one that does not do what mine does do that they need (and why I’m selling to them in the first place).

For example, with regards to my Kifu product, these two conversations have happened many times:

  • Kifu does not have a report writer module. Instead, it does have a comprehensive set of reports. Several potential customers have stated that without a report writer, they will not buy Kifu. However, their existing software does have a report writer which they have never used and cannot figure out, and it did not come with any reports. They had to pay extra to hire the vendor to create reports for them (all of which Kifu already provides). We did not create a report writer for this exact reason, no-one except programmers can use report writers, and most clients need the same reports! But no sale because no report writer.
  • Kifu also does not have a user accessible query generator to enable users to create their own database queries. Several potential clients stated that the competitor’s product which they are using and wish to replace (which is why they are talking to us) does have this feature, so no sale. But only one out of about twenty actually used the feature or even knew how to find it. The remainder did not purchase because of a feature they themselves admitted they could not use. Go figure.

One could argue that these are both just-in-case type features. But the reality is that these are features for developers, not normal users; and their existence is a sign that the product is not feature complete. A report writer indicates that the vendor does not understand the reporting needs of their clients, a query engine implies the vendor does not understand the information needs of clients. In both cases, though, the vendor gets called in to use these features on behalf of the client because the client cannot. And if they don’t exist, the vendor gets called anyway. So what, really, is the difference?

I was always taught to talk about the benefits of a product, and to be honest about what it does not do. What I don’t understand is the decision to reject a better product because it does not have a feature you can and will never use.

Rant over.

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