Distinguishing Need to Have vs Must Have in Client Interviews


When I investigate enterprise client software needs, I can easily identify a list of things that can make them happier. (none are necessarily directly cost-cutting or revenue gaining, but all probably have indirect effects)

Now, how do I determine which ones will actually make a difference in upsell opportunities, net promoter score, stickiness, etc., and which are just nice-to-haves?

Background information: we have a business intelligence SaaS application, usually priced at six figures per year. While it's primarily BI focused, there are (and will be more) functionality closer intertwined with clients' workflows.

Product Management Customer Feedback Market Research

asked Oct 16 '13 at 06:38
113 points

3 Answers


It's very difficult to give a singular answer to that type of question

Especially with Enterprise, you have such a great variety of stakeholders, it's nearly impossible to come with what is the best strategy. Even if you specifically deal with CIO, some the deal closer will be personal appeal, others what this will do for their Accounting department or Operations

I'd say the best way is ask them, I can nearly guarantee when you ask them what their biggest problem with gathering or analyzing information is, almost all will have some sort of answer. If they don't, it's likely an "uphill massacre" for you to close them, and you shouldn't waste your time. This will also be invaluable feedback for you for future feature implementations, or sales strategy

I would also compile several test data collection for specified industries, to allow better relations from the audience. If you are visiting a bank and demonstrating with Metrics a software co would care about, even though it will give them an idea of your software'ss features, it won't stick as good as if it was banking specific data they deal with on a daily basis.

Thing is in Enterprise, and I know first hand. As hard as it is to believe, price is normally the lower deciding factor. Most of the time they want to know how this will add enterprise value, and basically what it will do for them. That needs to be your focus.


Our software can automatically detect deficiencies in your supply chain

Our software can discover hidden revenue opportunities

etc One thing is this is something that is an ART more than SCIENCE, it will come with experience. Don't get discouraged by rejection learn from it. What I have done in the past is make a strategy before the meeting, and a Post-Mortem after, usually this will teach me where I'm faulting and why

answered Oct 16 '13 at 08:46
820 points


It is hard to discover, I agree. But there are some ways to analyse what your clients need.

Each branch has its own challenges; for example, a special form of shipping-calculation, or workers-management-difficulties, or a special dataset or procedure that comes with a new customer. Identifying these needs will make the value of your solution clear to the CIO, CFO, CEO and whatever comes your way.

As a second solution, I would also just ask them. Everybody aims at efficiency, and most of your customers will be able to tell you where they can't achieve it. Anyway, don't rely on the answers (solely): Many people only think in their branches structures, and a solution that is simple or intuitive to you didn't cross their mind yet. Just ask them, how they would like it if things worked otherwise and present an alternative workflow - it's great if they like your idea, and you will learn more about their business model if they don't like it and be able to find a better way next time.

What it comes down to, is: It doesn't matter if your product adds a new button for "I feel happy today", but that it adds value, and value is always to make business processes more efficient. I don't know your product, and I don't know on which you focus - usability, big data stuff etc - but: in the end, business comes down to money, and you make your customers happy when they make more money easier with your product.

answered Oct 17 '13 at 05:58
121 points


If I add this feature will you prepay for a year of service right now? Answers: "Yes, please take my money right now" - the feature is a must have and solves a real pain point. "Yes if..." - feature not that important, better move to the next feature. "Maybe" - they don't care at all.

answered Oct 18 '13 at 06:39
1,569 points

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