I am one of the fortunate sons in our field. I was lucky and ended up at a software company in North East Ohio that is one of the best in the world. With year over year growth and a very progressive culture, there is something that our company is doing right.

With well over 1,000 employees at our headquarters campus alone, imagine how excited I was to get into a small 10 person group and listen to one of the founders of the company speak about success and the future. At first I didn’t know what to consume and what to discard. Ideas and inspiration seemed to ooze from him. Until then, he asked a question. A question that has been burning in my mind since the moment I heard it uttered. This question, I quickly realized was the secret to all of his success, the company’s success and likely the corner stone of any great company.

“Imagine you are here to sell me your software. I am a CEO and I just gave you your chance to do an elevator pitch, go.”

We all looked around the room, until someone finally spoke up.
“Well sir, our software is capa…” the VP cut him off. “NEXT!”

Shocked, a moment went by until someone else said “You see sir, we can save you… “
“NEXT” said the VP

We were all baffled. None of us had a clue what he wanted. Until then he said it.
The single question, the sentence that has plagued my mind from the moment of its utterance.

“What do you need?” he said in a monotone voice.

This simple sentence, these four simple words, cut through my cerebellum just like it cut to the heart of the sale.

“What do you need?” he said again. This time with a little more vigor.

“This is the root of any real problem. There is an issue and there is only one thing that the CEO with this issue is thinking. Get it fixed. Sure budget is in his mind somewhere but really what it comes down to is the CEO is the quarterback and he needs to get something done in order to continue pushing forward. “

I don’t know if it was intentional or if he did it unwittingly, but one of our vice presidents just gave us the cornerstone to every successful business. Figure out what your client needs and the work from there. If you solve their problem better than the other guy, it’s okay if you’re more expensive because your product is worth it.

So how can we apply this to mobile app development? Well that’s not nearly as hard as solving enterprise problems. Almost every single person you know likely has a phone of some sort. Go out and interact with people. Watch them use apps. Ask them questions about what they need to get done. One of the best things you could do might be shadowing someone at work for a day. Maybe follow around your local mechanic or loan officer. Who knows, maybe you will notice something they do that is long and drawn out. You could simplify it and start a whole new sector in your market!

If you by chance live in the middle of an Amish community and you’ve only heard of mobile phones then there is still hope. You can look through all of the major mobile markets online. There is a number of ways to tear it apart but the key thing to do is find something you want to build and look at the reviews of your competitors. You might just find a gold nugget in there. Something like “This app blows! Why can’t I save my widget when I am done!” Bingo, that’s a feature of your app now. Consider that customer sold on yours because you are solving a need.

Regardless how you intend on getting customer data only one fact remains. Instead of trying to sell your software to the customer. Find out what they need and build to that. This is the heart of good business.


Author: Anthony Russell

1 Comment
  • Mia Evans

    I like that you pointed out that it would be helpful to ask people around for the software they use to really get things done. I can imagine how connections to other people will help businesses find the right type of software for their needs. Once they do so, they could definitely succeed in their field and this could also be a big help to any startup.

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