Someone always asks the tough questions

Is your customer the first one to ask the tough questions about your product?

"Who is this even for?"

If your customer is the first one to ask the tough questions about your product, then Houston, we have a problem.

Does any of this sound familiar? Your product isn't gaining traction in the market, sales is thrashing to find a fit, your product team appears to be stalled and unmotivated.

In my experience working with various product organizations, this is more common than you might think. Whether your organization isn't asking the tough questions or you are misaligned on the answers, the result is often the same: a product without a customer and your investment without a return.

What are some of those tough questions? These are a few that I like to start with:

"Who is this for?"

"Why do they need it?"

"Where do we start?"

Diving into each of these uncovers motivations and context that a product team needs to deliver an appropriate solution and capture an opportunity. These are seemingly simple questions, but often misalignment between leadership and product teams happens here. Your role is to ensure people are aligned on these beyond just product — sales, marketing, support, operations — you get the picture.

While these questions each deserve a deep dive, let's take a look at them briefly.

Who is this for?

Give your team an understanding of the target customer by asking "Who is this for?". Crucially, this also gives them an understanding of who it is not for. If the buyer and user are different, getting into those details is also important.

Why do they need it?

This uncovers the core problem or customer pain point. An understanding of the problem allows the team to focus on what's most important to unlock the opportunity. Rather than trying to solve all problems at once, they can focus on what matters most.

That leads to my favourite question...

Where do we start?

We can't satisfy all customers right out of the gate, so who do we start with? We can't solve all problems at once, so what problem do we solve first? We can't build everything overnight, so where do we start? We spend a lot of time talking about our final goals and destinations, but it is imperative that we focus our efforts on the first steps that build momentum and traction — for your team in your organization, and for your product in the market.

Deferring discussion around these questions can create chaos for product teams. The team is actualizing theories and concepts into reality — this is where all the unknowns start to present themselves, and guidance is crucial. With alignment around the answers to these questions, product teams are able to wisely focus their efforts.

While it might be uncomfortable to talk about it in the moment, you can never defer it completely. Someone always asks the tough questions. Don't let your customers be the first ones to do it.

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