The 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross may have been a commercial failure, but it will live on in infamy because of the iconic scene of Alec Baldwin’s epic sales motivational speech.
The movie, based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play by David Mamet was a critical darling with an amazing cast (Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, and Kevin Spacey). It is a behind-the-scenes look at a real estate sales office and the pressure put upon those who work within it. Alec Baldwin’s character (Blake) is sent in by the owners to motivate the sales team. In his motivational speech, he introduces two great concepts to the sales team ABCs and AIDA.
AIDA is a foundational concept of sales and marketing in America, originated by advertising and sales pioneer E. St. Elmo Lewis, it stands for Attention – Interest – Desire – Action. It is a great concept that anyone in product management, marketing or sales should be aware of, and perhaps could make a great blog post all on its own. (note to self)
ABC stands for Always Be Closing – that is what a sales person does, they close. Not sure what more has to be said about this, but you can check out the speech here:
The Importance of Discovery
As I work with my clients around being market focused, and outside-in in their growth strategies I introduce the concept of Discover – Understand – Validate as a key part of their job. Whether it is in updating an existing product or bringing a new idea to reality, Discover is focused on utilizing market sensing capabilities to Discover new opportunities. This could be an unmet need or an under-met need, but as a product manager responsible for innovation and growth, you need to Discover the opportunities. I call these Market Opportunity Hypotheses (bringing the concept of scientific method to the table – see my blog “A Method for Product Management – A Scientific Method”). Once we have a Market Opportunity Hypothesis, we then want to further Understand that opportunity. Get into market segments, personas, motivations and understanding where one segments ends and another starts. We want to identify granular problems that could be addressed to bring value to the customer. Validate is taking those granular findings/assumptions back to the market to get them quantified, and then that data can help you in building your business case and plan (see Stacey Weber’s blog “Math Matters: Why Numbers are Fundamental in a Market Driven Company”).
Product Managers have a lot of responsibilities beyond Discover – Understand – Validate. They collaborate with product delivery and go-to-market teams (sales and marketing), many manage P&L’s for their product, and more, but due to the importance of Discover they need to Always Be Discovering new ideas for where they can provide or increase value for customers. This does not have to be customer interviews all the time (though they are useful). You can read (research, message boards for your industry, blogs, etc.), go to events (conferences, seminars, etc.), analyze customer requests, look at emerging market segments, and much more to identify new ideas.
This is actually not something new, at least for engineers. 3M famously gave their people 15% of their work time to focus on their own ideas, which helped lead to 25% of revenue coming from products introduced in the past five years. Google has done similar with their 20% rule. These companies understand that Innovation is key to growth and to be innovative you need to give your people time to work on new things that interest them.
Discovery Should be an Ongoing Effort
This is what I mean by the ABDs of Product Management. Product Managers should be looking for new ideas – Market Opportunities. This practice is not just a solo effort, product managers should also make sure they are talking with anyone in the company who is engaged in the market, talking to customers and as such could have their own ideas. You should create a backlog of these opportunities so when time or resources come available, you can choose the best opportunity to further Understand, Validate, and if it is validated take to market.
If you stop Discovering, you stop finding opportunities for growth – opportunities to improve your product to increase growth, opportunities to add functionality that gets non-customers into the market, opportunities to take your solution into adjacent and similar markets, opportunities for add-on functionality that customers will pay for, opportunities to solve new problems for your customers – you get the picture.
Innovation and growth start with discovery, if you want to talk about innovation and growth or my views on best practices for discovery, or just about Glengarry Glen Ross, I would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in learning about how the partners at Product Growth Leaders can help your team improve your discovery, innovation or growth, check out Product Growth Leaders Services at: https://productgrowthleaders.com/services/.