Haven’t done your front-end homework? — A Wile E. Coyote moment.

Sales people can be negligent when doing homework on a growth project.

My product development clients call me in when they suspect the homework is out-dated. They hire me to discover what customers want now in new products in the growth opportunity.

During this quest, I find well-informed persons that sales people haven’t contacted. Talking to these persons, I elicit the bedrock of up-to-date homework.

Now, as in the case example, the development manager has a clear picture of how to capture growth from the opportunity. Growth, in a platform technology like wind turbines, proceeds in stop and go fits. In the case example, up-to-date homework found a good growth opportunity. The client pursued it and became a major supplier to the US wind turbine market.

Case example

The Case of the Salespersons Who Blew Off Homework on the Wind Turbine Market

Erica is the new, Product Development Director at a European electronics company. Her first job is to size up a current growth project’s chance of success. She saw that, in this project, the salespersons heading it had not done their homework. They assumed they would re-enter the US market using data collected when they left 7 years ago.

Erica knew the salespersons’ information was outdated. She hired me to find out which US customers were interested in her company’s wind turbine component.

I gathered and analyzed 30 interviews with knowledgable endusers in the wind-turbine industry. It was a blind study. I did not disclose the name of my client.

Findings

The salespersons’ data was obsolete. They had withdrawn from the US market when lower oil prices and cutoff of government aid cut demand. Now, 7 years later, demand for turbine installations in the US was booming. GE was the only major US-based customer for my client’s turbine component.

Engineers I interviewed at GE did not use my client’s component. Instead, they used a competitive component made by a local firm.

Results

In the report to Erica I recommended that she use a salesperson, skilled in customized interaction, to gain the trust of the GE engineers.

She did this. Within a year Erica’s firm was the preferred supplier of the component to GE. Today GE Renewable Energy is a major customer for the firm’s turbine component.