Can You Fall in Love with the Client (Product Owner)?

First Date and the Empathy

Finding a client for a software company and closing a deal is a hard job. I would say it’s similar to dating. You need to be smart and intelligent enough to surprise your date. You need to be different than competitors and have “something special” about you.

The client wants your help, because he comes with the problem. You don’t really talk much about yourself at first. You are a listener, but it’s also wise to ask some questions.

Many companies think that they have only one chance to sell to the clients – the first meeting or the first call. I believe it’s not true. Selling during the first call is one of the biggest mistakes people do. We live in a world where clients prefer to buy from people they trust and like. So your job is to make a good first impression and build a relationship. Be charming, professional and create some magic. Make sure that the client feels curious about you, wants to know more about what you do and he is willing to meet again.

The client doesn’t care about you in the first place. He has some challenges – he wants to share them with you and ask for your help. Put yourself in his shoes and try to imagine what’s his biggest problem and decide how you can solve it.

Then make the second step.

Successful Relationship – Where to Start

OK, let’s assume, he likes you. Chemistry works. He wants to go for another “date” with you and get to know you and your offer better. He believes that you can solve his problem and build his dreamed startup. Perfect. Now is the right moment to spend some time together and learn more about each other.

What are your client’s biggest worries?

  • that you might not understand him well enough
  • that communication will be hard
  • that you won’t deliver the product on time
  • that he will spend a lot of time and money without satisfying results
  • that you won’t walk your talk
  • that he risks building his dreamed app with unknown developers

But wait! As far as I know, in relationships there are two sides. As a supplier (software company), you have your own worries:

  • that the client doesn’t know what he wants to build
  • that he will be “teaching” software developers how to make an app (although he has never made any)
  • he will be hard to communicate with and access when asked for feedback and a decision

Can we find a satisfactory compromise in such a scenario?

Sure, we just need to talk about all our expectations and find a mutual communication style. Everyone should feel comfortable. If the client is a person who never has time for discussing his project with you (he rather prefers to send you A4 brief and he expects the pricing ASAP and the deliverability of the app within 1-2 months), maybe you should let it go. Look for serious people, who are willing to communicate. Building software with someone who doesn’t want to be a part of the team is really hard and demotivating for the software team.

Relationship Advice Number 1: Let’s Play Our Roles

In most cases, the client is a smart guy. He has a Big Idea, some budget and a Vision. He makes a decision about the team he will be working with and on the product he will build. In Agile, we call this guy a Product Owner – he owns it, he makes tests with users and on each stage he decides WHAT will be built.

On the other side, you also have some smart people – software developers. Geeks, who know the technology, who have done many apps before and have best practices worked out. They are mostly responsible for HOW to build the product.

Together, both sides create a TEAM. The challenge is that they need to understand each other, accept some rules in the process and keep their motivation on a high level.

We’ve Been There, We’ve Done That

When I was with Piotr in Berlin we’ve met people from the Interactive Agency Battalion. We’ve done a project together and after that, we’ve met Josaiah, who decided to build an app with us. We decided to go to Berlin (five developers and the project manager) to build a relationship and share the know-how about the software development.

The Product Backlog Workshop

Before someone starts building his startup, we always recommend spending a couple of days with the tech team. Sit together, explain things and focus on the most important issues. It’s time for writing user stories, defining all problems, discussing possible solutions and choosing the best ones.

All solutions combined create a Backlog – a list of all things that need to be done to launch the first version of the product. Of course, Backlog is a wish list, it’s hard to create everything, so the Product Owner needs to decide what are the most important functionalities and what to build first. Our tech team is responsible for building the product in the right way.

Implementation of a project from the Product Owner’s perspective requires close collaboration with the Development Team, where in addition to technical knowledge, we need necessary leadership skills and very efficient communication. The Team will be working on a project with the conviction that they are creating something valuable, and that they have an impact on it – it is up to them to make it even better with every line of code they write.

With GoGetDo, we spent 3 really intense days in Berlin, but it was worth it – many issues became clear and we saved a lot of time later in the process.

What are the benefits of the Product Backlog Workshop?

  • People get to know each other and start to like each other
  • They learn how to give feedback
  • They know the expectations on both sides
  • Thanks to Agile approach, you see how every week your product will be growing and as a Product Owner, you keep the control over the time, money and the process

Relationship Advice Number 2: Give Him Dumplings and Have Fun

After agreeing on a certain part of the app, we started development in Agile. There were a prototyping phase, weekly sprints, reviews and retrospections. We also invited Josaiah to come over. And guess what? He came to Gdynia! That was a really nice experience for him – it was his first time in Poland. He spent a couple of days with the Team. He tried Polish specialities like flaczki or dumplings and really enjoyed it. These days were extremely intense for him as a Product Owner and for the rest of the Team as well. Some parts of the Sprint happened outside of the Office. Fresh air = fresh ideas.

The Storm Is Coming

Like in every relationship, also in cooperation between the Product Owner and the Tech Team, there are some cloudy days. Some part of a specific functionality takes more time than estimated or Product Owner is changing his mind during the process. But this is the beauty of Agile – the openness to change and flexibility. Even if you argue sometimes, try to keep your emotions separate from the project and focus on solving the problem. Emotional intelligence is the key here.

Responsibility is split between the Product Owner and the Team. Both sides need to feel the ownership of the success at the end of the day.

Build It and Keep It

Maybe it can sound ridiculous, but building a long-term relationship with someone you love and building a software with the Product Owner doesn’t differ that much. In both scenarios what matters most is empathy, tolerance, establishing rules and forgiveness. People make mistakes, get tired and angry. To keep this “love” running, you need to work closely together, discuss problems quickly and appreciate the effort of the other side. You also need to motivate each other to make sure “the team spirit” stays intact.

What Does a Product Owner Think About It?

I have asked Josaiah about his experience. Being a Product Owner was kind of new challenge for him and it wasn’t easy at the beginning.

[Wypowiedź Josha”I think that being a Product Owner”]

The New Born Child Arrives

When you keep the relationship healthy, then the product is born. GoGetDo was created with passion and determination. Within a couple of months, we’ve crafted a really nice and useful product.

It’s a mobile app and a web service where you can be a supplier eg. help someone take care of his pet, or you can be a buyer – you can ask someone for help.

See it in action:

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We keep fingers crossed for GoGetDo team and their success!

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