If your organization’s growth is constrained by not generating enough valuable new opportunities, you need to either improve the quantity or the quality of your time in the marketplace (or potential marketplace).
Once you are out there, here are nine ways to find unmet needs that you might be able to solve.
1. Ask people what their biggest problem is – What’s their Excedrin headache? You can qualify it to an area where you might be able to help (e.g. what’s your biggest problem with your current approach to …)
2. Probe about workarounds – Can you develop a product or service that eliminates the workaround?
3. Ask what their single biggest limitation to selling more is – Is there something you can do to help them get more out of a constrained process – either more units of the same value or same number of higher value units?
4. Ask what’s changing in their business and marketplace – like Wayne Gretzky said, “Skate to where the puck is going to be.” Are the changes they are facing creating any limitations or problems you might be able to address. What force is causing that change?
5. Watch people doing their job – Do you see any odd behavior, actions, or behavior caused by limitations of the products, processes, or services that they are using today?
6. Ask about muda – If they aren’t a Lean shop, they won’t know that you’re talking about waste. So ask them about the most frustrating waste they see in their operation – what new product ideas might that lead you to?
7. Follow the money – Ask where is the working capital tied up in their operation? Is there any way you could create a product or service that would free up some of that cash?
8. Ask their customers – Okay, this one requires some delicacy. But a good understanding of the value chain is a critical if you want to add value in the strongest way possible – by helping them increase sales throughput. You could even ask their other suppliers – at least the ones that you don’t compete with.
9. Ask their competitors – Why not? You’re not going to share competitive information, but the more complete a picture you can get of the industries unmet needs the better your chances of coming up with one you might be able to address.
Of course you may notice that asking them what they want is not on the list – here’s why.
What can you add to this list?