ROI of Usability and What it Can Teach a Salesman

Why Usability has Adoption Issues
I often wonder why it is companies don’t embrace usability as the key ingredient to success of their web site, product or app. For some reason the UX practitioner is often tasked with more time spent proving ROI versus improving the product.

Why?  I know the answer and you do too.  It’s because usability adds time to the project.  Right?  NO.  Sorry.  Actually, it doesn’t.  Usability is a HUGE time-saver.

Poor product designThe problem is that the time is saved on the back-end.  The time is saved when you don’t have 100 revisions.  The time is saved when you don’t have to be shocked that your users hate your web site , which is then followed by a complete redesign.  The time is saved in the long-run, but how boring is that?  However,  would you rather plan ahead or produce junk that results in an angry customer, a damaged reputation and a product that’s lost its value?

So, why doesn’t Usability get the love it deserves?  Usability doesn’t afford instant gratification.  It takes thinking, planning and forethought!  I know some folks have never heard of planning, much less budgeting time and money for it.  But you should try it some time.  It’s fantastic!

I have literally seen two similar projects with similar requirements end up with a final budget that was 500 hours  and $650,000 different.  What was the one difference?  Usability practices were implemented in one, but not the other.  One project stretched on for 18 months and the other was done in 5 months.  Usability is the key ingredient to the success of web sites, products and apps.

But how does this extremely short Usability soap box relate to Sales?
Glad you asked.

How does a typical sales guy tackle an opportunity/project?Bad Sales Approach
Peterson is our new sales guy.  Peterson wants to sell Steve, the VP at WorldCom, a startling, new pen.  He starts out parleying features, benefits, the ability to write upside down, the colors and fancy graphic on the side, etc…  That’s all well and good, but he forgot one thing: the customer’s point of  view.

Here are 3 mistakes Salesmen (and business owners) make:

  1. Wrong assumptions.
  2. Wrong approach.
  3. Wrong messenger.

1. Peterson made some wrong assumptions.
Peterson forgot to ask Steve and WorldCom how they feel about pens.

  • Does WorldCom like pens?
  • Does Steve know how to use a pen?
  • Does WorldCom use pens in their company?

2. Peterson also took the wrong approach.
Why not ask Steve questions instead of taking the used car salesman approach.

  • How has Steve’s past experiences with pens been?
  • Is there any way Steve feels the pen can be improved?
  • When writing with the pen, does it feel comfortable in his hand?
  • If Steve needs to click the pen to start writing, does he know how?
  • Does he know what the clip on the side of the pen is used for?

3. Lastly, Peterson may have been the wrong messenger.
Too often we get in the way of a sale or a user’s progress.

Many times just the fact that a usability practitioner is in the room is going to taint the user experience.  It may be better to use a lab with little or no guidance to the user.  The same goes true for a car.  Just let the driver get in and take a spin.  Then ask him about his experience.  Sometimes, the customer simply may not like the sales person.  Don’t take is personally.  Perhaps you’re too new to understand this long-time customer, too clean cut to sell Harleys, too _____ to sell _____.

My advice: Listen

Usability - iPhoneIn the end, it’s all very simple no matter what line of work you’re in.  Listen to the customer.  Discover their needs before you go planning, designing, building, and selling a product that’s not useful or needed.  Time is so valuable.  Spend a little on the front-end to save an abundance of time on the back-end.   Why not avoid an angry customer, a damaged reputation and a product with no value?

Do it right and you may end up with a revolutionary product.


About Tom Brauch

Love your family. Serve others. Try your best. Make friendship a fine art. Drink deeply from good books. Make each day your masterpiece. Give thanks for your blessings. Master your emotions. Accept responsibility. Reject passivity. Lead courageously. Don't hold onto things. Play hard. Work with passion. Put integrity first. Laugh at the world. Persist until you succeed. Act now. Refine.
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