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April 16, 2015

[DECODING CUSTOMER VALUE THROUGH PATENT RESEARCH]

In some occasions, sales professionals succumb to the overwhelming pressure of targets and end up crafting
slapdash proposals for customers. Trainees are most likely to fall prey to this predicament. Such proposals are less
likely to command value and may not even get the customer vaguely interested. While a learning curve is inevitable
in any profession, there are ways in which amateurs could enrich their value along such a grueling expedition.
Customary sales pitches entail an inward-out approach of introducing your companys spectrum of offerings to a
potential customer and highlighting your track record of success. This renders a substantial element of the sales
outcome to chance. Repeated follow-ups may eventually land you a chance to meet the customer; but, would the
size of your company and the bucket of offerings alone, emphatically communicate your value to them? How would
you differentiate your pitch to wheedle out valuable insights?
Published literature is replete with patents that offer an alternative to enhance the likelihood of a positive
outcome; and if not sales, at least provide plenty of customer fodder to chew on. The following are some of the
insights that spurt out of patents.

New Applications: One could validate the understanding of their product fitment through evidence
centered around their tested use in existing as well as emerging applications
Value: Patents highlight the key performance properties desired by the application. Couldnt one use them
to anticipate the characteristics that are of value to the customer?
Brand Chemistry: Traditional customer research over the public domain merely renders the product data
sheets of their brand without any discernible clue of their genetic code. One way to delve deeper is to
understand what DNA constitutes those brands. Such nuggets ooze out of patents.
New Customers: A new customer base or a market could emerge out of the cross-references that are listed
in the bibliography. Each patent credits the source of ideas borrowed from other patents. These lead to
other potential customers affiliated with the same family of products or related application segments.
Evolution: If suppliers aspired to trace a 4D technological roadmap, the chronology of patents could help
them track the evolutionary course of a customers technology. Such a course sets a precedent for making
prudent forecasts. These forecasts could then be exploited to chart out a potential roadmap.
Competitors: If one could obtain the above insights for customers, what could potentially hinder them from
unleashing such a Pandoras Box for a competitor assessment?

Dont these benefits exemplify a potential to improve your credibility as a supplier, who is also gifted with
supplementary knowledge of providing solutions?
A sales representative could argue against the practical utility of such a repository. Beware of the heuristic bias
hidden behind a sales approach, which is focused on closure; rarely on investigation. If one has to unearth customer
value from such conversations, it is imperative to don an inquisitive hat of a researcher. Not to discount the
capabilities of the sales workforce, however, to illustrate that such empathetic curiosity is more likely to build
sustainable relationships rather than transactional closures.
Despite the benefits of such a pervasive repository encapsulating technical and market insights, there are
limitations that surround patents. While patents offer a theoretical view on mapping products with applications,
they may not screen applications that appear to be unfeasible from a regulatory standpoint. Regardless, patent
research certainly offers an effective pitch to strike a more intimate conversation with the customer.
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Author: Shekhar Srinivasan| Email srinivasan.shekhar@gmail.com, Contact: +91-9930225969