Understanding the Concept of a Preferential User

One of the fundamentals of any successful business is the concept of continuously improving business performance. For companies that produce tangible products this concept of continuous improvement is particularly important. Such companies must invest heavily in the field of product development, because without such improvements the products they produce today will be quickly superseded by those of their competitors.

As a salesperson you may be asked to identify preferential users to help with new product design. If you are, do you know how to identify one?

Many companies involve their clients in the conception stage of all new and improved products they intend to produce. They do this because it provides them with unique insights and so produces a better product which will give them a competitive advantage.

Often the best way of enlisting the help of clients to improve business performance is by observing the use of the existing product. For example, Bosch engineers asked buyers in several friendly dealerships if they could come to their premises to watch them using the machines. The insights they gained helped to shape the future business developments of the Bosch product range.

To be useful in product design and development a client needs to be highly product-aware. Such clients are often called “preferential users”. To be a preferential user the client must meet three fundamentals, or preconditions, which are:

1. Preferential users must be more demanding than your normal business consumers.

Only the most awkward and demanding clients and dealers represent any incentive for progress. Preferential users need to challenge you and your current practices. Without such challenge useful new developments are less likely to occur.

2. Preferential users must be willing to co-operate.

Incorporating clients into the conception stage of new and improved products presupposes that they are interested in collaborating in your research and development programme. This can be achieved by the business granting them several benefits for doing this.

In the industrial sector, clients often appreciate the competitive advantage they get by being the first user of an innovative product, even if this is only for a relatively short period of time.

3. Preferential users must be representative of your markets

When selecting your preferential users they need to be representative of the geographical areas in which your new products will be used. International companies need to be aware of the different needs and wishes of the different national users. Therefore, they need to seek out preferential users from the clients and dealers from each country the product is, or will be, used. Improving business performance for one market alone is not good enough.