Will that be drill bits or holes, to take away?

Inevitably, in every workshop I run, we reach a point where I have to ask everyone in the room whether they are purchasers of drill bits, or users of holes.

The drill bits versus holes’ analogy is so old, and so often used, it is in danger of disappearing in a puff of dust. At least it appears that way to me. So I am constantly surprised when I discover people who haven’t heard it before.

This is a simple test, and one that anyone rarely fails. Do you go to Bunnings to buy a drill bit, or do you visit the red and green barn because you need a hole?

Of course you do? Why would anyone purchase a long, thin piece of metal, for any reason other than to create a hole. I’ve got a tool box full of the things. But the only time I ever bring them out is when I need a hole.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees my point.

When I generously suggested that anyone rarely fails the ‘drill bit’ test, I was naturally referring to people who can see the distinction – between product and need.

From bitter experience I can attest to the fact that there are still way too many business owners and managers out there, who struggle with the concept of ‘customer need’. People who are obsessed with getting the product right, while paying scant attention to the needs of the people who will buy it.

Put yourself, your organisation, or even your ‘boss’ to the test, by asking how focused are you, or they, on your customer’s need?

The way to do this is relatively straightforward. What we are looking for is how well they distinguish between features and attributes (product focused), and benefits (needs focused), of their product or service.

Let me give you a simple example: medical knowledge is a required feature of all doctors; wisdom is an attribute of only some. And taking that to its logical conclusion: the benefit of wisdom to the customer, in the doctor scenario, is better health through better diagnosis.

Bluntly, the feature of medical knowledge for a doctor, is the same as safety for Volvo cars – no longer a point of difference because all cars have to be safe. Wisdom is profound, and a desirable attribute, but it is only when you turn it into something the customer wants or needs, that you really see the value of the benefit.

Allan Bonsall
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