Give a solution to a client's problem – you have: 6 seconds

Finns have been criticised as being excessively engineer-like in R&D: first there's an interest in what is technically possible, and only later thought is given to what kind of product could be possible. Some even mistakenly imagine that if an outcome is sufficiently impressive technically, it will sell itself.

Consultant Marianne Poulsen, a Dane who now lives in Germany, gives the Finns partial absolution. Finns, and Nordic citizens in general, tend to be very issue-oriented, and this is not just something negative.

Poulsen has collaborated with Tekes for a long time. She trains Finnish companies funded by Tekes in clarifying their own value proposition - first to themselves, and then to their clients. As one of her tools she uses the so-called NABC model, which was adopted by Tekes some years ago. The abbreviation comes from the words need, approach, benefits, and competition.

The idea is to turn technology-focused thinking in the opposite direction: first, recognise a client's need or unresolved problem and then move backward in the chain, toward a solution and possibilities of success on the market. According to Poulsen, the most important thing is to understand that value is always defined by the client. It sounds self-evident, but this is not always the case.

"Customers know their needs or problems, but are not necessarily capable of coming up with the best solution. As Henry Ford once said, if he had asked his customers what they wanted, the answer would have been faster horses", Poulsen says.

"Another significant aspect is tirelessly refining the solution. No matter how good the first idea might have been it can always be improved. Always."

Poulsen adds one more key question: user-orientation. The experience of the final user affects the value of the solution even when the user and buyer are different people.

"This is a traditional problem with companies' information systems, for instance: decisions to buy are made by the company's IT department, and if the final user is forgotten, the result is a system that is underused. The same aspect needs to be considered in the security sector as well. There as well, the buyer is often not the same person as the user."

Think clearly, and the speech will follow

Tekes began offering NABC training to companies and researchers about four years ago. The training is often considered to be presentation training, but it is aimed at changing business thinking on a deeper level.

One of the companies taking part in NABC training is IsCom. The company develops solutions of remote monitoring used in support of home care for the elderly, for example.

"The way of thinking and the way of presentation changed, and I have used my learning and the transparency that I produced while in training to support my sales work. Other participants in the training gave constant feedback, and the material was altered again and again, so that it was in very good form at the end of the training", IsCom sales engineer Olli Järvinen says.

"Finnish companies often explain things in excessive detail, and too technically. Too much information eats away the clients' interest", he continues.

"This applies also to researchers. None of them like the idea of sales pitching. But if you've got an idea that you want take forward, you have to sell it to others: security authorities, private companies, management in your own organization and outside funding organizations. Safety and security utilizes so many different sciences, I felt we had to do something to find common language. End-users like rescue services don't have the time or even ability to judge long scientific project proposals. And yet we need everyone in to come up with new solutions," says Suvi Sundquist, Programme Manager.

As Marianne Poulsen points out: if you have to present your case to someone who does not know anything about it beforehand, studies indicate that you have about six seconds to raise his or her interest! And that takes training!

Additional information

Programme Manager Suvi Sundquist, Tekes
Tel. +358 2950 55675
suvi.sundquist (at)

Text: Tommi Niittymies

Tiina Lifländer

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