Home > Agile > what value does bug fixing have for sales?

what value does bug fixing have for sales?

One of the problems I've had in previous positions was that sales people wanted more features and less bug fixes. The reason was that they thought that the lacking of certain features made customers go for another option or just skip the purchase all together while bug fixes had no effect on sales. The sales people thought if a bug wasn't visible on the demo, it wouldn't affect the sales. Now, this might seem harsh and the truth is not that black and white. Of course the sales people cared about their current customers (especially if they called and whined about the bugs) but in principle, they thought that bug fixes didn't affect new customer sales.

I can sometimes see the same strategy with some "waterfall project managers". With this I mean project managers who believes strongly in a fixed specification and sees the goal of the project being meeting that primal specification to the budget and within the time frame. Fixing those irritating bugs just don't lead to that objective, if the bugs are not directly hindering the stuff in the specification.

I've seldom have had great arguments which these guys have grasps. Yes, I do have arguments but these work best on those who already are sold on agile values. But with The Ultimate Question and the research discussed in this book also gives me the figures to back this up. Because bugs do affect new customers sale even if you can hide the bugs during demo. And bugs are directly contra productive when it comes to forfilling project objectives.

If you've read my previous posts on The Ultimate Question, you know that question. In other cases, here goes again. It's a question you ask a customer: How likely is it that you would recommend product/organization X to a friend or a collegue. The people answering 9-10 are called promotors while people answering 1-6 are called detractors. If you subtract the detractors from the promotors you have a value, Net Promotor Score, which is a value of your customer relations. This gives you an idea of future sales, since detractors talk other customers from selecting you and the promotors works like recruiters.

So, what about the bugs? If you look at software, what keeps people talking about software in common discussions. Well, some people can talk positively about a feature or two but what really gets people talking is faulty software. "I tried purchasing X from e-com store YU, and it didn't work even if I tried ten times", "Oh, that crappy software failes every time I try downloading a file to my computer". You don't have to go far on the Internet to read someone complaining about bugs in software. As for my self, the reason for my having almost no confidence in IBM/Lotus isn't the lacking features in Lotus Notes, but the loads of bugs. And I complain about that. I'm more likely to complain about software that doesn't work than bragging about something that do work. I never went around spilling the beans about the lacking bugs in Exchange and Outlook. Occasionally, I could just mention this, but more often it was in response to someone else's complaining about their failing e-mail system.

So, I do think that bugs creates more detractors than features creates promotors, and this is why bug fixing should be of highest priority to every sales division. The features might get the demo to result in a closure, but the bugs might preventing you from ever giving that demonstration. I don't have the research here to back me up, but this would be a really interesting field of research. But I think that the principles described in The Ultimate Question backs this up.

All projects should aim at creating more promotors than detractors and with this in mind, the bug fixes should also be of interest of hard core waterfall project managers.

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Categories: Agile
  1. 2009/07/24 at 2:13 pm

    Good article, tweeted it!

  2. Anna Forss
    2009/07/24 at 4:07 pm

    glad that you enjoyed it! Hope you take the time to read The Ultimate Question!

  3. vernymusac
    2009/07/28 at 8:05 am

    You’re right; I see another illustration of that Vista vs OS-X.
    The core problem is that IT People do not think like Sales People and otherwise. In Sales & Marketing, you have a paradigm that tells you that you’re spending 7x more money to catch a new customer than keeping your client.
    Don’t miss bugs are cool!

  4. 2009/08/06 at 2:39 pm

    Hi Anna,
    I haven’t read The Ultimate Question yet, but I like to have simple heuristics like promoters vs detractors to call upon when discussing the ever-elusive “value”. Intuition tells me you’re correct that bugs create more detractors than features creates promoters.

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