Steve Neiderhauser has suggestions on why and how engineers should interact with customers:
Heres a couple ideas you may find yourself using during lunch and learn sessions.
Tell a demonstration story: In The Story Factor, author Annette Simmons tells us that a demo story is the next best thing to an actual demonstration. She writes about a trainer at a gym who has a tough product to sell: exercise. If everyone listened to facts, wouldnt our nation be in better physical shape? Instead of facts, the trainer tells a playful story to show the benefits of exercise. Story is a pull strategy that works. Combine visual with metaphor: Gerald Zaltman, author of How Customers Think, refers to research indicating that the use of metaphor together with visual imagery lies at the heart of all major advances in science. He suggests listening to your customers to determine what metaphors they use for your product.
During your presentation, use the pull of visual and metaphor to describe the benefits of your product. Not only will your customers remember your product (metaphor is at the core of memory), your engineers will likely start to think visually and create edges for your products.
What do I think of engineers talking with customers? Im glad you asked. How could they not talk with your customers? If you allow narrow thinking to limit your employees, wouldnt that create a danger for your company–and a life-threating environment for start-ups? For narrow thinking is a broken-winged bird that cant fly past the first round of financing.
How is this possible? In Seth Godins latest book, Free Prize Inside, he tells us that everyone works in marketing (yes, even engineers); that making your product remarkable causes customers to remark to others about your company.