When bringing a new product to life, you need to define the market very well. You need to define your industry, your geography, your demographic of use (in tremendous detail), your competition, your competitive advantage, your price focus (what to sell it for), your cost focus (what to make it for), your benefits to the users and then, and only then, KEY features of your product.
You need to do all of this BEFORE you speak to an industrial designer and engineers. You need to write it down and you need to send it out in advance of any preliminary meetings. Also, include links to any online additional information that is helpful in adding detail to the information you want to provide.
You need to think of the technical team, manufacturing team and distribution team as actors in a play you are developing. We've all been to a play at one time or another. You start a play with a time, a place, a setting, characters AND THEN the dialogue. I have been in far too many product strategy meetings were people start throwing out "lines" of the play without any context at all. They start talking about colors and very specific product features. But there is no context. It means nothing. There is no background or setting. It's a big waste of time. As you can imagine the "actors", the technical people, really have no clue about their role and no context by which to give constructive feedback. You'll either get silence or you'll get appeasement. What you won't get is real feedback. This isn't the start you need to your project.
Start with a Problem
If you are struggling with how to begin a dialogue with technical people then start at the beginning. Start with the problem you are trying to solve. Business product problems usually go something like this: We have a product, but it's not competitive in the market any more. We need a product that is cheaper to manufacture. We are changing our business model and we need products to match where we're going. You can get specific - 50% of electrical power is lost in the transmission lines and we're going to do something about that. Consumer products usually go something like this: Older people can't read the small writing on prescription bottles. Baby strollers aren't designed for men to push. Children lose all the small parts to creative toys.
Starting with a problem helps people wrap their brains around the problem you're trying to solve. The great thing is their brains are different than your brain. So they'll look at things differently. There usually is a flood of questions and a very healthy dialogue ensues. Intuitively various technical parties will start considering and ruling out certain features and functions of a product.
Avoid Executive Level Objectives
Many times business or marketing owners will state market sales goals or revenue goals. This usually doesn't mean anything to technical people. Chances are they don't know your industry or business (if outsourced) and they're not "wired" to tackle business management problems. You can state some company goals related to these things but posing them as the problem to solve will yield little to nothing in the way of progress.
Bring in Props
If you are working on replacing or upgrading products then bring in the old products. Cut them open. Have plastic bags full of parts and pieces. If you are trying to beat specific competitive products then do the same thing with competitor products. The technical people will be in "candy land" looking at different aspects of what exists and they will quickly be discussing what they observe related to your problem to solve and their will be many ideas as outcomes.
Prioritize Your Goals
As a CTO I often got frustrated with other executives that want "everything under the sun". They won't prioritize anything because they believe setting a very high bar is the way to get the biggest "bang for the buck". This is utter nonsense. We have a saying in tech development - time, money or quality - pick two. The reality is no individual, business or government has infinite money or time to devote to a project. When you are creating something new, particularly if you're doing research and development then the simple fact is NO ONE has the answers on cost and time for an excellent product upfront. Answers develop over time during the project. Ultimately the unforeseen happens and how a team responds to these events is based on the prioritization of the goals.
I want every executive to pay particular attention to the following - if you do not set priorities for your product development project then the technical team will set those priorities for you. And often they are not the priorities you'd have set yourself. Washing your hands of project priorities is a political cop out. Don't do it.
When developing a product and setting preliminary meetings with technical teams you want to start at a high level, set the stage and give details prior to meeting. You want to start with problems you're looking to solve. You want oto hand out "goodies" to review and you want to state your product/project goals in a stated order of priority.
Do these things and you'll be winning allies and accelerate the start of your project.