What really is on your customers mind?

04 Feb 2017

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Recently I wrote 2 blogs (tell me more, be an intern) talking about tips to conduct an effective customer/prospect interview for product managers. This blog wraps up the tail end of that series.

One of the most effective power questions is “What else is on your mind”. I picked this one up from the Coaching Habit by Michael Stanier. In the book, Michael calls it the mother-of-all-power-questions (ok, you got me, I am exaggerating :-)). I often employ it with my team on the front end of a conversation to land at the key issue that is troubling them and can attest to its efficacy.

Flip the order of the question and ask it at the tail end of an interview.

The customer by this time has gone through his laundry list of “urgent” issues with you and peppered you with a few good important problems.

They are spent – or are they? Hmm…

Now the customer has to dig really deep and this thinking often brings out key problems that may not be very obvious. These problems are usually the ones that you want to solve as product manager or at least help the product manager understand the customer.

Mind-meld – did you say?

A recent example from an interview:

We were recently at a customer and found that they spent substantial amount of time build reports to understand their Amazon costs. The entire hour and a half that we spent there, this didn’t come up – after all they were talking about their Jenkins delivery pipelines. Even they were surprised to realise that the problem was more important to them than they originally thought.

Finally, a customer conversation cannot be rated highly if the product manager hasn’t documented the interview, shared and discussed it with the team, had a couple of compelling deep dive conversations with the customer again.

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