It’s important to have a plan and follow an interview script to gather consistent data points on all your prospects (you can read more on customer interview code of conduct here).
Questions around the business drivers, the problems, the intensity of the pain, the problem ownership, the decision-making units (the jury), and the buying processes help you understand which problems matter most; they’re deal breakers and should be addressed first.
B2B Customer Discovery Questions
I’ve been using this customer discovery question list as a starting point when planning problem interviews for years. It worked really well for me; I hope you’ll find it as useful as I have.
|WHAT IT TELLS YOU
|Demographics help you recognize patterns between prospects. What roles or behaviors do they share? The answers to these interview questions can be useful for marketing.
|Business drivers help you understand objectives and spending priorities. Where will budgets be spent this year? Understanding your prospect’s customers can help you find new opportunities.
|Problem priorities help you create an emotional connection with your potential customers. Real problems are the only ones that matter. What do they care about?
|Problem drilldown allow you to build empathy and understand the pain from your prospects’ perspective. You can collect information on the evolution of the problem to see if changes are forthcoming. What is the root cause of these problems?
|Intensity of pain
|Questions around the intensity of the pain allow you to understand the buyer mode, the impact and the perceived value. Why should you invest in product development to solve this problem?
|Questions to understand the User buyer. Who will benefit most from your solution? Product managers, developers, sales, other?
|These questions help you understand if your prospect could be a buyer? Could he/she purchase your startup’s solution?
|Buying process questions give you insights on the internal processes and stakeholders. Who do you need to speak with?
|Business process questions give you clues as to how the company works. These are convergent questions you can ask when you know which problem you’re taking on.
|Technology landscape questions tell you about the competition for budgets and expected payment models. What would suit them best?
|Whole product definition
|These questions tell you about the whole product. What do you need to do to close this prospect?
|Influencers tell you how you can reach and influence these companies in the market. Who do they take advice from?
|Calculation of Return on Investment
|Questions meant to help you create your ROI story and value proposition. How much savings or impact can you expect?
How to Use the B2B Customer Discovery Questions
In B2B, because of the amount of information to collect, it’s often a good idea to interview every prospect once before digging deeper with the most receptive ones.
You shouldn’t put a limit on the number of meetings you can have with prospects. As a general rule, it takes more interviews in B2B than in B2C.
There are many ways to conduct customer discovery interviews and you ultimately must find your own style.
A good meeting typically has the following steps:
- Greetings (two minutes): Greetings are exchanged and the prospect is made comfortable through shared context (e.g. How’s the weather in _____?).
- Qualification (three minutes): You ask questions to understand the role and situation of your prospect.
- Open-ended questions (20 minutes): The bulk of the time allotted to the interview falls in this stage. Your goal is to understand and prioritize the problems of your prospects.
- Closing (five minutes): To move the relationship forward, you try to close a prospect on another meeting.
- Note review (ten minutes): After the meeting (and without the prospect), review your notes to make sure you’re not losing information and to be able to quickly adjust to the feedback.
Getting Started with Customer Interviews
To get started fast:
- Brush up on interview biases. Be aware of the patterns you need to avoid.
- Determine whether you’re going at it alone or in pair, in an office or in a coffee shop and in one or two takes.
- Identify your objective for the interview. Do you want another interview, references, or an opportunity to pitch and get some sales?
- Select your questions and write a script to support your objectives (you can grab my latest B2B customer interview script here).
- As Steve Blank would say, get out of the building and interview early adopters keeping an eye out for indicators of interest, office walls and body language (yours and theirs).
- Take a step back, assess your performance, make the appropriate adjustments and go to the next meeting.
More on B2B Customer Discovery Interviews
- The 4 Steps of the Lean B2B Customer Development Process
- How to Make the Most of Problem Interviews in B2B
- 16 Tips for Better Customer Development Interviews in B2B
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