How to Get Customer Interviews

By Sofia Carbone,  Communications Coordinator

Customer interviews are the first, most important step in starting your business. This is where you discover if your idea can generate a profit, and if it is solving the pain point you’ve identified. It’s a crucial step you need to take before building your minimal viable product.

Let’s be clear; a customer isn’t a friend or a family member, they are people with whom you have little to no personal relationship with. How do you get in contact with them, and, more importantly, what do you do when you do meet them?

Here are a few tips our Validation Coach, Noor El Bawab, has for those looking to tackle customer interviews.

Get out of the building!

Unless your customers are walls, you need to go out and talk to people! You need to be as curious as possible to find the solution(s) to the problem you’re trying to solve. At this stage, you can start creating your buyer persona, which is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. This exercise will help identify and narrow down who you customers are.

Pro tip: Don’t interview your friends or family. Why? Chances are they will tell you that your idea is the best. Not saying it’s not, but if you want honest feedback you need to talk with people who don’t have a personal relationship with you and are consequently more critical of your idea.

Gather Intelligence

Once you’ve identified what your customer segment is, you now need to interview them. This is where friends and family can help you. Ask them if they know people, and if they can connect you.

Research plays a key role here. LinkedIn is a great tool to grow your network; you can connect with individuals in the industry, find out what role they play in their given company or organization, and who they are. What are their interests? What is important to them? How do they fit within the organization? What challenges are they facing? These are the kinds of questions you should ask yourself in your research. Once you collect their contact information and have a clear idea of who they are, it’s now time to contact them.

Pro tip: Having an emotional connection with them is just as important. The best way to create an emotional connection is to be authentic and genuine. People sense when you are being unnatural, so you need to find commonalities that will arise naturally in your conversation. An often underestimated tool is to genuinely listen to the other person and be curious about who they are and the insights they are providing you with. This is not the time to sell your solution, the spotlight is on understanding them.

Get them to say Yes three times

The best way to get a live in-person meeting is by cold calling. I know it may seem archaic, but it works. The trick is to get them to say ‘yes’ three times. Why? Because if they say ‘yes’ three times, then they’ll be more likely to stay on the phone with you and say yes to a meeting.

You can try and follow this basic template:

You: Hi, is this Person X?

Person X: Yes

You: Do you work at Company Y in this department?

Person X: Yes

You: Do you have a few minutes to talk with me about Z?

Person X: Yes

Pro Tip: Practice makes perfect! Practice with friends, the first few times you will botch the phone calls, and that’s ok. That is why you practice.Once you get them to agree to an in-person meeting, follow up with email and propose two dates. Be sure to send a calendar invite.

Ask for Stories

Some say not to prep interview questions; you want the conversation to be natural. The goal is to understand the problem from their perspective. You want to ask as many open-ended questions as possible. Get them to open up about their problems and understand if this is something you can solve.

Pro Tip: It’s never about you; it is always about the customer! You can have a couple of questions prepared to start the conversation if you are nervous. This is a skill that you can easily acquire through practice. After a couple of interviews, you’ll be more comfortable and better able to ask questions.

Interview in Teams of Two

Why teams of two?

You want one person to ask the questions, and the second one to be taking notes and reading their body language. We communicate a lot with non-verbal cues and it can make all the difference. The second person needs to be paying attention to all the minutiae details of the interviewee, while the interview asks the questions.

And there you have it. Now go out there and interview people!

These are few of the many tactics to help you do customer interviews. To truly validate your idea you need to interview a minimum of 100 potential customers. This is where District 3’s Customer Discovery program can help. Going through this program, you’ll have validated your idea in 12-weeks and have spoken to over 100 potential customers! Our experienced coaches will be able to guide you through this process.

Are you ready to take your startup or idea to the next level? Apply to our programs by Sunday, September 3rd. Be sure to check out our FAQs if you have any questions.