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Interviews will teach you how to sell

The hardest part about creating a successful company isn’t building your product.

It’s selling your product.

It’s easy to spend months working on features, but how are you going to sell those features?

  • How will you describe your product to ensure customers are interested in it?
  • Where will you find enough customers to tell about it?
  • How will you differentiate your product from the competition?
  • What features should you talk about most on your landing page?

The answer to virtually every marketing and sales question you have can be found in…

Customer interviews.

Interviews will Teach you How to Sell

You know customer interviews are an indispensable tool for tech startups, but I wanted to show you just how universally powerful they are by telling you about Dr. Emily.


Dr. Emily was a School Psychologist working intense hours at elementary schools in urban areas. She loved the work she did, but she thought she could have more impact if she worked outside the confines of schools.

She wanted to start a company to assess children for learning disabilities, but one major obstacle stopped her:

She didn’t know how to sell her services.

Dreading having to become a sales-person, which felt uncomfortable and a little sleazy, Dr. Emily tried interviewing her customers hoping to find an easier way to start her company.

What she found, not only shocked her, but her competitors too.

What Did Dr. Emily Ask?

As I mentioned in my last article, Dr. Emily focused on interviewing customers who were already trying to solve the problem she wanted to solve.

Her Early Adopters were parents who already had their children assessed for learning disabilities, but were still searching for answers.

The first question she asked these parents was:

Q: What’s the hardest part about being the parent of a child with a learning disability?

To her surprise, their answers always included at least one of the following:

  • “I don’t know where to start.”
  • “I don’t know how to get support from the school.”
  • “I’m not sure if my child will ever learn read.”

Notice how the answer to just this one question provide extremely powerful marketing copy.

Instead of listing her credentials on the first line of her website (e.g. “PhD, LEP, ABSNP, BICM, PPSC, etc.”) like most of Dr. Emily’s competitors do, she says something relevant to customers, like:

“Is your child struggling to get the support he or she needs in school? Together we’ll take the first step to understanding how to help your child make the most of their reading ability.”

No mind games, no sleaze and no hard selling. Dr. Emily just asked her customers about their problems, and restated the services she provides using their words.

If you listen to your customers…they’ll write your marketing copy for you.

Stand Out from your Competition

Another one of Dr. Emily’s most fruitful questions was:

Q: What’s not ideal about your previous assessment?

Again, to her surprise, when parents talked about assessments received from Dr. Emily’s competitors, the answer was uniformly:

A: We got the diagnosis, but don’t know what to do next.

With the answer to this question, Dr. Emily learned how to differentiate herself from her competitors.

When talking with potential customers, she now tells them:

“When we work together, you won’t just get an assessement, you’ll get an action plan so you’ll know exactly what to do next.”

If you listen to your customers…they’ll tell you how to beat your competitors.

The Results

Simply by interviewing her customers, Dr. Emily accomplished what none of her competitors had:

  • Her competitors typically took 3 – 5 years to fill their client list. Dr. Emily did it in 18 months.
  • Dr. Emily now has a 4-month waitlist for her assessments.
  • And that’s after doubling her price over the last 18 months.

With the power of customer interviews, Dr. Emily was able to build a successful company in a crowded space, with absolutely no sales experience at all.

Interviews will Increase your Sales Too

Whether you’re at a high-tech accelerator in Asia, a social enterprise in Seattle, or are simply a service provider:

Interviews will teach you how to sell.

Remember that building your product is the easy part…selling it is the hard part; and interviews will do the heavy lifting.

Interviews will help you:

  • Describe your product to ensure customers buy it
  • Find enough customers to tell about it
  • Differentiate your product from the competition
  • Decide what features to build first

The answer to virtually every marketing and sales question you have about your business can be answered with…

Customer interviews.

Don’t do it Alone

You can get help creating your sales strategy. The first workbook in the FOCUS Framework will walk you through every step of the interviewing process.

And, if you want hands-on, immersive workshops on mastering customer interviews, join me and the 300+ founders who have already registered for FOCUS Con:

FOCUS Con: Mastering Customer Interviews - A Digital Conference

This first FOCUS conference is December 1st and it’s dedicated to Mastering Customer Interviews.

At FOCUS Con you’ll learn:

  • Who to ask for interviews
  • How to ask for interviews
  • What to ask during interviews and
  • How to turn their answers into a sales strategy

All with live workshops, networking and personal mentoring (and without the expense of plane tickets).

“Collaboration not competition” at MBJ Launchpad startup event

The MBJ Launchpad £200K competition video is now live, check it out, with me in mentor and judge role. (More notes to follow..)

Plus check out the live blog from the night on 22 October at Google Campus!

http://twitter.com/AvennuTeam/status/657244318802034688/photo/1

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And the winners are MoonROK!

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Its now between MoonROK and SocialBelly!

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Runner Ups: (no particular order)
i2i
beepbeep
Avennu

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1 Winner and 4 in Second Place.

Took them a bit longer due to a tough choice.

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15 mins break before final announcements.

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Topics touched by questions: next steps, dating apps, conversion rates, sustainability of business model, favourite foods.

Smashingly handled to be honest.

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Yet another strong pitch. Now onto questions before the panel go off and make a decision on who wins the £100k development plan from MBJ.

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Food is just the beginning, aiming to actually disrupt how people socialise.

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A 2am meeting that’s already generating revenue by bringing people together over meals with strangers.

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Final pitch by: Social Belly

BRINGING YOU A SENSE OF BELONGINGNESS

Help to make moving to a new city easier.

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Questions posed on: venue incentives, vetting, competition and automation.

All answered easily and with confidence.

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Well presented, with a strong understanding of their market. Currently NY-only but with big plans. Now onto some questions from the panel.

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Already funded current version through Kickstarter.

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9/10 creative spaces in NY do NOT offer online bookings. 60% of the time, event spaces are vacant.
$127m is lost potential revenue in NY alone!

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Up next: Avennu

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Some gruelling questions from the panel about marketing, automated cars, and competition.

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A well structured and well thought through pitch. Now onto Q&As.

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Aim to create efficient cities and connect people through technology.
Combination of: parking logistics, connecting drivers in big cities and a mobile parking app.

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70% of world population with live in a city by 2050.

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Up now: BeepBeep

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Quick 15 min break before the next 3 pitches.

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Interesting to hear how the K-pop fans buy CD’s as collectibles as oppose to utilities.

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Very strong pitch with steady and impressive numbers, as well as a big plan for what’s next.

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K-Pop generated $5.3bn export revenue in 2014, via 21 million fans worldwide.

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Lots of head’s bouncing to K-Pop samples!

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Up next MoonROK

Aiming to be the world’s premier source of English K-Pop news and entertainment.

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i2i network fielding the judges/mentors questions well.
Questions about regulation, community and alternative revenue channels.

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UK Crowdfunding in last 6 months: More than £80,000,000 invested through more than 100k transactions

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First up to pitch: i2i network

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They are:

Michael Smith – Head of Marketing at IBM
Stuart Hall – Former head of SEO @ eBay – MBJ Advisory board
Sargar Sarkar – Former head of corporate communications @ Morgan Stanley – MBJ Señor Advisor / Private Marekting consultant
Cathy Han – Corporate lawyer @ DAC Beachcroft – head of DAC startup lab team
Heather Darnell – Director of Ask-The-Boss financial advice

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Short and sweet keynote done. Now the mentors/judges are just introducing themselves.

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How Meta!

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As I said, teams are ready!

Mentors/judges are here now too and the audience is starting to fill up.

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Teams are ready. People are starting to arrive. So much energy already!

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A lot of excitement as the teams get ready to pitch tonight. There will be a short break in the begging of the Live Blog, as I’m proudly delivering giving the keynote. But I’ll be right here updating you all each and every pitch, right until a winner is announced this evening.