Why (and How) You Should Script Customer Development Like Sales

Recently I have done a large slate of customer development interviews focused on some niche applications for project management software. Many of the interviews follow the typical scripted path that I have put together for the purpose. My starting point for the script was Ash Maurya’s excellent book, Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works, on the matter. Sometimes the interviews don’t follow the path. It is difficult for people to understand the lean process. You can explain it, but it deviates from the purpose of the meeting and may remove precious time from your chance to learn from your customer. This is a common question or objection I see. You should have a scripted, practiced response to this and any other questions you get repeatedly.

Why it should be scripted:

  • Reduce the time required to respond effectively.
  • Reduce your tendency to be defensive or emotional.
  • Make the interviews (experiments) consistent and thus measurable.

Some of my common generic responses:

“How does this make my customer happier?”

This is your chance to really sell them on the benefits of your idea. What is the problem you are trying to solve and what benefit does it have to their business that matters to their customers?

Example: When I build Whitetail Census I could tell ranchers that instead of pair-wise comparisons for X thousand photos they could upload them and get an email with the results for less than they spent on most other types of surveys. They save tremendous time and can pass that on to the customers as improved service or reduced costs.

“Are you trying to sell me something?”

No. I have nothing to sell. I don’t have a product. I am performing something akin to market research that will help me determine if there is a market for building a product. I have a hypothesis about what problems this potential product needs to solve, but I am likely wrong and I expect to learn what the real problems are through conversations like this one.

“Are you with some company?”

I run a software startup that develops niche products, but we do not currently have a product or even a commitment to building one in this niche at the moment. We are simply doing our research.

“I don’t need software that does X.”

That is great news! I don’t have a product. I only have a hypothesis about what problems this potential product needs to solve, but I am likely wrong and I expect to learn what the real problems are through conversations like this one. I’m excited to hear your problems.

“Why is the pricing model recurring?”

Benefits of the recurring (web) pricing model:

  1. Incentives aligned: I need to keep you happy in order to make money instead of ignoring you after a big payday.
  2. Low upfront cost to you.
  3. Support is built-in and would typically be a recurring fee anyway.
  4. No installation.
  5. Platform independent.
  6. No upgrade costs.
  7. No IT or backup required.

3 thoughts on “Why (and How) You Should Script Customer Development Like Sales”

  1. Hi Robert, I just stumbled upon your blog through your guest post about marketing as a solo bootstrapping entrepreneur on A Smart Bear.

    I too am a solo-bootstrapping-entrepreneur, and am pretty new to this game.. I have found all your articles quite helpful as I am about to embark on trying to recruit my first users beyond my personal contacts.

    Thanks for the great content, keep it coming!

    Apurva

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