Buyer interviews are not scripted surveys. Instead they need to create a meeting of the minds and produce candid insights. You want the truth. To get ‘golden’ revelations – to extract real value from a buyer interview – there needs to be a conversation between peers. With only 30-odd minutes to get what youre after, how do you get anything more than what the buyer told the sales team – your price is too high or youre missing feature X?
Weve conducted thousands of buyer interviews covering dozens and dozens of buyer types, and weve learned this: Your success in seeking the truth, in getting deep insights, depends entirely on how you open the interview. This article, following on from our last, is your guide to getting an interview started; the open.
When you sit down to place your first interview phone call, you should have notes in front of you. These notes are a compilation of everything youve learned about the customer youre calling with luck, youve had good conversations with those involved with this customer both during and after the sales process. Youve spoken to sales, youve spoken to marketing, youve spoken to the onboarding and CRM teams (if applicable). Sitting-down, you should be confident that you understand your companys internal understanding of your customer. Now its time to learn how they understand themselves, what we referred to in the first article as understanding their story.
In The Beginning
With the initial hello, nice to meet you pleasantries out of the way, we start with the probing questions. Start with the broad strokes – Who are you as a company? What do you do? Who do you do it for? Try to probe a little deeper for something other than a boilerplate answer. Remember, youre looking for their story you want something with more depth. Were a team that knows that clear communication is the magic bullet for good CRM, and we use our SaaS experience to demonstrate that to our customers. Not everyone is going to speak eloquently or use a lot of words but hopefully theyre willing to speak with honesty and passion.
The goal is to establish the rhythm and tone of the interview to come. Especially in loss and churn interviews, you need to show the interviewee that youre not here to judge, or to try and resurrect a stalled or perished sale – you want the interviewee to know that youre here to listen and to understand. Ask clarifying questions to make it clear that you are truly interested and not just following a script.
Getting To Know You
Now the interviewee knows youre not a threatening or disruptive presence, so its time to start getting to know them better. In establishing a rapport with the interviewee, you want to discern their personal differentiators in other words, what makes them unique. Keep it personal but not private. Youre a data analyst doing marketing? How did you get into that role? is a great example of a personal question that doesnt leave the professional sphere, in a way that So how many children do you have or You see the game Friday? is not.
Dont make the mistake of confusing out-of-the-office private details for personal relevancy. You might both love golf, but its not a useful data point unless your product is golf software. Not only can these questions feel too intrusive and thus leave your interviewee off-balance and possibly uncomfortable it can also be a time waster. Youve booked thirty minutes for a call twenty minutes spent discussing your backswings will drive you nowhere.
A good interviewer is all about good time management you need to nail tone and rapport within the first few minutes so that you have the rest of the call to learn the details that really matter. You need to quickly discern what the interviewees core goal was what we call the F-Delta (F). Weve covered F before, but just as a quick refresher, a customers F is what drove a sale in the first place. Its the fundamental change that the interview sought to achieve when they sought-out your product – a change they believed only your product could solve. Their F is what compelled them to buy or walk away. In the case of churn, a failure to achieve F is exemplified when your product fails to be the solution the customer thought it was.
If They Ask, Can You Answer?
By grasping their F, youll have a framework for how to frame the rest of your questions going forward what made them think your product would solve their F? Did sales help encourage that impression, or did they drop the ball, failing to understand what it was the customer wanted your product to do? How did the F affect churn was it obvious during onboarding, or did it take to realize your product wasnt working out. Your interviewees story the visionary who saw problem X and took steps to solve it will be shaped entirely by that inciting F if they had no problem that needed solving, theyd have no need for your product in the first place.
So thats the first few minutes covered a short amount of time, but a crucial one. Where do you go from here? You should start to consider how you were thinking of approaching the interview: were you thinking about how to get the interviewee into the right headspace? Did you consider the kind of tone you should set? What about demonstrating that you are there to listen? If these havent been priorities in your thought process or especially in your actual process – its time to start incorporating them. As an interviewer you should also think about your own focus, especially if youre going to be quizzing people about their own. What is your F in this internal win/loss analysis or churn analysis project? What is it you want to get out of it? Before you ask people about their own fundamental goals, do you have an answer to give if they turn the question back on you?
Make sure that before you start your first or your next interview that you have clear goals in mind, and are confident how your interview should feel. Remember to listen, to show that you want to understand, and take care not to ask questions that feel too intrusive. Make yourself out to beconscientious and attentive, and youre on the right road for conducting a good interview.