Many early stage entrepreneurs are truly baffled by the fact they get wonderful feedback from prospective clients, and may even have some unpaid pilots, but when asked to buy, customer silence is soul-crushing. Said one founder, “literally, everyone I show this to tells me what I’m building is awesome and they love it, but then I ask them to buy it and they go dark.”
If this is you, I’m about to reveal a shocking truth: they’re lying to you.
Polite people don’t want to tell you, “your baby is ugly.” So, humans tell white lies and say, “that is amazing.” Amazing, awesome, great, and beautiful are perfect words. They, and their many friends, convey a sense of wonder and accomplishment that doesn’t convey the fact that the person has zero need for what you’ve built.
If you want to get past platitudes, stop showing people your product and start asking them smart questions:
- How do you currently solve this problem?
- Why do you do it this way?
- Would you change anything about this?
- How would changing that help you?
- Will you walk me through how that happened last time?
- Who pays for this and why?
- Is there anything else I should be asking to understand this better?
- May I observe how you work to understand what you do better?
- Who else should I be talking to to learn about this?
If you have a cunning grasp for the obvious, you’ll notice that none of these questions are about your product/service or introducing it in any way. That is precisely the point. If you want to sell something, stop selling and start listening.
Studies show that if you allow your customer to talk around 60% of the time on a call, you have the highest probability of success. I generally recommend an 80-20 ratio, since I find most people don’t realize how much they are talking (myself included), and by targeting 20%, they end up closer to 40%.
When you ask questions about how a customer solves a problem and why they do it, you’ll gain insight on their interest and develop a better solution. Don’t worry, they’ll get to your solution soon enough. Focus on them first, and the sales will follow.