Talking to Humans

You need to talk to a prospect, but you do not know where to start? Did you ever feel like you are overly analyzing something plain and simple?This book is a practical guide that will teach you how to conduct interviews and deal with the most qualitative aspects of customer development. You’ll learn how to structure and conduct effective interviews, find the right candidates, and generate results from these interviews. The author also talks about how you can use the prototypes in the best possible way, gathering data and identifying patterns that will help you make decisions. If you want to develop products aimed at your customers, with efficient solutions, read this book with us!

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Being a great entrepreneur involves finding the balance between vision and reality, and doing this can be scary and very risky. But you can anticipate your risks to achieve success. Often, we start a business based on innumerable assumptions. And there are no problems with that, but how can you be sure that your assumptions are correct? You can be sure to talk directly to your customers and partners and observe their behavior.

Think and act as if you were a detective: your goal here is to learn about the client and not try to sell your idea. You need to find clues that support your assumptions about consumers and your business. The idea is to look for patterns that will help you make better decisions to achieve success on your journey.

Before you begin, keep in mind a common mistake by many entrepreneurs: do not become obsessed with your product to the point of neglecting the risks of your business!


It may seem intimidating at first, but conducting quantitative surveys and interviewing your consumers should be a habit in your business. But do not worry, when you learn to do it the right way, many people are willing to help and participate.

To get started, answer the following questions:

  • Who do you want to research?
  • What do you want to learn from these people?
  • How will you approach them?
  • How can you ensure that your interview is effective?
  • How can you ensure that you are learning useful things?

Let’s explore each of these questions below.


Your first step is to understand who your market is. For this, you can start by thinking about:

  • Who is the typical customer for you?
  • Who is your initial adopter – they are those people who give the product a chance first
  • Who are your critical partners in distribution, execution and other parts of the business

At first, it makes no sense to think that your product is marketable to “everyone.” And so you need to be more specific and think of the right kind of person for your product.

Also, it is important to remember the early adopters. Most users are waiting for early adoption approvals before attempting a new product. And so they are very important.


You need to prepare a list of questions before conducting any customer interviews. This list, which can also be called a guide for the interview, will help you stay organized, give a more professional look to the process and ensure that you do not forget the most important questions.

But how can you know which are the most important questions? You need to first understand what your most risky and important assumptions are. This is because they usually involve critical points of the business, and will require more urgency and important insights. One way to deal with your assumptions is by asking the following questions:

  • Who will be my target customer?
  • What is the problem with my client that needs to be solved?
  • How can I solve my client’s needs?
  • Why can not my client solve it today?
  • What measurable outcome does my client want to achieve?
  • What is my tactic to win customers?
  • Who are my early adopters?
  • How will I generate revenue?
  • Who are my main competitors?
  • How can I beat my competitors?
  • What is my biggest financial risk?
  • Which means greater technical risk?
  • If they are wrong, what assumptions can lead to business failure?

Be honest when answering questions and try to focus on the most important issues.

After that, it’s time to worry about the questions for your future clients. To do this, during the interviews, remember the following points:

Ask stories rather than speculation: When asking, be careful about speculation. The future is very uncertain, and you need to be careful with your questions because the human is lousy to predict their future behavior. Instead of asking someone if they would buy your product, it is much more effective to ask the person to tell a story from experience.

Ask open-ended questions: Your goal is to get people to share. Therefore, structure more open-ended questions to get them to speak freely. Avoid those questions with yes or no answers.

Make Price Tests: It’s very complicated to rely on answers to questions such as “How much would you pay for it? “Because they are too speculative and uncertain. But you can change your approach to these questions by asking for example “How much do you currently spend to solve this problem?” or “What is your current budget for this issue?”.

Get feedback using a prototype: You may want to understand people’s reactions to your solution. Using prototypes and mockups will teach you a lot, but like all speculation, you need to interpret people’s reactions with some care.

Avoid questions that seek solutions: The potential customer’s role is not to find the best solution for you. His role is to explain his behavior, goals, and challenges. Consumers are often confined to their realities to think of effective solutions, instead, you may ask “how can you do anything, what do you want it to do? If you could solve any problem, what would you like to solve? ”

Think of “pass/fail” tests: Understanding the customer involves a lot of qualitative research, but it may also be useful to develop a more quantitative mindset. So set goals for the important questions and record the results. Your target numbers can be assumptions, and you do not have to worry about setting perfect numbers. The important thing here is to follow what is happening and set a goal.

Do not interview by following a script: Do you remember the initial list of questions you have prepared? It should not be seen as a closed script! You do not need to read each question as if it were a robot. Feel free to get away from what’s there if the conversation directs you to another interesting path. But that does not mean you should not plan and prioritize your questions before you begin.

Do not just ask questions, make observations: sometimes the best thing to do is to observe someone’s behavior. You can watch the purchase process or examine how people solve a particular problem. Think about how you can gather data with observations.


If you are new to this, you may feel intimidated just by thinking of approaching unknown people. But keep in mind that people are often willing to help in this type of situation. Here are some tips to recruit people for your interview:

Be creative: People will not go after you for your interview. You need to think of alternatives to approach them efficiently. Study their environment, think about the schedule and schedules, and learn about these people before approaching them. That way you can think of creative alternatives to conduct your interviews.

Find the Moment of Pain: If you can connect with these people when the problem arises, you can have many insights. If you think about the pain you want to solve, you will be able to find the right consumers, and you will also be able to conduct valuable observation research.

Ask othersĀ for advice: If you want to interview a doctor, for example, you can ask for help from someone you know. And after the first interview, the doctor can tell you to other doctors by increasing your connections. Use your directions as much as you can. You can think of an indication goal: for example, each interview gets 2 or 3 contacts of new candidates.

Go to conferences and meetings: they can be a great way to recruit people for your research. But do not forget to respect people’s time and limits. If they are too busy to help you at the moment, you can ask for a card and then contact them.

The problem is that some conferences can be expensive. To solve this, you can stand outside the building and intercept the people at the entrance. Look for the conferences in your region on Google or other specialized sites.

Dealing With Corporate Clients: If your focus is on corporate clients, it may be a little harder to find potential interviewers. In addition to the conferences, you can use LinkedIn as an aid. Another way is to make calls to the company and explain your proposal:

you can ask for advice by making it clear that you are not selling anything or you can say that you are selling some specific product.

Know that asking for advice is a good way to gain access to business. People like to give advice; it makes them feel important.

Take Advantage of Gatekeeper’s: If LinkedIn is not helping you, another way is to call the CEO’s office. Your goal here is not to talk to the CEO, but the executive assistant. He works as a Gatekeeper or Watchman, and if you explain that you are looking for the right person for your interview, it can direct you to the right person. The advantage of doing this is that you can leave a voicemail message to your contact saying that the executive assistant gave you his name.

Take advantage of being a student or researcher: you have an extra advantage in these cases. If you are a student or researcher, tell your potential respondents. Also, you can create an extra incentive by offering to share the results of your research with those interviewed.

If your method does not work, try something new: no use insisting, if you are not getting interviewed, you need to think of a new way to do it. You can create online surveys by posting on Facebook or Twitter for example. Think about how to reach these people effectively.

Finally, there is no standard way to approach people. You need to be creative and work hard, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds. Acting professionally, people will want to help you and participate in your research.


You can follow some recommendations to have effective interview sessions:

Conduct interviews in person: How much you learn and the quality of the information can vary greatly depending on the method of communication chosen. If you talk to people in person, you may have better insights. You can read body language and understand behaviors much more easily. Remember that much of human communication is non-verbal!

Another very effective approach is video conferencing because that way you can at least read some facial expressions. Phone calls should be your last resort, only if you have no other choice. Avoid methods that use emails or chats.

Talk to one person at a time: Avoid group conversations, can be very difficult to focus on the story of a person only when you’re interviewing a lot of people at the same time. Also, it is helpful to have a second person next to you to take notes.

Have a tape recorder: Ask the interviewee if you can record the conversation. Having a tape recorder will allow you to stay focused on the interview, without worrying about moving everything to paper. You can stay more alert with body language and conversation. The risk is that the tape recorder can inhibit people, but usually, the interviewee forgets after a time being recorded.

Start with an ice breaker: you can start by explaining why you are doing the interview and thanking for the person’s time. Ask some initial questions to break the ice. For example, you can ask where the person is from and what he or she works with. But do not spend too much time on it.

Also, print out your list of questions, but do not read the list as a robot. Get your interviewee to feel that you are actively listening and are in a conversation rather than a monologue!

Try to put aside your bias: Human beings have an incredible ability to hear what they want to hear. This ability is called confirmation bias. At each interview, be prepared to listen to things that you do not like.

Have the interviewee tell you a story: Try to find out if the respondent has tried to solve your problem before. How did he think of a solution? How does he believe a solution should work? Who were they at the moment and where did this happen?

Look for attempts solutions: One of the indicators that the market needs a solution to a problem is the fact that some people are actively trying to solve it. They may have tried different solutions without success. These stories help you see a need in the marketplace.

Understand the priorities: for someone to try a new product, the problem should bother so much wanting to change their behavior, take a risk and pay for a solution. If you believe someone has a problem, ask them to rate this problem as a priority list. If this pain has a low priority, is it worth the attention and money to solve it?

Speak little and listen more: try to keep as quiet as possible. Keep your questions short and unbiased. If the interviewee pauses, do not try to answer for him, wait. You need to listen and not sell!

Follow Your Instincts: whenever something catches your eye, explore a little more with other questions. Do not be afraid to ask the “why” of things.

Repeat what the respondent said: for important topics, this can be a good tactic. The interviewee can correct you if you have misinterpreted it; or he may realize that his opinion is a bit different, changing the answer.

Do a test interview: If you’re new to this, try a test with a friend. See if the questions make sense and try to improve your methods for listening and improvising during the interview.

Get feedback on your product: To receive the feedbacks, it is first important to separate the interview from the feedback part. People love giving ideas and thinking about product features, and this may disrupt their interview. So, leave the feedback moment to the end.

Second, try to make people honest. No one will want to tell you that their product is bad. To do this, have the interviewees feel safe with honest questions. Also, you can explain that the reviews will help you.

Lastly, do not rely on feedback that says your product is great. Try to get people to try the product and observe their behavior.


Your goal here is not to learn just by learning. Your goal is to make better decisions that increase your chance of success. So how can you translate your observations into decisions?

The first step is to try to understand their patterns. To do this, note the following points:

Take Notes: To find your standards, you need to record your data. It will be easier to do this if you get someone to write it down during the interview. Then you can make these notes available to the entire team in one document.

Do not forget data such as the name of the interviewee, the date and time of the interview, subject, whether it was in person or by video and if possible a photo of the interviewee. You can also include basic information about the interview subject in the documents.

Have quantitative measures: If you have defined your interview metrics, it may be a good idea to share a spreadsheet with your team. This worksheet will help your team track the process and track their targets.

Our brains like to influence our thinking with cognitive biases, filtering the results we want to hear. To combat this dynamic, you can calculate the metrics using these worksheets.

But you also have to worry about the other side of the coin: we like to turn statistics into facts. If you have enough data to rely on the standards, this will not be a problem. But do not take your results very literally, be skeptical and do not obsess over the metrics. You need to understand what’s behind the numbers.

Exercise with your team: Have a discussion session with your team. You can give a few minutes for each to write in Post-Its, different patterns, and observations seen during interviews. Put all the Post-Its on the wall and distribute them in groups. Discuss patterns together with the team and review your initial assumptions to propose deeper changes or investigations.

Look for patterns: Interviews will help you gain insight based on standards. It can be difficult to interpret them because people do not always act according to what they say. You will need to use your judgment to understand what they mean; read their body language and try to understand the context of the stories.

Do not forget your role: The customer’s job is not to design your product. This is your job. While gathering information and making decisions, you should not accept orders but filter out what is important.

Know that false positives are common: people want to be kind and help you, and you will want to hear good things. So keep this in mind and be skeptical about the information.

How many people should you talk to? There is no right answer to this question, but an end-consumer company should talk to a larger number of people than a B2B company. If you sell to the end consumer and have not talked to at least 50 or 100 people, you need to work harder at it.

You should not stop talking to your potential clients, but your level of learning and your focus on interviewing will likely evolve. If you identify the same patterns over and over, you may need to change some things and examine different assumptions and risks.

Lead with a vision: Before you begin your research, you need to develop your vision. How do you want to improve the world and add value to people?


Qualitative quality research is an excellent tool for any entrepreneur. Creating a new business can be very challenging, and you can fail in many ways. But you’re here to take risks and change the world. Dream big and be relentless with your ideas and assumptions. And for this, understanding your customer will help you to follow a better and faster path to success, sparing a little in the process. But do not forget that things change and your customers too. Keep checking your assumptions and assumptions and keep talking to customers.

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