How to do Customer Discovery

What is Customer Discovery?

Customer Discovery is a valuable addition to the sales tool kit because it is an in-depth process of dialogue with a potential, existing, or past customer that takes place outside the context of a sales pitch. It reduces pressure and invites candid commentary mainly because it takes place outside the sales process. The customer will feel more likely to comment, provide reasons and explore scenarios with you if there is no pressure to sell.

The best person to do customer discovery calls is the CEO – the leader of the business. While it is certainly acceptable and even possible for the head of sales or head of marketing to do customer discovery interviews, the greatest chance for powerful input lies when a leader speaks with a leader.

The Process:

Booking a customer discovery call is challenging, for a couple of reasons. First, everyone is busy and no one has time. Second, there may be a lingering suspicion that an invitation to a customer discovery call is merely another sophisticated or creative approach to selling. Third, unless the leader of the business is inviting the customer to a customer discovery call, there may be a credibility challenge – that is, the lingering suspicion of insincerity.

The best approach and the best chance for success is for a phone call directly from the CEO to the leader (CEO, founder, owner) of the business. 

The pitch is: “Hi, this is John Smith, the CEO of XYZ Ltd. I am calling you directly today to book a customer discovery call with you. This is absolutely 100% guaranteed not a sales call. I am not trying to sell you. I want to discuss your reaction to our product.” 

[Here, you would insert one of the following appropriate lines]: “You have bought from us before OR you have not bought from us but we have tried to sell to you OR you have declined our latest offer to you.] I want to book a call with you in the next few days or even right now if you have time.  I want to ask you what you think about our product, our approach, and us. I will respect your opinion about us and about our product. Our discussion can be 100% confidential just to me and to you. Or if you give me permission I can share it with my management team.”

THEN, when you have either booked the call or have permission to continue: “Thank you. Could you please tell me what you think of our product? What features of our product make sense? What features about it do not make sense or are not useful to you? Why did you buy it? Why did you decide not to buy it? What should we do differently?”

Key Aspects:

As you can see, it is vital that you do not stray into selling – ever (at least on this call.) Do not argue or dismiss the criticism/input you are receiving or defend your product unless you are deliberately asked to do so. It is so important that I cannot emphasize it too much. You must not debate and you must not defend or respond in any way to show you are on the defensive about your product! Summon up all your listening skills.  Simply listen and hear. Listen some more and then express your thanks. You will see an interesting dynamic developing as you listen and listen and listen. Soon, you will begin to uncover deep thoughts from the other person – information that you will be amazed to hear. You will receive insights into the product, your sales approach, and the needs of not only this customer, but that of others like him. THAT is what you trying to accomplish with this call. Without you asking for more, you will receive more, as the trust builds.

Did I mention: Do not sell. Do not get defensive. At some point you may be invited to explain why you built the product in this way or why you included certain features, etc.  Even if you get into a discussion to explain your product, you are still not being defensive about it or debating. You are doing customer discovery! Be super cautious about this and it will pay dividends.

The final point to consider is the time. If you can book (ask for) at least half an hour, you will be on your way to discovering a significant amount of valuable information. If the meeting is too short it may not be productive and likely will be cursory or superficial. The point is to try for a deeper discussion without the pressure of sales intervening. Good luck! Customer discovery is a valuable too and I trust you will find it of great assistance. 

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