B2B Organic Growth Series: Chapter #25

Let your customers surprise you

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In most business situations, you don’t want surprises. But you do want to be surprised by customer needs missed by competitors. You need to conduct interviews led by the customer, not you.
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Transcript of Chapter 25

Unless it’s their birthday, many people don’t like to be surprised. And this is certainly true in business. Do you want to be surprised when overseeing production? Probably not. How do you feel about surprises when traveling on business?… or installing new software?… or building a new facility?

What if you’re innovating new products? It’s a good thing to be surprised here. If you want a patent, your idea needs to be new… useful… and non-obvious. So unless it’s surprising, you can’t even get a patent.

But when—and how—should you be surprised? Technical surprises should occur in your laboratory. To uncover commercial surprises, forget your questionnaire—which only bores customers—and let the customer lead you to what they find interesting.

Imagine you’re interviewing customers to design a new color printer, and their outcomes are hidden in this Customer Outcome Grid. Things like Quiet Operation, Network Capability, Printing on Glossy Paper, and so on. But how will you find them?

Most companies use supplier-led interviews: “Would you like 2-sided printing?… How about higher resolution?… Is it… faster print speed?

In a customer-led interview, customers say, “I need help here… and here… and please fix this!” You simply probe each outcome, and then ask, “What else?

Interviews on the left seem easier: You ask your first question, fill in their answer, ask your second, and so on. When you ask, “What else?” you have no idea what the customer will say! But you’ll be rewarded with outcomes customers care about, more engaged customers, and less work for you.

This leads to surprises: When we surveyed nearly 400 practitioners of Discovery interviews, most said they learned unexpected information. The point is, it’s not hard to be surprised by your customers.

Check out our research report on Discovery interviews. And don’t be surprised by how effective they can be.