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Good questions are not enough

As part of a client project I’m currently going through a ton of interview transcripts.

My client already ran some of the research (which is rare!) and they had these conversations with customers. Asking about their pain points, main benefits from the product, results etc.

One thing I noticed, is that you can clearly tell a trained interviewer from a beginner.

Most people think you just need to follow the interview questions and you’ll get great answers.

While simply asking questions is a good starting point, it’s not nearly enough to get to the root information, to the core insights. Even if the questions you ask are “good” questions.

I learned this myself doing this stuff over and over. At the beginning I sucked. Too self conscious to even follow what the other person was saying.

But that’s exactly the point. The interview should feel natural, not robotic or pre-formatted. You should nudge the interviewee in a direction, but allow for some flexibility and for them to take it where they want it to go. Because that’s where the gold lies.

You’ll notice it when they keep talking without you even prompting them.

Another good thing to keep in mind is flow and story arc.

My client asked a lot of good questions, but something feels off. You see it in the interviewee’s face and reactions to the questions.

They don’t follow a story arc. Meaning my client asked questions about their pain points, then about product benefits and then went back in time to asking about previous solutions.

This back and forth creates a sort of cognitive dissonance and confuses the listener. And they end up spending more mental energy on trying to follow you, rather than thinking deeply about the answers.

It requires practice and I’m too still not where I’d like to be. But mastering customer interviews is one of the highest ROI activities you could ever invest on.

The insights you glean can literally point you to the most effective value proposition you can use. And you start spotting patterns in their responses and wording.

Tomorrow I want to dive a bit deeper into questions since this is on my mind.

I’ll revisit some lessons from a great book I read a couple of years ago “A more beautiful question” by Warren Berger.

Until then, think of how you can ask better questions. Doesn’t need to be at work. What about with your friends or family?

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