B2B Customer Discovery Interview Questions — A Master List
(Originally published on the Lean B2B blog — more on that here.)
It’s important to have a plan and follow an interview script to gather consistent data points on all your prospects (you can read more on customer interview code of conduct right here).
Questions around the business drivers, the problems, the intensity of the pain, the problem ownership, the decision-making units (the jury) and the buying processes help you understand which problems matter most; they’re deal breakers and should be addressed first.
I’ve been using this question list as a starting point when planning problem interviews for a year. It worked really well for me; I hope you’ll find it as useful as I have.
- What is your role?
- What are your responsibilities?
- How long have you been working in this company?
- With what department and business unit are you affiliated?
- How many people report to you?
- To whom do you report?
- Can you walk me through a day in your work?
Demographics help you recognize patterns between prospects. What roles or behaviors do they share?
- What are your objectives this year?
- How will you be evaluated this year?
- After the New Year’s Holiday, when you look back at this year, how will you know if you have been successful?
- Do you expect these objectives to be different next year?
- What are your clients typically trying to achieve with your products?
Business drivers help you understand objectives and spending priorities. Where will budgets be spent this year? Understanding your prospect’s customers can help you find new opportunities.
- What keeps you up at night? Why?
- What are your top three challenges?
- Out of these X problems, which would you say are your top three?
- What keeps you from acquiring more users / what keeps you from doing x, y or z (main objective)?
- What would be the first thing you would change about your work?
Problem priorities help you create an emotional connection with your prospects. Real problems are the only ones that matter. What do they care about?
- How are you currently solving this problem?
- How do you typically work around this problem?
- Are there, in your perspective, ways technology can help with this problem?
- Do you expect this problem to improve, worsen or stay the same in the upcoming year? Why?
- How are you currently planning to solve this problem?
- Tell me about (problem)?
- Why is this a significant problem?
Problem drilldown allow you to build empathy and understand the pain from your prospects’ perspective. You can collect information on the evolution of the problem to see if changes are forthcoming. What is the root cause of these problems?
Intensity of pain
- How do you feel about the current situation?
- What would be the impact of solving this problem?
- How many people are affected by the problem?
- What percentage of day/week do you spend fixing problem X?
- How much would you be willing to pay an external contractor to manually solve this problem?
Questions around the intensity of the pain allow you to understand the buyer mode, the impact and the perceived value. Why should you solve this problem?
- Who else in your company shares these problems?
- Who would most benefit from solving this problem?
- Whom else in your company should we be speaking with regarding this problem?
- Who is involved with doing X?
Questions to understand the User buyer. Who will benefit most from your solution?
- What was the last technology purchase that you’ve been involved in?
- Who also is involved in decision making?
- Do you purchase your own tools and technology?
- Do you need to ask for approval before purchasing new tools or technology?
These questions help youunderstand if your prospect could be a buyer? Could he purchase your solution?
- If you identify the need for a new product in your department, how does your team typically go about purchasing the solution?
- All things considered, what is the “typical” length of the approval process?
- Who are the four or six people who will make this decision?
- What does the corporate purchasing process look like?
- How do you typically purchase new tools?
Buying process questions give you insights on the internal processes and stakeholders. Who do you need to speak with?
- How are you currently handling problem X?
- Who gets involved? At what moments?
Business process questions give you clues as to how the company works. These are convergent questions you can ask when you know which problem you’re taking on.
- What are the four or five sites, tools or technologies that you use the most for work during the day?
- What are some of the tools or technologies that you value for your work?
- How did you decide to use tool X?
- How did you find out about tool X?
Technology landscape questions tell you about the competition for budgets and expected payment models. What would suit them best?
Whole product definition
- What are the minimal criteria required to work with your company?
- What is most important for your company when purchasing new technology?
These questions tell you about the whole product. What do you need to do to close this prospect?
- Who are the visionaries you respect?
- What are some of the blogs, websites or publications that you read?
Influencers tell you how you can reach and influence these companies. Who do they take advice from?
Calculation of Return on Investment
- How much time do you estimate solving problem X currently takes?
- How much money do you invest solving problem X?
- How many man hours does it typically take your team to do task X?
Questions meant to help you create your ROI story. How much savings or impact can you expect?
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Further Readings on B2B Customer Development
I publish articles on B2B customer development every week on my blog:
Although the Lean Startup methodology works really well, the book's near exclusive focus on consumer startups like…leanb2bbook.com
This is a post about a missing part in Lean B2B: Build Products Businesses Want. I stumbled on this concept a little…leanb2bbook.com