Five Questions I Removed From My Sales Conversations

At the risk of making the majority of this article useless, I am listing the 5 questions that I removed from my sales conversations. Here they are.

  1. Have you ever had the problem X?
  2. Do you think this product solves your problem?
  3. Does this interest you?
  4. Will you buy this solution?
  5. On a scale of 1 to 5, how difficult it is to do X?

Reference: An amazing book titled The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick.

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Now that you have these questions and an awesome reference book, I am going to waste the rest of the white space below by indulging myself in reasoning why they are not just useless but also harmful questions.

I had the pleasure of reading the book ‘The Mom Test’ a few days ago. This forced me to remove the following questions from my sales conversations.

1. Have you ever had the problem X?

Here are the reasons why I find this question harmful.

  1. It is very difficult to get a ‘No’ if you have done a fairly good job of targeting the customer.
  2. The word ‘ever’ makes them dig into their past memories and problems. They will say ‘yes’ even if they faced it two years ago. Just because I faced a problem 2 years ago, it does not mean I am willing to spend money today to avoid or solve it.
  3. This gives you a false positive and a pat-in-the-back to your team when there is little hope of them paying to solve the problem.

2. Do you think this product solves your problem?

Here are the reasons why I find this question harmful.

  1. If you have to ask this question explicitly, instead of the customer volunteering with their “Wow! this is a life-saver for me”, one of the following things is true.
    1. The product does not solve the problem they have.
    2. The problem is not their top pain right now.
  2. You are fishing for compliments in this question. People know they can get out of the conversation by saying ‘yes’. They also know that you are going to ask them to justify if they say ‘no’. Why get into a weird conversation about something that they do not care about much?

3. Does this interest you?

Here are the reasons why I find this question harmful.

  1. Interest does not equal money. I am interested in watching memes on Reddit. In fact, I spend more time on Reddit, watching memes, than I care to admit. That does not mean I will pay Reddit a dime from my pocket. Nah! Never!
  2. If you have to explicitly ask “Does this interest you?”, it means that you do not see any signs of interest on their face when you said the previous statement. Again, we are fishing for compliments.

4. Will you buy this solution?

Here are the reasons why I find this question harmful.

  1. If there is no pull, there is no cash, probably. At least, not right now.
  2. A purchase decision is rarely based on the solution alone. It depends on multiple other factors like price, current business weather, buy-in from other stakeholders and, maybe, the alignment of a specific planet with a star.

5. On a scale of 1 to 5, how difficult is it to do X?

Here are the reasons why I find this question harmful.

  1. Fake statistical effect. I hope to aggregate these numbers from multiple interviews and showcase the pain that we solve. These numbers are not aggregate-able because the definition of difficulty is not the same for everyone. Something that is 1 for an experienced businessman maybe a 5 for a newbie. So, no!
  2. The customer feels like they are being quizzed. They don’t get to talk about their life. Instead, their problems are reduced to a number on a 5 point scale.

I am sure these are not the only questions I need to rethink. Deleting bad questions is just one part. We need to understand how to have meaningful conversation with the customers. The book explains that clearly in detail. I hope to summarize those aspects in a different blog post in the future. If you want to find good advice about doing customer interviews, refer to the book. Or, maybe you can take a course from their website too.

Picture Credit: Evan Dennis

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