Earlier this week I gave a talk at the TechAviv New York meetup at the NYU Stern School of Business. About 250 people attended the event. After my talk on de-risking and turning assumptions into knowledge in a capital-efficient manner, an entrepreneur came up to me to ask a question:
When is it too early to meet with potential customers?
My feeling is that it's almost never too early to start speaking with customers. Whether you are creating a business facing or consumer facing product or service, I strongly believe in speaking with customers as early as possible (being careful, though, if you have any particular intellectual property you are trying to protect via patents). Think about trying some of the questions below and modifying them to fit your particular situation (whether a product or service; whether business or consumer facing):
- Would you use this product? Why or why not?
- What do you think are our strengths and weaknesses?
- Does this solve a large, urgent need for you?
- Can you describe how this would help you increase revenue or decrease costs?
- How are you solving this problem today?
- What product(s) would you be replacing if you started using our product?
- What do you think is missing?
- What do you see as the top benefits this would provide?
- Who do you see as a competitor to us / our product?
- What obstacles would you see to implementing / purchasing this product?
- What value do you see this provides? Can you describe that in monetary terms? (In other words, "What would you be willing to pay?")
When finishing the meeting with a potential customer / consumer, don't be afraid to try a trial close and ask something like "So, if we fixed the things you pointed out and were willing to sell it at the price we discussed, would you go ahead and purchase it now?" LISTEN carefully to what they say. Hear if they throw up and objections / obstacles to the sale. You may have to drill down a bit more if new things come up but the information will be highly valuable.