Customer Development Conversations With Busy Prospects

Question from an entrepreneur in the midst of customer discovery for a new product.
Q: We are preparing to launch our first product in a few months. Next week there is a conference sponsored by a professional society that represents one of our potential target markets.  We have already done about a dozen customer discovery interviews that lasted a half an hour to an hour, but at the conference it’s unlikely we will be able speak to attendees for more than a few minutes during breaks.  How should we take advantage of this opportunity to talk to prospects?

Attending the conference is a great idea.  Not only will you have a chance to meet potential customers but the sessions and the hallway conversations will also provide insights into the challenges and issues your prospects are concerned about.

But it’s not much of an opportunity to have a long customer discovery interview. Think about starting conversations that will develop into relationships.

You have 30 to 60 seconds to explain the problem you are trying to solve and see if it’s important to them.  If it is  ask if you can call them for a few minutes and exchange business cards to setup a time that’s convenient at a later date. Be succinct–rehearsal is key–and you will embody your promise not to waste their time.

If you want a piece of collateral fit your message on a 3×5 card: pain question, two or three sentences and contact info for more info. This form factor can be handed out in casual conversation without feeling awkward (compared to a sheet of paper or even a half-sheet).  It’s size will encourage you to consider how little time you have to get to the point. And it will be a good reminder for how little most folks will actually remember from the conversation.

Take care to become  a member in good standing of this professional community. Think longer term and win-win. Consider ways that you can sponsor and contribute to the event (even just by volunteering your time) so that you demonstrate your commitment to the group and the professional community’s goals.

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