People lie. They lie to help you, they lie to avoid hurting you, they lie for all kinds of reasons. A little white lie never killed nobody, but what it will kill is your starting business. It’s in your hands to get people to be honest with you. But how?
Entrepreneurs know it is very easy to screw up, and it is very hard to do things right, especially when launching. You should find out beforehand whether your business idea is viable, whether people are interested in the solution you are offering them. How and when? By talking to real people.
The most efficient way to find out whether your idea is wanted, even before launching, is by talking to people. And when we say people, we don’t mean… your mom. She will lie to you, because she loves you. You want to start real conversations with real customers, and you want them to be honest with you, even though the truth is very fragile. The good news is, you are the one who can steer people into honesty. Without honesty, scepticism, real advice… you will not learn anything.
First, customers will not be honest with people in a founder’s position. They will never tell you when they think your idea is worthless, because they want to avoid hurting your feelings. Therefore, you should never ask people: ‘What do you think of X?’, X being your genius idea. Instead, you want to ask people about their lives, goals, frustrations and ideas. That is what we call a ‘learning conversation’, which is nothing like a ‘sales conversation’. A golden trick here is asking people about facts in the past. It will be easier for them to answer the question ‘How many times did you go shopping last month’ than ‘How many times do you go shopping monthly’. Feel the difference? Facts!
The most important questions to ask are the ones that might destroy your business idea. The ones that help you realise it is not worth at all to continue building your business AKA… the very scary ones. The best thing you can do to avoid sneaking out of these scary questions, is writing them down in advance. During the conversation, write down the answers given so your team can process raw data, instead of your interpretations of the conversation.
If you get the chance to talk to people ‘off the record’, by finding moments around margins, you should definitely use them. You will get the customer's unbiased opinion, by asking them how they are dealing with this or that. They will not realise that they are being ‘interrogated’, and this ‘hidden experiment’ will reveal how they really feel about things.
Last but not least, you want evidence that people are telling the truth. If they seem very thrilled about your idea, turn the conversation into a sales talk, by offering them the ‘exclusive opportunity’ of subscribing or buying. If their answer is ‘oh thanks, I’m good’, and you get this answer more than once, you might reconsider your business idea.