These series of guest posts are written by the teams attending the Tetuan Valley Startup School 2013 Spring edition. This post is from the Rollcard team, formed by Javier Olaguibel and Guillermo Aguirre de Cárcer.
The problem interview is the first step you should take in order to know if what you are trying to solve is something marketable or just a pain in your own neck, and if the risks (market, product and client) make your idea impossible to fulfill. Our experience with these interviews has shown that there is something that makes them even more important: the fact that it’s the first contact you have with potential clients.
For the first interview you are almost certainly going to know someone who you can interview, or if not, one of your friends or family members will know and give you the contact. It’s important in this interview to connect with the other person so that he doesn’t feel like you’re wasting his time. After the meeting he can put you in touch with colleagues of his (more potential clients for you to interview). From what we’ve seen, the easiest way to get someone to sit down in a meeting with you is when you call him on behalf of someone he already knows; it’s like having a certificate that says “what I have to say may be interesting for you.”
When we started doing these interviews, we tended to make very closed questions which basically leads the people to just end up telling you what you want them to tell you, which isn’t so useful. It’s very important to understand that this is not an interview to talk about yourself and your product (at least not until the very end of the interview), it has to be about the person you are interviewing and his problems. People love to talk about what they do and the problems they have doing it, so take advantage of that.
What has worked best for us is to take a list of things that we want to know, but ask them as open questions or include them casually in the discussion, and then… LISTEN. Let them talk and pay as much attention as you can to things like how they currently solve that problem, which vocabulary they use to talk about it, how do they define your product, possible suggestions they have, etc. From these conversations you can extract how to get to them (your channel), which words you have to use to get their attention (Unique Value Proposition and High Level Concept), who your real competitors are, and much more.
At the end, if you succeed in making the interviewee feel like he has contributed to the result of the product he will be much more interested in becoming a real client once you’ve hit the market. Finish the meeting asking permission to call him back once you’ve finished the product to meet again and show him a real demo. If he agrees it means you have at least gotten his attention, which is the first step towards selling, all while validating your business model in the real world.