What Questions Should I Ask During a Buyer Interview?

Maybe you’re in one of these two situations:

Situation 1: “When I ask people what they liked about my software, I hear the same old things that don’t tell me much. It’s easy to use, they like the colors and the arrangement. I try to dig deeper, but I end up getting generalities I can’t use to improve my product. So I then ask what they would add to improve the product. When I implement features with that feedback, it doesn’t necessarily improve sales or customer satisfaction. Interviewing buyers one-on-one hasn’t really paid off.”

Situation 2: “I’ve gotten some good results interviewing our recent buyers. I try to steer them away from them inventing words to tell me, and I try to steer them back to telling me their purchase story. It’s tough work, and I’m not great at it yet, but I get nuggets of gold when I do.”

While situation #1 shows signs of struggle with buyer interviews, situation #2 seems to be going down the right trail. Situation #2 has found the right questions to ask during an interview.

Questions To Ask

So let’s inventory some questions you can ask during an interview, separated into two groups:

The first group of questions:

  • What did you like about the product?
  • What can you recommend we improve about the product?
  • Do you purchase this type of product a lot or was it your first time?
  • After purchasing the product, how did you end up using it?
  • What features do you like the most?
  • What features do you like the least?
  • How often do you use the product?
  • What’s a typical day for you when you use the product?

The second group of questions:

  • Tell me about the first time you thought about that problem you had that the product helped solve.
  • Can you run me through the purchase day?
  • I don’t understand, can you help me get a better picture of that time you decided to start searching for the product?
  • Was it on a weekend or during the week?
  • Was it sunny outside or was it raining, do you remember?
  • Help me get a picture of your setup at that moment, so you were in your office… was the door closed?
  • What did you type in Google when you had that thought about your problem on that Sunday morning?
  • What drove the urgency to make a decision on that day when you went out to buy the product?
  • After you talked to your co-workers, what went through your mind?

Comparing the Two Groups of Questions

Can you spot the difference between the two groups? Is there something distinctly different about the second group than the first group?

The first group asks pretty typical questions.
The second group asks some very situational questions.

The first group asks for general conclusions.
The second group digs for details.

The first group asks the buyer to be creative.
The second group asks the buyer to recall situations.

The first group asks the buyer about the present.
The second group asks the buyer about the past.

It turns out, the first group gets the buyer to tell you what you want to hear.
The second group, however, gets the buyer to tell you vivid details about the purchase story.

The Purchase Story

What sets the second group of questions apart? It contains questions exclusively crafted to help the buyer recall details about the purchase story. It asks specific questions to encourage memory recall (“was it sunny outside?”).

This strategy, to have the buyer recall the purchase story in detail, has one critical goal: find out what motivated the buyer to move forward, to make progress. What made them exert effort to solve their problem? What was the problem in the first place?

As options and alternatives were discovered, what were the buyer’s reactions to those options? How did those reactions refine the problem to be solved, the job-to-be-done? What about your product messaging, if anything, made a difference in convincing them that your product would help them solve their problem?

Knowing these details will help you firm up your product’s messaging. It’ll also help you have more confidence about your future direction. Confidence in how you re-shape it, confidence in pushing back against adding features or product variants that won’t offer any tangible payback, confidence in knowing the job for which your product is being hired.

Stay Sharp!

Want to have a run through an interview formatted with these questions? If you have a recent buyer whose story surprised you a bit who’d be ready for a 1 hour phone interview, (or you, yourself, purchased a product in the last three months), send me an email and we’ll setup the interview.


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