Never sell or solve on customer interviews.

Send commercial-technical teams on interviews… but don’t let them sell or solve. If you sell during voice-of-customer sessions, customers know you’re not really interested in them. If you solve, you’re jeopardizing your intellectual property. In either case, you’re wasting precious time better used to understand customer needs.

More in e-book, Reinventing VOC for B2B (page 24).

Skip quantitative interviews if you’ve got extra R&D resources to squander.

After qualitative interviews, seek customer ratings on key outcomes: “How important is abrasion resistance on a 1-10 scale? And how satisfied are you today with abrasion resistance on a 1-10 scale?” This lets you converge with confidence on only those outcomes customers care about… those with Market Satisfaction Gaps over 30% (important and unsatisfied).

More in white paper, Catch the Innovation Wave (page 11).

Got a new product hypothesis? Give it the “silent treatment” during customer interviews.

I love it when our clients have cool technology and clever ideas. But don’t mention these to customers during VOC interviews. From the customer’s perspective, the interview should look exactly the same whether or not you’ve got a great hypothesis. Give your hypothesis the silent treatment for now. Simply listen to the customer.

More in article, Give your Hypothesis the “Silent Treatment” (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth).

If you’re eradicating surprises in quality & productivity, it’s hard to embrace them in innovation.

Innovation is fueled by the unexpected. But many suppliers are surprise-averse. They start with their own ideas, filter them through internal processes, and avoid customer-led interviews. In an odd twist, surprise-averse suppliers are the most likely to be surprised… by mistaken market assumptions and blockbusters introduced by surprise-seeking competitors.

More in white paper, Catch the Innovation Wave (page 10).

Innovators should worry about errors of omission as much as errors of commission.

When you validate your new product concept with customers, they may tell you if it’s a dud. Great… you’ve avoided the error of commission. But what about the error of omission? If you first enter the customer’s world with B2B divergent interviews, you might learn of unexpected needs that lead to a blockbuster.

More in white paper, Lean Startup for B2B (page 9).

Don’t rely on a small staff of voice-of-customer experts to do your company’s interviewing.

Large businesses chalk up thousands of face-to-face customer meetings each year… as sales and technical service reps go about their normal duties. Why not train these people to become VOC experts? They’ve already gained customers’ trust, they know the customer’s language, they’ll get key information first-hand, and there’s no extra travel cost.

More in article, The Cost Cutter’s Guide to Growth (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).

It is easy to tell if your interview is supplier-led or customer-led.

If you’re dragging in your list of questions and the customer feels they’re doing you a favor… it’s supplier-led. But if you keep the scope broad enough to interest them, let them lead you to what interests them, and help them think deeply through attentive probing… it’s customer-led. It’s also much more effective.

More in article, The Best Customer Interviews Use a Digital Projector (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).

To ensure more product failures, simply avoid divergent and convergent interviews.

Skip qualitative divergent interviews and you’ll fail to uncover unexpected customer outcomes. You simply don’t know what you don’t know. Overlook quantitative, convergent interviews and you’ll fail to tightly focus R&D on those outcomes customers deem important and unsatisfied… the only ones worthy of a price premium.

More in white paper, Timing is Everything (page 8).

Be paranoid about the innovation capabilities your competitors may be building.

If your new product development process does not require customer interviews today, consider two questions: 1) Do I have competitors beating me to the new product punch because they are using such interviews to uncover market needs? 2) Could I leapfrog them by building a company-wide competency of B2B-optimized interviews?

More in article, B2B Customer Interviews: Are They Different?

Good probing questions become the light that illuminates the customer’s world.

Many suppliers ask “low-lumen” questions that neither illuminate nor engage customers. They may be biased, close-ended or too complex. Beware requesting sensitive information, or asking, “What would you pay for this?” When you ask for problems, don’t try to “help” with examples. Instead, let the customer choose the next topic to discuss.

Read more in article, Lean Startup: A Great Approach Requiring “B2B Pre-Work” (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth.) Lean Startup wisely recommends testing assumptions and learning from customers at the first opportunity. For most B2B suppliers, this “first opportunity” to learn comes before a prototype is created – through early voice-of-customer interviews that mine the insight and foresight of highly-knowledgeable customers.