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Lean Customer Development by Cindy Alvarez

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Appendix A. Questions That Work

Customer development doesn’t always have to be scheduled, or part of a structured interaction.

Trying to craft an effective question while you’re carrying on a conversation can be challenging. It’s easy to inadvertently ask a leading question (How often do you think you would use X?) or a yes-or-no question that elicits a one-word response (Do you think Y is a good lunch option for your family?). Yes-or-no questions are not only ineffective, but they throw the ball right back in your court since they do not elicit a more open-ended response. You have to have another question ready immediately. Since you want to listen more than you talk, that’s not a good strategy.

In this appendix, I give you a list of questions you can use. For each question, we’ll talk about how the question is constructed, when it makes sense to ask it, and what you can learn by asking it.

Warning

Do not ask questions that you could have answered yourself using a search engine. People enjoy feeling helpful by providing information that is specific to them. Treat them as experts, not research assistants.[76]

Questions for Any Customer Development Interview

Whether you work for a startup or an established company, these questions can help you.

Tell me about the last time you ___

The situation

The customer is talking about a specific task, either complaining about it or expressing the wish to do it faster, better, or not at all.

This isn’t a question as much as an invitation to speak freely. ...

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