Of course it’s a great idea to do a little customer development any time you meet a customer, but tactically, you may still be wondering: when am I going to get the chance to ask customers a question apart from my interviews? Change your thinking here: the more appropriate question here is not when but who. News flash: There are people in your company who talk to customers every day. They may not be familiar with customer development or lean startup principles, but they’re perfectly positioned to listen and learn.
There’s incredible potential to learn if you harness the power of your customer-facing coworkers. Salespeople, account managers, and customer support professionals spend their entire work lives talking with your prospective and current customers. Unfortunately, what these customer-facing folks learn is too often dismissed by people who make product decisions. “She’ll promise anything to close the deal.” “He’s just hearing from a skewed sample of angry customers.” Sure, there’s bias.
But that doesn’t mean we should ignore this feedback; it means we try to reduce the bias. Instead, these teams can work together to produce a better outcome for both. When a customer asks for a feature or demands a change, the best answer is not “yes” or “no.” Each of those answers signals an end to the conversation. Asking questions in response is a more diplomatic way of avoiding a no as well as a valuable means of getting answers.