Getting B2B Customer Interviews

If you missed my introduction to the concept of customer interviews and are not familiar with them, check out my previous post.


When planning early-stage B2B customer development, you are aiming to get a first meeting with a potential customer or industry expert. You should begin by making a list of the expertise you have within your team that relates to your prospects and credibility within your chosen industry. Do not be afraid to use your team’s personal and professional network to find contacts and research where industry leaders hang out (online and offline). You can track your progress using a traditional funnel, beginning with outreach on social media and moving from emails to phone calls to an in-person meeting.

[selectivetweet]The key to this is to make sure that they are the ones talking during the interview, not you.[/selectivetweet]

Because trust is critical to establish early in B2B relationships, you should begin by establishing credibility through relationships or through your experience. Don’t forget to feed their ego – “So-and-so told me you are an industry expert” can go a long way. Sometimes founders forget that they also have something to offer, but often you can provide industry insights, a chance at a competitive edge, or an opportunity for co-creation.

Of course, this process means that B2B businesses have a longer lead time to conduct interviews compared to B2C businesses. The larger the business you are targeting, the longer lead time you need to plan for. However, for small restaurants and hotels, my advice is to simply walk in because your chances of success are higher than calling or emailing.

An advantage of being part of METRO Accelerator for Hospitality powered by Techstars is that the METRO salesforce helps our founders find and set up interviews. The sales teams know their segments and customers very well, and are therefore able to schedule appointments significantly faster than the founders can alone.

For a first interview, asking for 20 minutes is usually a low enough time commitment for business customers to say yes. Of course, if you capture their interest you may find that they stay longer. The key to this is to make sure that they are the ones talking during the interview, not you. Many people love to get a willing ear for their problems.


Sometimes founders ask me about the usefulness of focus groups for customer development. Focus groups are appropriate for market research in established companies, particularly for B2C products, but they tend to be a waste of time for B2B startups. Customers do not want to show their weaknesses in front of their colleagues or competitors, so it can be difficult to get honest answers. In the end, a one-on-one meeting is key to establishing the trust needed for B2B sales later on.

So now you’ve got the interview, right? In the next post, I’ll outline my tips for preparing for and conducting successful interviews.


You can learn more about customer development at Eric Ries’ blog explaining The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank, the foundation of the method we use at the METRO Accelerator for Hospitality.

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