How to schedule Preference interviews
  2. Preference Interviews (Step 3)
  3. How to schedule Preference interviews

3. Tips for recruiting customers to a Preference interview

3 Suggestions for improving your odds of scheduling many Preference interviews.

#1: Schedule during Discovery: Here’s our number one tip for requesting a Preference interview: Schedule it as you are finishing your Discovery interview with the customer. Just say something like this:

  • “Thanks for sharing your insights. You’ve given us a lot to think about. When we add your thoughts to those of other industry experts, we'll have far too many product design targets… and we’ll need prioritize them. Would you be willing to help us with that?”

Customer almost always say yes at this point: They’re usually in a good mood, and it’s harder to say “no” in a face-to-face situation like this vs. email or even phone. When they do say “yes,” be sure you say this…

  • “Great… Can we look at our calendars right now and set up a time to meet?”

If you schedule each Preference interview as you finish up the respective Discovery interview, you accomplish several things:

  1. You improve your odds of customers agreeing to Preference interviews.
  2. You save yourself a lot of work emailing, phoning, and comparing calendars later.
  3. You significantly accelerate your entire Blueprinting process.

What’s not to love?! The only requirement is this: Your team needs to give itself a fixed amount of time to complete Discovery interviews… so you know when you’ll be ready for Preference interviews. If you start your Discovery interviews in January and plan to complete them by April, you’ll ask your customers, “So how do your calendars look in May and June?” Notice you’ll often be looking at calendars with lots of openings.

#2: Offer your “industry research”: Here’s our number two tip: Tell customers you’d like to share your industry research. Let them know that when you return (for the Preference interview), you’ll share with them the top needs you’ve been hearing in their industry. (These will be your 10 outcomes.) And you can add…

  • “Better yet, we’ll even ask you to ‘vote’ on these top industry needs. That way you’ll have a say in what our scientists/engineers are working on… so their work can benefit you.”

This approach works also works very well if you’re requesting a Preference interview of a customer that did not participate in a Discovery interview. You can put it this way:

  • “We’d like to share our industry research into the top needs companies like yours are interested in… and even give you a chance to vote on what we should work on.”

#3: Short web-conferences are OK: A full Preference interview has five sections:

  1. Outcome ratings
  2. Measuring Outcomes
  3. Must-Haves
  4. Top Outcomes
  5. Other Information

Try to have some face-to-face Preference interviews that cover all five sections. This will let you “go deep” in your probing, especially in understanding how they measure satisfaction for the ten outcomes (Part 2). But once you’ve got this understanding, try to get quantitative outcome ratings (Part 1) from as many companies as possible.

There are two reasons for this focus on gathering 1-to-10 ratings:

  1. Statistical confidence: You’ll be able to put much more trust in your Market Satisfaction Gap charts if they’re supported by many—not just a few—customer interviews. This is especially important if you wish to sub-segment your market into different regions and/or points in the value chain: You can’t effectively do this if you only have a couple of interviews in Asia, a couple in Europe, etc.
  2. Increased engagement: Every time you ask another company for their 1-to-10 ratings, you engage them. They’ll be much more willing to evaluate your new product at launch time if they were part of this process.

How do you increase your odds of getting lots of companies to agree to a Preference interview? Ask them for a 45 minute web-conference call. (Of course, nobody schedules their next meeting for 10:45am or 2:45pm… so you’ll get at least 60 minutes.) Then spend the entire time in Part 1, getting 1-to-10 ratings on importance and satisfaction. You’ll need to move quickly, so if they get into a serious debate on one outcome rating, just “table it,” get the remaining outcome ratings, and come back to the controversial outcome.

Last tip: Just because you only covered part one--1-to-10 ratings--in a 45-60 minute interview doesn't mean you have to give up on part two (how they measure outcomes.) At the end of your interview, ask if one of them would be willing to have a phone call later to help you understand how they measure success on these outcomes.

Keywords: recruit for Preference interviews, request Preference interviews, set up Preference interviews, when to schedule Preference interviews, schedule Preference during Discovery, offer industry research, Preference web-conference interview