Everyone has ideas and some ideas should be kept in the bag -talking about myself first - now; the challenge is how do you know which ones?
I have found that early testing to either drop or double down in the idea is paramount.
You don’t want to invest your time and money (and hair) on a project just to find out you don’t have a Market or the list of features are irrelevant to your target audience.
This is why I’m a fan of the Lean Startup mindset, you start small and build from there what the customer wants, sure, common sense isn’t it?
All good here but why do I still see the other way around? Personally, I used to get attached easily to my ideas (like babies, awkward…).
What I have learned to help me are a couple of simple principles and steps (below), they kept me focussed on what I’m trying to achieve and if there is real value to the world on it.
Make sure you practice the skill of asking good questions by talking about them. Keep the conversation in the past (avoids pitch land) and please please please be genuinely interested in the other people, so, make sure they talk more (you just ask questions, yes?).
Avoid their compliment trap “oh that’s great!”, a good reality check is to ask “yes but will you buy it?” Gold rule: Any lead/opportunity without next steps that lead you to the close isn’t really a lead/opportunity, GREAT! move on.
If they don’t commit value it’s a zombie lead/project/opportunity, this could be because of the questions or you went to the future (pitch), misunderstood what they want, or, they aren’t really interested.
The principle is if you didn’t pitch and they aren’t really interested in what you have, GREAT! If you couldn’t find out what are the challenges; you probably didn’t ask good questions; so, review your notes and test try a different approach.
On the notes, make them simple and preferably have someone else with you with which you can compare and exchange notes after to close the feedback loop.
Make sure you are digging beneath the answers they give you, the 3 (or 5) levels of why
C: I think that’s a great idea customer loyalty app! (compliments land, don’t go pitch mode!)
Y: Thank you, what do you like about it? (get the specifics or it isn’t real)
C: You can know your customers better. (not specific again, but, this seems to be something else)
Y: What do you think is most important to know about your customers?
C: Well, how frequently they buy from us, avg order value, products. (ok this went south, all good though)
Y: Do you currently have these features? (so now you know that the customer loyalty app is irrelevant but, you know of something else which is relevant)
C: Yes we do as a matter of fact. (maybe another opportunity)
Y: What are the challenges you have today around it?
I can’t emphasise this enough, it’s about them and finding out early if this is or is not relevant. It will save you both a lot of time/resources!
When you get out of an interaction, be it networking or meeting, make sure you got commitments that will advance this conversation further and think of them as currency.
These can be them agreeing to give you more time on the next meeting, introducing to a decision-maker or their team (not someone else they know outside their organisation – that’s a dead lead – but grab the contact on the spot!) letter of intent, pre-order or deposit, these are all good signs, anything outside this you don’t have a buyer just a nice guy which can potentially rob you form your precious time and resources.
It’s too easy to get excited by our own ideas and transmit them to other people. People may try to help you and lie to you to make you and themselves feel good.
Ways to avoid this are don’t fish for compliments (talk about them) don’t expose your ego especially. When you talk about your idea (avoid being “pitchy”), there is a time to pitch but first, you have to find out what really matters to them. If they have a big enough pain to change and then you can propose a solution if you can.
If they aren’t buying and you treated them right ask them for references or introductions to other people, people will help you and if not, move on, no big deal here.
If you have a mindset driven to learn, insights, market experience and challenges will find a way to give value back. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and let them speak, everyone has problems you just have to find out how relevant and painful they are to relate back to your product/idea.