The Mom Test

Entrepreneuriat

Principles

  1. Ask about their life instead of you talking about your idea
  2. Ask specifics from the past (how did you look up X) instead of opinions about the future (how you think the market works) which is often wrong.
  3. Talk less and listen more

Avoiding bad data

Ignore compliments

  1. Most people don't want to insult. Will try to get rid of you by these methods.
    "That's cool, love it" → words used to end meetings and not intend to pay.
  2. Avoidable by not pitching about your product. Instead ask about customer's workflow. Emphasis on listening more, talk less.

Ignore fluffs

  1. Warning signs you are in a fluff conversation if you hear these words: usually, always, never, would, will, might, could."I would definitely buy that!", "I could see myself using that!"
  2. Avoid fluff by asking direct questions — "When's the last time that happened?"

Be tactical

  1. Avoid pitching: pitching means your mouth is open and your ears are closed.
  2. Avoid ego: If you tell someone about your passion project, people afraid to hurt your feelings, won't tell you it's bad.

Asking important questions

Do not be afraid of truth that would destroy your company

Better to know now, pivot / shape your product than deal with catastrophe later.

Learn to love bad news

Better to know product is failing after spending 5k than spending 50k.

Do not zoom

  1. Pointed question
    You: "What do you like about fitness apps?"
    Customer: *generic reply*
    You: *zoom to conclusion* "This is the killer feature for fitness apps!"
    Reality: Customer doesn't care about fitness.
    You asked a question about fitness, so they responded about fitness.
  2. Figure out if there is a relevant paying market to the problem.
    → Yes, there may be a problem, but one that no one cares enough to pay a.k.a. this is a personal project, like a blog.
  3. Prepare 3 Questions to Ask
    Have your list of 3 questions that you can use to figure risk (product and market) and learn from your customer. Always have your three questions, but keep on evolving them. Have them already prepared!

Finding conversations

Cold conversations/call are hard

Most likely will be your first couple of meetings. Goal is to do those well to get warm intros for contact to give you warm intros elsewhere.

Seize advantage to talk to customers

Don't treat it like a formal meeting (and then it won't be).
If you have to ask for a calendar block —> too formal.

Immerse yourself where they are

If they hang out at Speakers Lounge, you should be there!

Organise meetups

For marginally more efforts than attending an event, you can organise your own and benefit from being the center of attention. You automatically attract legitimity.

Getting warm intros

  • use your network to get you intros: advisors, friends, etc.
  • univ profs know a lot of people

Framing the meeting

The framing format I like has 5 key elements.

  1. You're an entrepreneur trying to solve horrible problem X, usher in wonderful vision Y, or fix stagnant industry Z. Don't mention your idea.
  2. Frame expectations by mentioning what stage you're at and, if it's true, that you don't have anything to sell.
  3. Show weakness and give them a chance to help by mentioning your specific problem that you're looking for answers on. This will also clarify that you're not a time waster.
  4. Put them on a pedestal by showing how much they, in particular, can help.
  5. Ask for help.

Or, in shorter form: Vision / Framing / Weakness / Pedestal / Ask

The mnemonic is Very Few Wizards Properly Ask [for help].


Whole chapter in the book about this (✨gold)

Sometimes a proper meeting can't be avoided. For example, you might want the full hour or need to talk to someone senior outside of your peer or networking group. But since you don't necessarily have anything to sell, it's unclear what the meeting is for. In those cases, the right explanation and framing can do wonders.

If you don’t know why you’re there, it becomes a sales meeting by default, which is bad for 3 reasons.
First, the customer closes up about some important topics like pricing.
Second, attention shifts to you instead of them.
And finally, it’s going to be the worst sales meeting ever because you aren’t ready.

Symptoms:

“Um. So….”
“How’s it going?”

There are a lot of bad ways to frame the meeting, both when first asking for it and once it begins.

Questions like, "Can I interview you" or "Thanks for agreeing to this interview" both set set off alarm bells that this meeting is going to be super boring. I don't want to be interviewed; I want to talk and help!

The common, "Can I get your opinion on what we're doing?" sets expectations of neediness and that you want compliments or approval.

No expectations at all are set by, "Do you have time for a quick coffee/lunch/chat/meeting?" which suggests you're liable to waste my time.

The framing format I like has 5 key elements.

  1. You're an entrepreneur trying to solve horrible problem X, usher in wonderful vision Y, or fix stagnant industry Z. Don't mention your idea.
  2. Frame expectations by mentioning what stage you're at and, if it's true, that you don't have anything to sell.
  3. “Show weakness and give them a chance to help by mentioning your specific problem that you're looking for answers on. This will also clarify that you're not a time waster.
  4. Put them on a pedestal by showing how much they, in particular, can help.
  5. Ask for help.

Or, in shorter form: Vision / Framing / Weakness / Pedestal / Ask
The mnemonic is “Very Few Wizards Properly Ask [for help]."

Here's what it might look like before you have a product:

Hey Pete,

I'm trying to make desk & office rental less of a pain for new businesses (vision). We're just starting out and don't have anything to sell, but want to make sure we're building something that actually helps (framing).

I've only ever come at it from the tenant's side and I'm having a hard time understanding how it all works from the landlord's perspective (weakness). You've been renting out desks for a while and could really help me cut through the fog (pedestal).

Do you have time in the next couple weeks to meet up for a chat? (ask)

Sometimes the 5 parts will be combined into just one or two sentences, or they can be in a different order. For example, the next email sounded a little too pitchy and I was worried he would delete it as sales spam before getting through the first two sentences.
As such, I moved my admission of weakness as early as I could get it:

Hey Scott, I run a startup trying to make advertising more playful and ultimately effective (vision).

We're having a load of trouble figuring out how all the pieces of the industry fit together and where we can best fit into it (weakness). You know more about this industry than anyone and could really save us from a ton of mistakes (pedestal).

We're funded and have a couple products out already, but this is in no way a sales meeting -- we're just moving into a new area and could really use some of your expertise (framing).

Can you spare a bit of time in the next week to help point us in the right direction over a coffee? (ask)

People like to help entrepreneurs. But they also hate wasting their time. An opening like this tells them that you know what you need and that they'll be able to make a real difference.

Once the meeting starts, you have to grab the reins or it's liable to turn into them drilling you on your idea, which is exactly what you don't want.
To do this, I basically repeat what I said in the email and then immediately drop into the first question. If someone else made the introduction, I'll use them as a voice of authority:

Hey Tim, thanks so much for taking the time.

As I mentioned in the email, we're trying to make it easier for universities to spin out student businesses (vision) and aren't exactly sure how it all works yet (framing & weakness).

I think Tom made this intro (authority) because you have pretty unique insight into what's going on behind the curtain and could really help us get pointed in the right direction (pedestal)… (introductions continue)

I was looking at your spinout portfolio and it's pretty impressive, especially company X. How did they get from your classroom to where they are now? (grab the reins and ask good questions)

These conversations are easy to screw up. As such, you need to be the one in control. You set the agenda, you keep it on topic, and you propose next steps. Don't be a jerk about it, but do have a plan for the meeting and be assertive about keeping it on track.

It’s worth noting that this is how I set up meetings from warm intros. The main goal is to clarify what I need and how they can help. Cold approaches are a totally different beast and are much more of a gamble. Again, the point of cold calls is to stop having them. Find a clever ways to generate warm intros and tell those people how they can help. You’ll have a much easier time.


Try to meet in person versus call

Less awkward.

Treat these meetings like advisors

Goal is not to get them to buy product, but for advice and to learn. Makes you less needy.

>> Do as many meetings until you stop learning something useful <<

Commitment and advancement

Push for advancement up each sales pipeline

Had meeting with a client? What's next? Is there a clear advancement to a customer will pay scenario?

  • Meetings that "went well" (no action items)? —> FAILURE
  • Meetings where someone bought your product? —> SUCCESS
  • Meetings where someone is introducing you to more decision makers? —> SUCCESS
  • Meetings when someone will get back to you? —> FAILURE
  • Lateral movements —> FAILURE

Meetings are binary. Either FAILURE or SUCCESS.

Choosing your customers

Define a customer slice

Make sure it's a true customer slice (not a broad market). IE. busy professionals 28-35 is NOT a customer slice. Too broad! Finance professionals in London training for a marathon —> customer slice.

Running the process

Other team members should be going to the meeting

To divide knowledge share and to make sure you both heard the right thing from customer. If only one person goes —> high failure of market understanding and knowledge sharing.

Be prepared for customer meetings

Know who the customer is. Don't spend too long either. Goal is to build a product, not talk to people all day.

Take good notes that can be disseminated to the team