Get Over Your Fear of Talking to Customers

Avoiding deviation errors by talking to customers early and often

We’re talking about how to talk to customers – early and often – in our upcoming Loop System: Early Business Idea Validation. Loop Systems are simple, inexpensive business systems you can quickly test to see what works for your business. By joining our paid community, we provide you with the process, tools, training, coaching, and cohort discussions during the two-week sprint. These are designed for small teams and solopreneurs, so we keep things simple and easy to implement. Check out our preview for more information.

If at some point you want to get off the road and enter the expanse of the wilderness, you’ll need to learn how to use a map and compass. When someone teaches you how to use these tools to plot out your journey from beginning to end, a good teacher is going to tell you about deviation error and how to avoid it.

Deviation error is when, for a variety of reasons, you travel in the wrong direction. And I don’t necessarily mean you turned right when you should’ve turned left (although that would suck too). When you are navigating, setting off even a few feet in the wrong direction can have disastrous consequences.

Let’s consider the consequences of deviation error. Being off-direction by even one degree means you’ll be off-track by 100 feet at one mile out. Keep going until you hit ten miles and you’ll miss your destination by 1.7 miles – all from being off by a single degree.

Map and compass are a great analogy for entrepreneurship. The map lays out all of your assumptions about your journey from A to B. The hills to climb, the potential pitfalls, and places you think you could find water or food to refuel are there.

The compass is the customer. It’s your guide to knowing if you are staying on course. And as silly as it would be to start using a compass halfway through the hike, rather than the beginning, so too is starting your business by doing anything other than talking to customers.

The journey teaches you the truth of the terrain.

Why do so many entrepreneurs avoid talking to customers?

These fall into two buckets.

1. It’s hard to hear this thing you care about sucks. People will avoid hearing the truth at nearly all costs. They fall in love with their solution – some product or service – and have convinced themselves that if the world was full of rational, sane people, everyone would agree that their solution would be the greatest thing since sliced bread. They’d rather toil away behind the scenes, building their special thing, than do the work of talking to customers.

2. No idea of who to talk to you or what questions you should be asking. If you can’t get direct access to at least a handful of people in your market, then you should be focusing your immediate attention on solving that problem first. And even when founders or owners get their customers on the line, errors in the conversation are made, and those generate false signals. Everyone is well-meaning, but if you haven’t taken the time to figure out the right questions, you can get deviation errors.

So what can we do about it?

We’re going to focus on talking to customers early on in our upcoming Loop System: Early Validation of Business Ideas. Make sure you check out the preview. The system, including process, tools, training, coaching, and cohort discussions are available to paid subscribers.