The 3 BIGGEST Mistakes to Avoid When Interviewing a Client

BY Joel Klettke
August 15, 2016

A client interview is a terrible opportunity to waste.

One client interview can be a content goldmine, generating

  • Enough information for a detailed case study
  • Multiple  quotes to use as testimonials & social proof
  • Insights that can shape your messaging in a way that improves conversions
  • Critical feedback to help improve your business & shape your offering

But conduct an interview the wrong way, and you’ll get a lot of…

  • One-word answers
  • Over-the-top accolades
  • Cringe-worthy silence

Here’s three mistakes to watch out for so that you can seize the golden opportunity an interview affords.

1. Asking Yes/No Questions

To get the kind of detailed, context-rich insights you’re after, you need to ask open questions.  Yes/No questions make it too easy for your interviewee to respond mechanically, without probing into their story.

For example, compare…

  • “Have you seen positive results from working with us?”

vs.

  • “What positive results have you seen from working with us, and what has that meant for your business?”

Or, consider the weight of a question like…

  • “Would you recommend (solution)?”

vs.

  • “If a friend asked you why they should use (solution), what would you tell them?”

The second question gets a lead thinking about specifics – the first takes zero effort to respond to. The goal is to capture their experience, not fill out a spreadsheet, so don’t approach this in a binary way.

2. Not having a structure.

Before the call, you need to plan out your questions – and the structure the call will follow. Your client is looking to you to lead the conversation and can only share the information you ask for.

If you’re not prepared with a list before getting on the call, you’ll ask whatever questions pop into your head, and in whatever order they arrive.

We’ve written extensively about the “B/D/A” Interview Structure in the past (Before, During and After) – and with good reason: it creates a clean narrative and helps you avoid missing important pieces of information.

That said, DO NOT just read off of a script or follow a list of questions verbatim (this could be a point on its own!)

Rattling off questions like a robot might get you better responses than no planning at all, but your question list should act like a map, not a train track.

It’s okay to let the client divert the conversation and explore new ideas – some of the best quotes come out of these diversions – but you need to know where to come back.

3. Refusing to dig.

Sometimes, you need to ask a tough question to get a great answer. While you never want to offend your client, tiptoeing around the information you want is a recipe for losing.

Some tips for getting past this…

  • Ask for the numbers you want, point blank
  • Repeat yourself if you need to (and you will need to)
  • Don’t be afraid to say you need more information

Sometimes, you need to have the boldness to ask a client a tough question, like “Is there a way to quantify that result?” or “Can you give me numbers on that?”

Other times, you need to do what feels counter-intuitive and ask the same question in a different way – even at the risk of being redundant. At Case Study Buddy, we routinely find that asking one question multiple ways yields very different answers.

Our interviewers are journalists who have mastered the art of asking difficult questions with a smile and being upbeat and polite, no matter the response.

But you don’t need to be a journalist – just a patient, persistent listener, and ask for your customer to elaborate. They almost always will, because they want to nail the interview.

Remember – your client is as nervous as you might be when sitting on the other end of the line.  

The first time they answer a question, they’ll likely forget a part of their answer or think of something later on they wish they would have shared.

Your job is to dig like a mole in a minefield, being careful not to stray too far into sensitive territory, but not being so cautious that you stay shallow and never reach the gold.

Good luck out there!

(Psssst – wish you had a team of pros who knew exactly what to ask, when to ask it, and what to do with that information? That’s what Case Study Buddy is all about.

Drop us a line to see how we can help you, from getting buy-in to writing up an entire case study!)

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