Navigating Ambiguity: Skip the User Research. Go Sell.

April 28, 2024
The InsightLab Team
Navigating Ambiguity: Skip the User Research. Go Sell.

Skip User Research. Go Sell.

This post might make a few people angry, and it might sound a bit contradictory, but we think there are times when you should skip classical user research and go sell!

If you're building a product from zero to one, doing customer discovery as an indie-hacker, or just simply trying to figure out what people want, this post is for you.

Before you roast us, hear us out! 

Typically, when you go about inventing a new product for a company, you start by going out and talking to users. The process is usually quite linear. Recruit X number of participants from demographic Y, have a 30-45 min call with them, analyze audio/video recording, then synthesize. If you've studied ethnographic research you'll know that a lot of the synthesis is really trying to read between the lines to understand the real "latent" needs of customers.

Latent needs are needs that a customer doesn't explicitly state. To unearth a latent need, you inherently need to use your gut and take a mini leap of faith. If someone is saying they "want a faster horse", you can use your gut to infer that the true underlying need is "to get to where I'm going faster".  You might be wrong, but hey, it's a hypothesis. For more on this, check out this blog post.

This is the typical user research process that big companies and agencies use.

But startups aren't big companies. Neither are indie hackers. These types of companies don't have the budget to go out to talk to 100 users and give them gift cards, or incentivize them with cash. They need to start selling and they need data now.

Well, it turns out the selling process is VERY similar to the user research process. In a user interview, we might have a discussion guide which is designed to ask key questions that lead to generative insights. In a sales call, you're effectively doing the same, but there is no intent to incentivize the participant (quite the opposite actually). However, the need to follow your gut and infer latent needs is still critical.

As a result, we say: Startup builders, indie hackers, customer discovery folks should skip the user research and go straight to the sales call! You're still getting out the room to talk to customers, you're still asking generative questions, and you're still learning a lot! The only difference is:

  • You're not incentivizing people to talk to you
  • You're pre-validating the distribution channel because if you can't even find anyone to speak to you, you likely won't find those people later
  • You get to make mistakes and "get some reps in" before actual high-ticket sales calls
  • You're testing the latent need hypothesis with the actual market with limited spend

We've found that a lot of founders take the "big company" / agency approach to user research. That definitely has its place, and is very useful, however, these companies have resource that the little guys simply don't. We say skip the formalities and get out the room!

It can get a little overwhelming analyzing all those sales calls. After 4 or 5 our memory starts to get a bit fuzzy and we've often found ourselves wondering "what did that customer last week say about XYZ feature?" or "how many people actually think Z?". It's also easy to start to build confirmation bias after just a few interviews. You start to think you're seeing a trend, but it's just your brain playing tricks on you and getting you to hear what you want to hear.

There's plenty of manual methods you can use to analyze the sales calls, however, it takes a LOT of time to sift through all the conversations and it's hard to stay unbiased. This is where AI powered research tools like InsightLab  can help you analyze not just user interviews, but also sales calls. Simply upload your audio/video recordings, get auto-transcriptions, and you can unlock insights that can help you drive sales and unlock juicy tensions.

The InsightLab Team.

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