How to talk to customers: lessons from a journalist

I usually stay away from article titles like these, but I thoroughly enjoyed Chris Cannon’s What a Journalist Can Teach Lean Startups about Customer Interviews. If you talk to customers at all as part of your work, in any context, this is a goldmine of good advice:

Problems are stories — it’s a dull tale that has no conflict to resolve. The customer on the other side of that table is the protagonist in their own adventure. We’ve selected them as a persona that might be interested in casting us as their hero (or even in a supporting role that lets them be the hero of their own story).

So be accommodating: Engage the customer on their terms. Be perceptive: Listen for gaps in the customer’s story that might be worth investigating further. Be a listener: Only talk to make the customer comfortable or to dig for details. And then shut up.

Amen to that.