• Matthew Lerner

Features, outcomes and ketchup

It’s week 3 of our Coaching Programme, and without question, this is the most challenging part for our teams. FYI, they’re doing customer interviews.


Hypnotized by features

Everybody wants to talk about features. Prospects list their favorite features and wish lists, and our minds jump to competitors and product roadmaps. (Jumping away from our customer). All this feature talk is a big red herring.

We need to understand a prospect’s goals, and why they chose our product in the first place (so we can find and persuade more prospects). And their favorite features don’t give us any clues.


Because our brains are already full of bias about our products, instead think of ketchup.

The ketchup conundrum

Picture this: I just told you that I bought a bottle of low-sodium ketchup. How would you sell me even more ketchup? Why do you think I bought it in the first place? Go ahead, make a guess.


Maybe I wanted to eat hamburgers. Maybe I’ll put it on grilled salmon to trick my kids into eating fish. Maybe I’m trying to convince my dad to lower his blood pressure in a passive-aggressive way? Maybe I'm hosting an American-themed party. Maybe I wanted fake blood for a Halloween costume, and the store was out of regular ketchup.

Point is this — knowing I bought a bottle of low-sodium ketchup tells you nothing about my needs or goals.

Simple next step

This may sound silly, but next time a prospect stresses the importance of a product or feature, imagine they said “ketchup” instead. What would you ask next?

Ketchup? Why ketchup? What’s that going to help you do? Help me understand why you need ketchup? This line of enquiry will get you closer to their outcome, but keep going.

After they give you a reason, follow up by digging for the emotion, “And why is that important to you?” Lean in, watch for emotion, and write down every word they say.

Customer interviews may be the hardest part, but it’s also, by far, the most rewarding.

I hope this helps!

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