How to Find Problems People Will Pay You to Solve (Part 1)

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Today, I’m going start teaching you a skill that will allow you to pull a profitable business idea out of thin air.

It started for me last year in the foundation and it’s one of the most powerful, fun, and exciting things I’ve ever learned.

It’s such a big skill that I’m going to have to break it up into a few posts so this is the first of the series.

It’s called “idea extraction” and the concept is simple: Ask people in a market what they are struggling with to find a problem they are willing to pay to solve. Stop guessing and just ask 🙂

But before you get started asking questions you should check out these posts. These steps come first.

  1. 8 Steps to Choosing the Right Market for You
  2. How to connect with your market to find a painful problem

Sound good? Cool, let’s get after it.

Your intro

Whether you’ve cold called or scheduled a meeting you want to have a solid introduction to get you started… This is about the only time I ever used a “script”. Mine went like this.

Interviewee: “Hello this is Billy Madison”
Me: “Hi Billy, this is Carl Mattiola.”
Awkward pause…
Interviewee: “Oh… Hi Carl…”
Me: “We had a time setup to talk. Did I catch you at a bad time?”
Interviewee: “No, I have time what’s up?”
Me: “Great, let me tell you a little about what I’m doing first. Cool?”
Interviewee: “Yes sounds good”
Me: “Cool, well I’m Carl and I’m a software entrepreneur and I’m reaching out to the PT market, trying to learn about the biggest pains and challenges in hopes of solving the biggest problem. I want to see if there is a place I can help. Love to ask you a few questions to get your perspective.”

Seem simple right? It is. But, there are lots of little things built into it that I’ve learned from watching Dane, Chet Holmes, and many others… Feel free to dissect it in the comments 🙂

Get comfortable

This is the first spot most people ignore and then fail so pay attention. Fail to do this and you will not find any problem or not be able to go deep enough to find a real one.

Okay so you’ve broken the ice with an awesome intro… But this person is still a TOTAL STRANGER. They don’t know you and you don’t know them. It’s still a little bit uncomfortable.

If you’ve tried this I know you’ve felt that.

You need to get comfortable with them and they need to get comfortable with you. I’d say build rapport but that sounds so Connecticut casual…

There are so many ways people teach this like pacing (changing your voice to the same speed), synching breath, and posture. I’m sure all that works but nothing is as powerful or as fun (for me) than connecting with people about what they like and believe in. Recently had this confirmed by my friend Peter Shallard in some coaching training I took.

So how do I do it…

With PT I like to start by telling them my PT story and why I chose PT as a market. They usually ask me this which is even better. So here’s my real story and real reason I love PT and was psyched to work with them.

“When I was in college I had a shoulder injury from football… It sucked pretty bad. I worked with a PT for about a year to get over it and it was a really great experience… So when I decided I wanted to branch out and do something on my own, I thought it would be awesome to do something in this market.”

We usually connect on this… And since I’m reaching out to entrepreneurs (private practice owners) we usually connect on that. I might ask “How did you get into private practice?… Was it tough taking the leap cause I’m nervous myself?” Another great way to connect and have an awesome conversation. I actually learned a ton from these people in the process.

I like to spend at least 5 minutes on this part of the process alone (I’ve gone over 30 mins on this alone once). During idea extraction I’ve made at least 5 LIFE-LONG friends. You should do this too.

Homework: Before a call, write down the reasons you picked this industry. Write down things that interest you about this person and would like to know about them. Connect with them and make a friend.

Level 1 questions

Once you feel like you have rapport its time to start asking questions… But your first questions and their first answers are never ever ever going to land on your idea. The purpose of the first question is to get them into “story mode”.

My process for this is a little different than most… It didn’t start out this way, but it’s what worked really well for me.

Here are some of my favorite first questions to ask:

  • What does a typical day look like for you?
  • What does a typical week look like for you?
  • What are the biggest challenges in your business right now?
  • *What projects are you working on to improve your business?
  • *What are your goals for your business?
  • *How did you get to where you are today?

*The starred questions work great on rock stars (industry leaders). These people will often answer your email with “I dont have any challenges, I’ve worked them all out” or get annoyed with the general questions in the beginning and rush you. This is a good thing. Switch to these questions and they will show you their vision. Eventually I only talked to rockstars and I built a product for them. All my customers are rockstars. I’ll do a post on how to find them sometime soon.

So once you start with one of these questions keep leading them forward with more questions and listening. Your objective is to get them into “story mode”. Once you do you can lead them further with questions like:

  • What’s the most important part of your business?
  • What’s the most annoying part of your business?
  • What activity in your business do you like the most and which one do you like the least?
  • What takes you a lot of time?
  • *What is stopping you from achieving those goals?
  • *What would you like to improve?

With those questions you will most certainly find pain

But this is only the beginning.

We’ve now reached the next point where people stop or get stuck.

What do you think it is?

To be continued…

Carl

PS: Next week Josh and I are gonna team up to help you bust through the part most people get stuck at 🙂 It’s gonna be epic. Check out Josh’s blog here.

PSS: Monday is my birthday and I’ve got a HUGE meeting that I’m really excited about. Someday I’ll tell you about it. For now wish me luck and leave me love in the comments 🙂

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  • sabmore

    As always…awesome, actionable advice. Thanks for sharing Carl and all the best with your meeting!

    • Carl

      Thanks!

  • David Smit

    Love your post dude. Can’t wait for the to be continued…

    • Carl

      Thanks David.

  • Josh Isaak

    Sick post man. Can’t wait to hear how you killed it at your meeting. Talk soon.

  • Tay Harris

    love the post man, glad you are sharing the questions and technics you learned. thanks for sharing love the advice, can’t wait for the post.

    • Carl

      Thanks Tay!

  • mcline04

    Nice cliff hanger!

  • Dale Henning

    Carl, thanks for posting this! This made me reflect back on some of the calls I have made, and a reminder to make sure I try to be better on each call…and make sure I know why I am even calling them in the first place. Josh and yourself are going to make a stellar team in that next post – I hope you two get on that because I want to read/learn RIGHT NOW. Good luck in that meeting – I know you are going to dominate…

    • Carl

      Thanks Dale! Pumped for the next one too!

  • Steve

    Great post Carl! Your blog is quickly becoming a must-read, and can’t wait to see what you have coming next.

    Quick question: it’s great to see how you funnel down during the phone conversation, but how did you entice them to take your phone interview request?

    • Carl

      Good question. I start with an email which you can see in the “How to contact your market…” post. For the people that respond you, you just want to engage them in a conversation over email first about whatever they said when they responded. Can’t really give you a script for this as it depends on each response. Once you feel a connection you can say something like…
      “Love to chat with you because I really want to understand more about “pain they mentioned” and it sounds like you know a ton about it. How does your calendar look this week?”

      Bottom line though… Send emails setting your intention and ask if they are cool with talking to you… Take action.

      • jasoneh

        So when you say “once you feel a connection”, does that mean multiple emails are exchanged before you ask for the phone conversation?

        • Carl

          Yeah usually a couple are… I wait until I have enough information to know talking to them will help me out and I can ask about something specific to get the meeting, not generic.

  • http://www.cuponismo.com Geordie Wardman

    Carl – we are going to be waiting bated breath on how the meeting goes on Monday. I look forward to hearing the update, and hope your birthday goes well.

    • Carl

      Thanks dude!

  • Erin M

    Thanks so much for sharing the detail – makes all the difference in the world!

    • Carl

      Awesome Erin!

  • Patricia O’Sullivan

    Thanks for all your help Carl. I am now on my third market niche and have eventually found some real pain and a lot of commonality. I have completed 10 idea extraction interviews and I love them. I come off the phone feeling great and only had two refusals so far. Most calls go on for at least 20 or 30 minutes as people just love to open up and talk when they realise that you actually care about their problems and want to listen.

    Two ears and one mouth… works like a dream. A BIG THANK YOU!!!

    • Carl

      Two ears and one mouth – Thats a good quote.

  • Brian Graves

    First, congrats on everything. Very inspiring! Second, we need an update on the “Monday meeting” 🙂

    So, i was chatting with a friend of mine that happens to work in one of the niches I’ve been researching. He also understands my end goal of a recurring revenue software service and would be a potential customer (has purchasing power, early adopter/power user, etc.).

    He mentioned that he gets several cold calls per week and basically disregards them all since it becomes distracting to handle call after call of someone pitching their products/services. He also mentioned that the receptionist has learned to spot salesmen a mile away and will simply tell them ‘not interested’.

    Have you encountered this type of stigma in your emails and conversations? How do you overcome sounding like every other salesman out there? Is it just a matter of making so many phone calls that the inevitable “not interested” become irrelevant as long as you can find 10-20 folks willing to give you 20-30 minutes of their time?

    • Carl

      1) Start small. Dont ask for a 30 min call right away. Ask for a simple, 1 sentence answer.
      2) Be personal and write something about the person in the first line.
      3) Do something different than the other people cold calling. Meet in person etc…

      • Brian Graves

        Thanks!

  • jslopez

    Thanks for the great post Carl. Your blog provides a lot of value to me (and I’m sure all its readers). I hope your meeting was a big success!

    • Carl

      Thanks!

  • Nick Johnson

    Hey Carl quick question how did you set up your landing page like what theme etc? I noticed a lot of the foundation products have the same kind of cool look to the landing page website

    • Carl

      Hey Nick,

      It’s not a theme. Its a custom design just built in old school HTML, CSS, Javascript.

      I’m lucky to have some very good designer friends 🙂

      Carl

      • Carl

        Can’t speak for the others you’ve seen though…

      • Nick Johnson

        Thanks man another quick question how did you break down your goals in a timeline did you try and make sure you had this done in month 1 this done in month 2 etc

        • Carl

          Hey Nick, I’m gonna have to cover that in another post. I’ve already written it up for a friend and I’ll share it that way.

          Sign up for the list at commitaction.com and they will teach you how to set goals to be productive.

  • (Adam) Reid Hall

    Hey Carl! Thanks so so much for what you’ve posted this far. Really looking forward to that next post!
    Thanks again!

    • Carl

      Thanks Adam! Yes my birthday was awesome this year 🙂

  • David Morse

    When it comes to getting people to open up, stories are the key.

    By telling a story, you give before you receive. You show some vulnerability that inspires people to open up as well.

    If you don’t get them to open up first, your questions can feel like an inquisition.

    In the spirit of only reading what you need today, I recommend you buy the book “What Great Salespeople Do” and read Chapters 5 & 6 which will teach you (a) how to structure your stories and (b) common stories you use in sales situations.

    Then, write and practice the 30-90 second story you will use at the start of your intro

    • Carl

      Nice! Good tip man.

  • Niall Doherty

    “write down the reasons you picked this industry”

    Thanks for that. Something I’d never considered, but now I’ve written down a few things so I’ll have an answer ready when someone asks me on a call.

  • Todd Llewellyn

    Carl, thanks so much for the great tips! I have sent out my emails to my industry and the response has been great! Right off the bat I have been getting very similar responses to a common pain. Does this mean I have already found a good idea or do I need to continue to dig deeper? I was planning on digging deeper to find level 3 or 4 deep ideas but right in the beginning everyone is telling me the same problem and now I am not sure what to do. I can see this problem being easily solved with software I just don’t want to skip any steps in the process. What do you think.

    • Carl

      Hey Todd, I can’t speak to it without hearing the problem. The high-level industry problems are always the same, so it’s easy to figure those out… But they are usually not level 3 or 4 problems. For example in home health, the hardest thing for them is to recruit and hire good care givers. On the surface its a clear problem, but it’s 10,000 ft high and can be solved 10,000 different ways.

      So it depends…

  • Patrick Clifford

    Happy birthday Carl!

    Have a great day and good luck with the meeting.

    • Carl

      Thanks! It did!

  • Robert Moutal

    Great post Carl. I’m a VP in a Spanish Media conglomerate, with very limited time during the day, and you have become my role model to follow during my journey through The Foundation 🙂

    • Carl

      Aww man. Thanks that means a lot 🙂

  • Chris Von Wilpert

    Would you ask the “rock star” questions to everyone OR just people who don’t really mention they have any challenges or have them all figured out?

    • Carl

      Honestly, I’d start by asking a few profiling type questions to figure them out…

      If you ask a business question, like whats your cost per customer? Or what’s your biggest challenge right now? It will give you an idea of what bucket to put them into…

      The best often get annoyed by the “challenge question” and ask you to be more specific, or say they don’t have challenges… Then you switch to asking about projects and goals…

      People that care less about their business will complain about things they can not control. You can not do much with that, other than learn more about what the overall markets “hot buttons” are. This is good stuff to learn but you won’t get product ideas out of it. It’s great stuff to know for positioning purposes after you have your product idea down.

      Carl

  • http://Www.Entrepreneurinaction.com/ Todd Llewellyn

    Carl,
    How many calls had you made by the time you started to hear some of the same problems? I have been making idea extraction calls but I don’t seem to be getting anywhere with them. I am just wondering if I need to keep calling and calling or if I need to switch industries.
    Thanks so much for all of your help. I am loving the content on the blog.

  • Spencer Kelly

    Carl!!??
    Where’s Part 2? You’re killing me here