The Critical Skill Most Entrepreneurs are Missing

It’s not easy starting a business from just an idea. That’s why we partner with entrepreneurial experts who can share their proven business methods with Brio Business Academy members.

Tom Berger is one of our experts, as well as a seasoned senior operating manager and a former CEO of seven start-ups with exits in excess of $260M.

Three levels of discovery.

Tom’s foundational Brio course “The Entrepreneur’s Roadmap” includes the three levels of discovery that are imperative for the success of any entrepreneur.

In brief, they are:

1. Problem Discovery – a research activity aimed at fully defining the perceived customer’s problem: its root cause, its impacts, and the frequency with which it occurs in the market. This also includes understanding why the problem hasn’t previously been solved.

2. Prospect Discovery – summarized as a simple question asked of others: “Do you think my idea makes sense…and is it worth pursuing?”

3. Customer Discovery – unlike the first two, this level is all about what actions customers take. Ultimately, will they: buy – from you – now? Internally, they are asking themselves subconsciously, “Do I need this more than the other things I want or need? And do I really need it now?”

And, yes, the course does offer greater detail about how to execute the above!

One underlying skill

There is one skill that is critical and required in order to accomplish all three of these levels of discovery successfully.

An entrepreneur must keenly listen to the conversations people are having about the problem they are out to solve.

Most people think that good listeners are simply naturally good at listening but, like many other entrepreneurial skills, listening is learned by diligent and deliberate practice.

Tips and tricks

Here are a few tips to help improve listening skills, especially as they apply to the three levels of discovery:

1. Ask open ended questions that give the interviewee a wide berth to explore the topic in their own way.
Listening begins with asking questions that people are excited to give their opinions about.

2. Write down notes as people answer.
We pay better attention to what they’re saying if we’re taking notes. And people will pick up on our focus and curiosity and say more than they would if we don’t appear to be as interested.

3. Connect questions to create a fluid conversation.
Start the next question by relating it to their response to the previous question when possible: “So when you say ____, that makes me wonder <and ask the next question here>.”

4. Turn everything they say into gold.
Listen for the hidden gems and spotlight them: “Wow, that’s really great. I love the way you ____.” When we listen to hear the gold in their answer, we force ourselves to listen at a deeper level, and we also give them a big ego boost … which leads to richer answers.

5. Don’t BS if you tune out and miss something.
Just be honest: “I’m sorry, I got distracted. Let me turn my phone off and will you say that again?”