Two Coaching Techniques That Can Help Improve Your Customer Development Process


CEO & Founder @ Refocus, EdTech enthusiast, investor, mentor and marketing expert.

Qualitative research is a must-have for a startup to become successful. In fact, lack of market need is the second most frequent cause of business failure, according to CB Insights (registration required). This is when a comprehensive customer development study would have been useful.

During customer development, you are usually striving to answer two questions: What client pains should our product address, and what values should it align with? These questions can be pretty tricky to answer, but coaching your customers can help.

This is why my company has upgraded the traditional customer development experience by integrating coaching techniques. Our head of research who implemented these coaching techniques is following Erickson Coaching International’s methodology in her coaching approach. Here are two techniques, based on Erickson’s framework, that have helped our respondents answer questions more sincerely and comfortably, as well as my tips on how you can do the same:

1. Visualizing Point B

This coaching technique determines clients’ goals through four simple steps:

• Ask the person to position themselves comfortably; they can close their eyes or walk if they want.

• Suggest that they imagine a comfortable future in detail. What year is it, where are they and who are they with? For instance, perhaps they imagine working in a new home surrounded by their family.

• Ask them to describe the milestones that led them to where they are. For example, “I bought this house two years ago; I started saving for it four years ago.”

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• Question every step. How did they make the money, when exactly did they decide to do something, etc.?

Consequently, people verbalize what point B is for them, and you can ask them what difficulties they expect to encounter while reaching it. This strategy can be valuable because when companies know their customers’ goals, they can come up with creative materials and offerings that align with them.

For instance, after implementing the Point B technique when launching my company in the Philippines, we learned of the difficulties customers assumed they would face when reaching their goals, and we were able to apply that information to our creative materials and product development. Once, a respondent said he was afraid he wouldn’t finish the course because he was too shy and didn’t have the courage to ask questions. To address this, we emphasized that students are welcome to directly ask their mentors or community managers questions instead of sending messages in the group chat. As a result, we made the learning process a bit more comfortable for clients like him to go through.

2. The Wheel Of Life

This technique involves asking the respondent to draw a circle, divide it into sections and dedicate each section to an important life aspect. It might be family, health or money, for example, but don’t think for the respondent; wait for them to come up with what really matters. Then, the respondent should rate each section from 0 to 10. The higher the respondent’s total score, the better their life situation is in regard to that category. This process also involves asking the respondent to describe each section in detail. Why did they give it that score, what’s stopping them from ranking it a 10, etc.?

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This coaching technique helps the respondent contemplate every part of their life. You can use this approach to understand, on a deeper level, why clients buy a product and what they think they need it for. Therefore, you can understand what the triggers are that your company can strive to appeal to in its creative materials and how to improve the product.

For example, when entering the Philippines, my company also used this tool and heard from one respondent who scored the family section of his wheel of life a 10/10, but other sections scored lower. For the researcher, it’s much more interesting to dive into topics where everything is not perfect. Therefore, the respondent spoke a lot about what actually motivated him and the sections that were rated five or less, which included self-realization, economic goals and career development. As a result, we started using messaging in our ad creatives that spoke to how our product could address these three areas, which increased our conversation rate.

In my experience, companies can use insights like these:

• When developing marketing strategies to increase advertisements’ conversation rates.

• During product development to make products more aligned with customers’ pains and consequently increase their satisfaction. For instance, my team reached out to clients during the “honeymoon” stage, when they first start studying the course and feel the most motivated. During this phase, we discovered that many potential students are afraid of not being able to finish the course. So, we improved the onboarding process.

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Can one use coaching without a psychology background?

At my company, we started using these strategies with the help of a coaching practitioner and our head of research. But the methods were easily applied by the whole research team. If you want to do the same, I suggest following these rules:

• Learn the basics of psychology and coaching methodology. Doing so can help you formulate the questions correctly. There’s an abundance of information about these strategies online.

• Listen carefully, and show the respondent their experience matters to you. Do your best to focus on the speaker while paying attention to the association that comes to your mind. If you’re not sure you can memorize everything, listen to a recording.

• Create a safe space for the respondent to express themselves. Pay attention to nonverbal signals; these will help you understand how to make the respondent feel more comfortable.

• Do not answer the questions or suggest answers based on how you think the respondent is going to answer.

To summarize, the deeper you dive into your customer development, the more insights you will gain. Coaching techniques can help you obtain tons of information in a quick and cost-effective way. I found the practices discussed above can help you get to know your target audiences better in just an hour.


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