How to find what prospects want - The Mom Test Review

March 11, 2020
Fred Melanson
5 min
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I didn’t realize how much time I wasted doing useless prospecting calls in 2020 until I read The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick.

The main reason: shitty questions. Biased questions that would lead the prospect to give answers I wanted to hear. Instead of information that was useful.

Second: Following false positives. Horrible habit yet extremely difficult to avoid.

This book has thought me a great deal about digging through the noise and finding what customers want. Asking good questions, getting results and avoid wasting anyone’s time.

It’s a very small book, so I would highly recommend it to anyone working in sales, business development, success, and entrepreneurs/founders. It’s full of real examples of customer conversations where Rob explains where it’s falling apart and how to fix it.

Anyhow, I thought I’d share how we’re implementing the concepts and the main learnings of the book 👇

The Mom Test

The whole point of the mom test is to avoid getting answers as if you were asking your mom about your business. Rob explains that most of  our conversations are misleading and that people are politely lying.


I love what you’re doing! Keep me in the loop!” often really means “I’m not interested but don’t want to hurt your feelings

Pillars of the Mom Test:

How we’re implementing the concept:

1. Avoid compliments, fluff and ideas


My biggest mistake is falling in love with bad data. Leaving a meeting feeling excited about what the prospect has said and how they seemed to love the idea, all without a concrete commitment from them.

To avoid compliments in discussions, he suggests ignoring them and ask for facts about the prospect's work, using “how?” questions.

It’s though because we humans crave validation at all costs, but you’re here for learnings, not an ego boost.

Signs that you’re been fed misleading compliments:

“I’m glad you like it”

“That meeting went really well”

“We’re getting a lot of positive feedback”

“Everybody I’ve talked to loves the idea!”

How we do it at Bliinx:

When you get a compliment, follow with a “How?” Or “Why?”. It often cuts through the bullshit.


Fluff answers are very misleading and make you think that you’re onto something when you may not be.

They sound like “I usually”, “I always”, “I would”, “I will”, etc. The deadliest of all is “I would definitely buy that”!

The best way that he gives to steer away from fluff is to ask for a specific example in the past.

For example:

Me: “Do you ever lose opportunities because you forgot to follow-up with someone?”

Them: “Oh yeah, all the time!”

Me: “When’s the last time that happened? Can you walk me through it?”

Ideas and emotional signals

People always suggest ideas and pretend to need some features.

The worst thing you can do is add them to your to-do list (“sync to excel”, for example).

Most of the time, it’s not a key purchasing criterion and it’s hiding a bigger problem (what you want to know).

The most effective reason that I’ve found to find the truth in ideas and emotional statements is to ask “Why?”, “what will that do for you?” or “what makes it so {insert emotion here}?”.

2. Asking good, important questions

He leads this part of the book with a strong statement: You need to find questions that you are scared to ask a prospect.

Hard to swallow and scary in itself. However, looking back, I have found that a lot of my time has been wasted doing calls without extracting meaningful information.

A good question is one where the answer could completely change or disapprove of your business.

One of the reasons we avoid thought questions is because we seek validation and fear rejection. However, as an entrepreneur or salesperson, bad news is a great outcome.

There are so many ideas to focus on, so many prospects that could have potential, that sometimes being able to quickly dismiss someone is a huge win.

“Wins will make you happy, fails will make you wiser”.

I often made the mistake of prematurely zooming in on ideas in discovery calls. Even before I knew if the prospect cared or not! Leading to truthful information that was completely irrelevant.

How we do it:

For me, the main goal here is to find whether the problem I’m asking about matters.

The most effective way I’ve found that Rob teaches in the book is by asking: “What have you tried to do to fix this in the past? (tells you if they actually care).” Or “What are the impacts of this issue for you? Can you give me a recent example?”.

3. Keep it casual

The very first nugget of information required in any customer discovery call is the other person’s problem.

You’re trying to understand them as much as possible and find their itch, not pitch your product.

A very underrated tactic to get to the truth is to play with the other person’s psychology by keeping it casual and avoid mentioning your business or product.

(For tips on how to be emotionally smart with customers in calls, read our recent blog post on the subject!)

It’s efficient because the prospect will reveal more truth if they don’t think that they’re hurting your feelings. Nobody wants to be mean.

Making the conversation about them and asking non-biased questions can lead you to know if they care quickly, at which point you can stop the conversation or dig deeper.

Here’s a great example that Rob gives in the book (shortened by me, read the book for full version):

Say you’re making a restaurant loyalty card app.

Them: “I hate having 100 café loyalty cards around, why isn’t there a better way?”

You: “It’s crazy, right? My wallet is full of them. Have you ever tried using apps for your phone?”

Them: “Those exist?”

You: “Yeah, I’m sure you’ve seen the little signs for that one in the nearby café”

Them: “Oh yeah, I remember. I’m always kind of in a rush, though.”

You: “Why don’t you download it now?”

Them: “I’ll do it next time!” à Not a customer, just someone complaining.

His rule of thumb: If it feels like they’re giving you a favour by talking to you, you’re not casual!

4. Ask for commitment

Another great way to defend yourself from compliments is to ask the person for commitment.

They might say that your product is awesome, and they want it, but will reveal their true intentions if you ask for a commitment right away.

No need to always ask for money. Someone giving you time a 2nd time is a great commitment.

Another form of commitment is reputation.

If you don’t feel like it’s the right timing to set up a meeting or ask for financial commitment, asking the prospect for an intro that could put their reputation at risk (if it goes bad) will indicate if they're truthful with you or not.

How we do it:

We have to have a star emoji ⭐ in every meeting note. A star indicates the commitment that was given by the person at the end of the meeting.

No commitment can disqualify the prospect.

5. Finding conversations

In this chapter, Rob outlines the various ways to get people to talk to you.

Nothing much to say here aside from telling you to read it!

One thing worth noting is his framework to ask for a meeting without sounding “salesy” or “needy”. I find it super useful. It’s VFWPA.

Vision: You’re trying to solve horrible problem X, with amazing vision Y, or fix stagnant industry Z.

Framing: Frame expectations for the discussion by mentioning where you’re at and what you want to learn from the call.

Weakness: Show weakness by specifying that you need help with something specific and they can help. It will show that you’re not there to waste their time.

Pedestal: Appeal to their expertise/experience and show how they, in particular, can help you.

Ask: Explicitly as for help.

Here’s an example from the book (shortened a little):

“Hey Pete,

I’m trying to make office rental less of a pain for new businesses (vision). We’re just starting out and want to make sure we’re building something that actually helps (framing).

I’ve only ever come at it from the tenant’s side and I’d lie to understand the landlord’s perspective (weakness). You’ve been renting out offices for a while and could really help me cut through the fog (pedestal).

Do you have time in the next couple of weeks to meet up? (ask)"

6. Choosing your customers

So guilty of that mistake! 🙋‍♂️

You can get a million different ideas by talking to a customer segment that is too broad. You might think your idea sucks but you’re not talking to the right customer, and vice-versa.

Yes, your market might be big, and yes your product might have many possible uses, but at the early stage, trying to serve everyone from to get-go can be disastrous.

Do a great job at solving the pain of a specific customer, then expand.

The book suggests slicing your customer segment using this question:

"Within this group, which type of person would want it most?”.

Do it until you can find a clear physical or digital location where you can find those customers and have conversations.

7. Running the process - notes

Take good notes. Prep for meetings by defining what you want to learn most. And finally, make sure to involve your team in the customer discovery process.

Too many customer conversations and good insights stay in the head of one founder.

Or collect dust in some folder on your computer.

Having a process for good meeting prep and note-taking can make sure that the insights are used in company decisions.

Part of that is making sure that you prep good questions with various members of your teams, from product to engineering to marketing. This way, you’ll know what insights to look for. Share notes with as many colleagues as possible in an easily consumable way.

How we do it:

We use Hugo (note-taking tool) to take notes and use emojis to code key insights in the discussion such as pain points, goals, key player, next steps (view my quick tips for mastering note-taking).

Those notes are sent to a Slack channel that everyone can view and synced to our CRM.

If the note has really good insight for the product team, we’ll even create a task in the product’s backlog for them to review.

That's it 🚀

This was my take on the book and how we try to implement it at Bliinx. I highly recommend reading it and hope that this summary was useful. 💛

To read more tips, tricks and stories on relationships, sales, success and entrepreneurship, make sure to follow us on LinkedIn ✌️