I always say, “You never know what business you’re in until the customer tells you.”

I know so many companies for whom customer feedback has led to major changes in their strategic direction. Changes have included new or additional products and services, and markets or audiences served. In fact, I have seen customer insights completely turn a struggling company around.  Customer feedback can point out ways to provide deeper value and greater differentiation against the competition—both highly advantageous to revenue growth.

So if this feedback is so valuable, why don’t more companies seek it out? Many think they do. They think their post-sale surveys and customer service on Twitter are enough. But they aren’t.

Truly valuable feedback only comes from talking with your customer. Techniques such as one-on-one interviews, round table discussions, and in-home visits yield rich feedback.

At Cooper Smith & Company, we advocate the method taught in the University of Iowa’s Venture School where they require that all candidates in the program talk to 100 customers. No, that’s not accurate. What they have to do is LISTEN to the customers.

Using the techniques outlined in Talking to Humans by Giff Constable, they interview, observe and record the feedback. They can’t talk about their own business, or their product or their next big ideas. In time, patterns emerge as interviewees say things like, “what I’d really like is…,” and “if you could solve X for me, I’d buy it today.”

Insight results in products and services customers are practically leaping across the table to buy. The value proposition is clear, and the sales are easy.

If you’re not having deep conversations with your customers, get a copy of Mr. Constable’s book and set a goal to do interviews this year. I’m confident you’ll learn something interesting.