Naval: There’s a psychology trick you can use when you’re trying to find out why someone does or doesn’t do something.
If you’re trying to make a sale and someone politely declines, they’ll give you a reason. The first reason is almost never the correct one. If you can get a second or a third reason out of them, you’re much more likely to get the correct one.
The trick is asking in a way that bypasses their filters. You might say, “Well, I understand you’re passing because you don’t have the budget this quarter. But I’m curious: If you had the budget, is there any other reason you’d be passing?” They might say, “It’s because our CFO didn’t love the UX,” or, “We didn’t feel like it integrated with our core system.”
You’re more likely to get the honest answer with the second or the third reason. This works because eventually people run out of excuses and still feel the need to fill the silence—especially when you’ve asked a piercing question in a polite way.
When a startup shows you metrics, you can dig a little and say, “Are there any other metrics that I should be looking at? Are you concerned about any metrics? If metrics were to go down in the next few months, which ones would they be?”
Or: “Which other metrics do you wish you could improve?”