(Editor’s note: Jackie Bassett is CEO of BT Industrials. She submitted this story to VentureBeat.)

Entrepreneurs, whether they’re visionary or trying to stake a claim in an existing industry, have always faced the same challenge – commercialization. Before you can take your company to the next level, you need to convince people to buy your product or service.

Every start-up believes it’s catering to a massive potential market, filled with pent-up demand. Prospective customers, when they hear about your vision, say things like “WOW!” and “That’s So Cool”. But when you finally begin shipping product, the percentage of actual buyers compared to the number of folks who were so enthusiastic in the research phase is dishearteningly small.

So what do customers say when they really are going to buy? The answer lies more in the questions they ask, than the comments they make. Here are three customer-driven questions to listen for that are definitional of a customer who really is going to buy:

Could I…? – This is a very, very different question than “does your product do X or Y or have Z features?”  (That question is really just your customer looking for a reason not to buy)

You will hear your customer ask a stream of ‘Could I…?’ questions when, in his mind, he has already bought your product. He completely understands what it was designed to do as he lives with the problem it solves, everyday. ‘Could I…?’ is him already envisioning exactly how he will improve the way he gets his job done using your product. He is designing your product in to his processes, and better than you ever could. He will sell himself – so when you hear it, don’t distract him by jabbering on about all the other features. Your only response to ‘Could I…?’ should be “yes, you can”.

How is what you have better than what we’ve built ourselves? – If you’ve been asked this question – just smile and know that this deal is yours to lose. There is no greater validation of customer demand than the presence of a homegrown system or product.

Homegrowns are built when customers have given up trying to find a vendor with the right solution for a problem that they need solved. Generally, they’re scripts of code that are seemingly duct-taped together. They’re inherently kluge, always expensive to maintain, and never really solve the real problem.

But everyone who builds a homegrown soon realizes it has become it’s own problem. Homegrowns are never purpose-built. Your product was. It was designed to fix the right problem the right way. This customer will do whatever it takes to close that deal for you!

Exactly what does your support contract promise? – If you hear this key phrase, recognize that your customer just took the wheel and is driving the deal forward – so don’t get in the way. Realize that the deal is no longer about the product and its capabilities. It’s about the ‘final half’ of the deal – support.

Customers will buy a lesser quality product if they believe the support behind it will be great. This customer needs to believe that the reward of buying your product, which she has never known before, is greater than the risk of living with a problem she knows all too well.

Over deliver on support concerns and you’ll seal the deal.

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