I'd like to identify a meaningfull startup idea that solves a real problem by conversating with business owners in a particular niche and figuring out what their main pain points are. What is the best way to cold call approach business owners? What are good questions to ask? How many people you genereally believe are enough to identify a common problem?
I've done this in the past. I find the best way is to do it in person. I made a habit of walking on my downtown street between lunch and asking the local business owners about their challenges of their business. I don't know if there's a number...I think idea extraction should become a part of your daily routine. Here are some questions you can ask:
So your business does X?
What is your role in the business?
What does a typical day look like for you?
Can you walk me through the first couple hours of your day? What are the first few things you do each morning?
How many customers are you working with a month right now? What’s been your best month? What’s been your worst?
What are a couple activities you have in your day that you just don’t enjoy?
Thinking about the last couple days at work, what has been the most challenging part?
What do you use excel for in your business?**
What is the most expensive problem in your business?
What’s a problem that you’ve tried to solve in the past but didn’t work for you?
What would you like to do with you mobile phone, but can’t?
Your approach to building a business - first find a PROBLEM and then build a SOLUTION - is a wise one.
Keep in mind that I'm answering as a Business Owner who also works with Business Owners (as a coach) so my insights aren't speculation... This is real world stuff:
If you are dead-set on cold calling then here are some suggestions.
1. Have a reason for your call that focuses on the "what's in it for me" from the perspective of the owner. Consider that your call is really a first contact in your marketing to them... So use your understanding of your chosen niche.
2. Be prepared to encounter the Gate Keeper
Have a plan on how to get to the owner.
This article has some good ideas: http://www.leadjen.com/stickied/7-must-dos-to-get-past-the-gatekeeper/
3. If you get through to the owner be respectful of their time. If possible - ask only ONE question. Talk as little as possible. And take lots of notes.
Regarding a specific approach (aka your Strategy) and specific questions - I would need to know more about your goals.
And if you are open to other approaches (approaches other than cold calling) let's set up a quick call and I'll share some ideas with you.
Best of luck to you!
My advice is to treat it like a research project.
Literally, just tell the business owner you are doing a research project for your book.
There's many more principles for idea extraction, but getting in the door. Qualify. Qualify. Qualify.
And then write the book after you've extracted your business.
If I got a cold call from someone who asked me what my pain point is, I would hang up on him. That's because I am too busy to take time out from my day to sit and think about all the things that bug me, slow me down, cost me money, or hamper my ability to make money. There are probably a dozen things I can thing of, and if I thought about it probably 100 things. But I am not going to waste my time thinking about all this just so you can take my ideas, start a company and make a ton of money by reselling my own ideas back to me and not offer me a dime in compensation.
And that's probably how a lot of business owners would think. So the problem with your approach is that you are missing the one critical element for success in any field -- you must have good relationships first before you call anyone up.
Let me say that another way: Success in business is almost entirely based on personal relationships! If you don't have personal relationships with people you want to do business, you simply will not get anywhere.
So before you do this, you should either develop personal relationships within the niche you are contemplating, or decide your niche will be within the personal relationships you already have. Which is easier? Obviously, the latter.
So start with the business people you currently know. It could be the person who cuts your own and owns his own hair salon. It could be the immigrants who run the dry cleaner that you always take your clothes to each week. It could be your neighbor who is a lawyer. You catch the drift.
Once you have a relationship, they are much more willing to help you out, and you can continue the conversation over time. They likely won't be able to think of anything immediately, so just encourage them to write down anything that comes to their mind as they go about doing their job.
It will also help if you take them out for coffee, and be sure to pick up the costs. they are going YOU a favor, so you should at least return the favor.