Last Wednesday, I gave a webinar to give product managers a tool to improve their relationship with Sales. Teach Sales elicitation skills: they don’t get it anywhere else and it will help them close more deals and collect information to help your company develop better products. Elicitation is conversational communication that compels people to voluntarily tell you things without you asking. However, it does involve planning to make it work, since most of us grow up asking people questions directly to extract information. You can download the slides from Slideshare, but as of April 31, 2014, Slideshare will discontinue slidecasts, so I am uncertain how to transfer this to another provider.
There were some questions that got me thinking more over the Easter/Passover weekend.
1. What is the personality type of the ideal person who conducts elicitation?
The person who asked the question assumed that this person would be outgoing and extroverted. Actually some of the best elicitors are more introverted since they are likely to be more thorough in their preparation for elicitation interviews. In addition, introverted people are often better listeners than extroverts, who like to hear themselves talk, not what elicitation is about. Its focus is getting the other guy to talk!
Here are some other desired skills for an elicitator: natural gift for making friends; establish rapport well; practical psychological insight; broad general knowledge; good memory; two level listener; non-threateningly curious; appreciates cultural/national differences; understands subtleties of personal relationships; and is intuitive, spontaneous, and discrete.
2. Ethical Considerations around Elicitation
This always comes up when talking about competitive intelligence, especially collection tools, where elicitation fits. There are two codes of ethics that I point to: SCIP’s code of ethics and AIIP’s code of ethics. My own ethics are the most important to me and they are situational. The other thing to consider is practicality and conversation flow. For example, some people want you to disclose who you are, your company name, where you’re based, who your client is, and why they want to know “x”. Try scripting all this “stuff” at the start of a conversation: it is not natural and it’s too long. It’s better to let the person you’re talking to, ask questions and gradually tell them this information as the conversation flows.
3. Resources I recommend
Confidential by John Nolan and What Every BODY is Saying by Joe Navarro for supplementary reading on elicitation practices. I have also written an article entitled “Enable Sales to Elicit Market Intelligence” published in SCIP’s Competitive Intelligence Magazine.