Cooperative Communication: Digital versus Voice

Everyday communication has become a complex business. When I started my job, it was so much easier. We had 3 choices: face-to-face, telephone and hardcopy. It was challenging enough then, since few of us received training on communication as part of our education. In years past, I picked up the telephone to communicate without an appointment. If it was a bad time, the other person would tell me and we would set up a better time.

Now we have so many additional choices ranging from old fashioned email, the various forms of social media, texting, blogs, wikis, and face to face electronic conferencing like SKYPE or Google hangouts. Where do you get trained on when and how to effectively use all these ways to communicate?

A recent HBR blog post, “Just Call Someone Already,” attracted over 100 comments and focused on when to use the phone versus email, often used instead of the phone. I resonated with the author, Dan Pallotta in his comment, “Much worse than the inefficiency of using email to set up phone calls are the missed opportunities and unnecessary misunderstandings that come when we use email instead of phone calls.”

Today many feel compelled to text or email a person to schedule a call, and better yet to avert the call, since many view phone calls as an inefficient use of time, an interruption to their day. Nobody has a monopoly on busy, and this attitude about interruption and efficiency at the expense of building human relationships seems unkind. It also feels selfish to me, since these folks are just considering their preferences, not the other person’s.

Email is often used to express emotions or feelings that people are too embarrassed to say. However, I think it’s better to confront the other person and clear things up over the telephone or better yet in person. I have received more rude emails, where people write things they would not have the nerve to say to my face or on the telephone. Another downfall of email is when it gets sent to too many people that don’t need to know or care about your communication.

I also notice rudeness in LinkedIn comments, Twitter and Facebook, where there is one up man ship professionally, for example. I resent the number of emails I get in my LinkedIn inbox asking for endorsements; please take a survey; buy my service—which these people presumably blast out to their LinkedIn connections just like email spammers. There is more blatant WIFM (what’s in it for me) in the digital world.

Everyone seems to agree that face-to-face is still the best way to connect as you can read the person’s body language which is so revealing. But in today’s world we are so scattered that many of us can’t easily or cheaply meet face-to-face. I always recommend that people connect the next best way which is often the telephone, SKYPE or Google hangouts.

However, email is still the steam engine for digital communication since it leaves a written trail, and you can communicate with many people simultaneously in one email, and time zones don’t matter. You can also attach a document for people to review, not an option with the phone, but an option with SKYPE or Google hangouts.

A best cooperative intelligence practice is to think about how the individual you want to reach likes to be communicated with, even if it’s not your preference. People in Sales figure this out pretty quickly.  They call; they fax; they email; they in-mail; whatever it takes connect to decision-makers. Another cooperative best practice is only send communication to those who will value it.

I am pretty open minded about communication. I like to stay in touch with friends and colleagues. In one win/loss project, I was doing one on one interviews. I emailed to set up a call with one non-customer. He refused, but did offer that he would be happy to email me answers to my questions. I got some of the best insight from this gentleman—all because I listened and accepted his preferred communication.

Improve your Primary Collection through Relational Voice

Yesterday I was reading Lee Glickstein’s relational presence description, and it spoke to me. In relational voice, you start with deep, relaxed breathing and use your voice to almost do inner calisthenics. As your voice comes out in the exhalation with great pleasure, you free up your brain and allow yourself to relax. Lee discusses this in the context of public speaking, where is the founder of Speaking Circles International.

I was thinking this exercise will strengthen those doing primary research of any type whether it’s cold calling, win loss analysis calls or trade show collection. If you learn to love your voice, and allow yourself those extra seconds to interact with those you are interviewing, you will listen more intently and talk more consciously. This is powerful stuff for those of us who interview people. In those extra seconds, which is such a short time, if you are really grounded and connected with the other person, you can think of additional ways to connect or to simply tweak the next question on your list since you might notice how they don’t like to talk much, so you shorten the question and ask it more softly.

These days the people we interview are so busy that they don’t have time for long interviews, so you need to make every minute count. The same exercise to help you reach your relational voice can help you connect with those you interview more quickly since you put yourself aside in this process, and just concentrate on the other person’s energy. Just imagine how powerful you will be when combining this skill with elicitation/interview preparation.

Check out Lee’s site, and try his exercise to get grounded with your eyes closed before you make those phone calls. I guarantee if you get fully grounded, those calls will go a whole lot better. You will also be more effective on those days when you really don’t feel like making phone calls. Try it out and let me know how it works for you!

How to become an expert in primary intelligence: Interviewing

Last night I gave at talk to our DC SCIP chapter on primary intelligence collection and elicitation. I promised I would share the slides with attendees. They are on Slideshare.

Here are some of the key points from the talk about interviewing. The next blog will cover key points on elicitation.

When conducting an interview, most people know who you are and why you want to talk to them, except when you are cold calling, which is what we do often enough in competitive intelligence.

The first step in primary collection regardless of whether it’s a standard interview, elicitation or some combination is preparation. Do your homework. Find out about the person you will talk to, even if it’s a cold call. At the very least, you know their profession and their industry, which will help you develop reasons why they would want to talk with you, and more importantly, share! Do not skimp on this upfront time. Often conversations and interviews don’t go as planned. If you have done your preparation, you can more easily be flexible and go with plans b, c or d!

As you prepare for your collection project, think about what it is you will share and NOT share before you pick up the telephone or attend that trade show.

Think about why people will be motivated to share with you based on who they are: their profession, personal issues, politics, predisposition, and emotional intelligence. Be sensitive as to how they like to be communicated with based on how they come across in those first few seconds of the call or the meeting, and alter your communication style accordingly to a dominant, expressive, conscientious or amicable type. Recognize that people may change their practice and predisposition when they are under stress.

Reword your questions to motivate people to open up and share. Start with open ended questions that are easy for them to answer, and that you think they will enjoy answering. Then move to more hypothetical questions and indirect questions before you get to the more narrow questions. I find that bracketing those narrow questions gets a better response.

Listen closely to what the target is telling you, and be flexible. Perhaps they really don’t know the answers to some of those issues that you thought they would know. What are they not sharing that you thought they knew? Did they really know it or are they purposely not telling you? With so many participating in social networks there are too many self proclaimed experts who aren’t so expert once you start probing.

Lay aside your preconceived notions. Many of us listen for what we think is the ‘right’ answer or for what we want to hear. We don’t listen to the full story that the other person is telling us. Listen and put your ego aside if you want to be good in primary collection.

If you are at a trade show or another form of in-person collection, take advantage of the person’s body cues. Do the words match the facial and body expressions? If they don’t, believe the body: it’s easy to lie. In America, people often misinform. They are often just trying to be helpful, but it’s misinformation. Sometimes that’s harder to discern. One way is to make an obvious mistake in a key assumption or statistic as I ask a question. If they don’t pick up on it, I am suspicious about their knowledge level.

Also realize when dealing with people in person that it’s easier for people to manipulate their smiles and facial expressions, less easy for them to control other parts of their body such as their shoulders, arms, legs, feet and breathing.

If you are connecting on the telephone listen for a change in their tone of voice, pitch, cadence, confidence, speed of speech, hesitation, sigh, shallow breathing, silence. There are so many cues when you listen to people beyond what they say or don’t say. Trust your intuition: it’s usually right.

In closing, many people asked me how I represent myself when I talk to people. I tell them who I am right away. Many people seem to think there is one approach that will work with every person, that there is a simple answer to this question. There isn’t. You should choose to be ethical when you conduct research. SCIP has a code of ethics; AIIP and SLA have codes of ethics. Your company probably has a code of ethics or business practices they want you to follow. But most importantly you have to be true to yourself.

BTW, if you want to watch a great interview check out John Clees here and look for my next blog on elicitation.

Maximize Your ROI through Competitive Intelligence

This is the second in the series from my Pecha Kucha presentation for our SLA Competitive Intelligence tournament. In the first I described life as a competitive intelligence professional back in 1985.

This will focus on maximizing your ROI (return on investment) while providing market intelligence. You want to prove your worth as soon as you can. First you must find out what is missing that you CAN PROVIDE ETHICALLY! We conduct interviews with those who fund our competitive intelligence initiatives, as well as those we know will ultimately be great sources of CI (CI sources and users will often be the same people, but not always).

I was fortunate in that I came from field Sales, so I knew sales intelligence was an area where I could improve our company’s ROI by helping them win more deals. I had a good idea how I could help without interviewing anyone, since I knew what we were missing. We didn’t have regional detail on how to win against specific competitors. We just had a global outlook on the competition, and this was too broad to be useful. In addition, people in Sales didn’t know each other, so I could connect individuals who were combating the same competitor, and let them strategize together. Then I could share their success story so others could take advantage and win more deals. This would pump up the sales force, so they would share even more with me, since they liked this kind of publicity.

Competitive intelligence is a support role. You need to shelf your ego. I learned that I portrayed a cooperative attitude which I have since dubbed “cooperative intelligence”, which opened up the floodgates of sharing from Sales in particular. I went to them on a mission to help them, rather than to extract information from them. This was a first for them. Since I was a giver and a listener, this cut through politics and promoted information sharing. When you give without the expectation of something in return, anyone can tell.

There are more subtle ways to gain brownie points with Sales. I noticed that most staffers were coming to sales people with requests for information repeatedly, and that their requests were often for similar or even for the same information. I decided to become a conduit for others in our headquarters staff to centralize and consolidate their requests for information from Sales. Sales loved this since this reduced the number of staff requests. I also kept track of what other staffers had collected from Sales, so that I could intervene in some cases when Sales had recently already provided this data to a different staffer. Staffers appreciated this too since most of them didn’t like to call Sales with requests for information. This is a great way to insert yourself into the Sales process and prove your value. It doesn’t take much extra time, and Sales is really grateful.

Even doing all these things “right,” it still took me about 2 years to connect with Sales throughout our company. You cannot rush connection and relationships. It takes time to build trust.

It took me a little longer to connect with Sales Vice Presidents, the subject of my next blog.

Competitive Intelligence in 1985

When I wrote my Pecha Kucha presentation for our SLA Competitive Intelligence tournament, I decided to go back in time to 1985, the first year I focused entirely on competitive intelligence. This is the first in a series about how I evolved in my career in competitive intelligence, and what I have learned over time. Overall I am glad I had a start back then for the critical thinking and deeper relationships I developed. I am glad to still be in this field today where I can reach out to sources quickly that I would never have dreamed even existed, thanks to social networking.

1985 was a very different time and I will focus on the US.

  • Gas was $1.09/gallon
  • Movies were $2.75
  • Rent averaged $375/month
  • The Fed’s interest rate was 10.75%.

Technical differences were also noteworthy:

  • Windows 1.0 was introduced
  • CDs were introduced in the US in 1985
  • The first mobile telephone call was made in the UK by Ernie Wise

I started to focus on what we called competitive analysis just before the Society of Competitive Intelligence (SCIP) was formed, and didn’t learn about SCIP until 1989, two years before SCIP published its first membership directory. I worked for Bell Atlantic, a new company then, a Baby Bell from the initial AT&T divestiture. We were working out our company infrastructure as I was figuring out how best to provide and collect competitive intelligence.

I did not have a PC at my desk. My telephone was the most immediate form of communication with most of the company, although I could easily have in-person meetings with our product and marketing managers who sat close-by. In fact I had to be careful not to attend too many of their meetings else I wouldn’t get my work done. It correlates somewhat to spending too much time on email and social networks today.

We shared a fax machine among many of us, and waited in line at the photocopy machine. Secretaries typed up memos and reports. We took notes by hand. We memorized people’s phone numbers and had a Rolodex of names. I cross referenced my Rolodex names by job function in case I forgot a person’s name. We used company mail and US mail (which we didn’t call snail mail) for written communication.

Presentations would be typed up, given on overhead machines or written up on flip charts. I spent less time putting together presentations through these primitive means than I do today on PowerPoint decks since our standards were lower. I think people spent more time listening to what you had to say back then, since what you produced wasn’t much to look at. It also meant you had to know your stuff since there wasn’t the crutch of media to support you. People asked more questions and had more comments since they couldn’t easily get smart before a meeting like we can today by accessing the Internet to read up a bit.

I read the news in hard copy. We distributed news sources like Time, Business Week and Fortune among ourselves. I got my own copy of The Wall Street Journal which I read daily. We noted who got which industry consultant reports and subscriptions throughout Bell Atlantic. It could be that our Philadelphia office would get the only copy of an expensive industry report, and we would have to wait our turn to read it due to copyright issues.

The first organizational thing I did was a personal SWOT. My strength has always been visionary. I can see the big picture pretty readily and am creative. I am not strong with the details and execution although I am highly intuitive. I was lucky and found a wonderful lady to work with who was great with people and had a similar work ethic to mine. Unlike me, she was attentive to detail and great with execution. Over time we became a strong team, and are still friends some 25+ years later, although we live 2000 miles apart.

Our opportunity and our immediate threat were the same thing:

  • Learn how each of our regions communicated
  • Learn each region’s culture
  • Learn how individuals were motivated to share
  • Learn how individuals and each region would accept facts and ideas from a centralized group outside their region, namely us

We had to talk with each other more often than we do today, since there was no email; no voice mail or social media connection. I got copies of company’s (competitor’s) press releases from my company’s industry liaison person soon after she received them, so I could pass on the scoop to my company clients.

We had to use our creativity to achieve real-time intelligence, since people were our only real-time source, and we had fewer people we could reach out to since our world was smaller. On a positive note, our relationships with people were deeper, perhaps since we had fewer relationships. Our critical thinking skills were naturally sharpened with these deeper relationships. I had a few people outside the company that I had provocative discussions with often. These people helped me reach outside of Bell Atlantic’s culture and expand my vision of the competitive environment.

Timing is Everything in Win/Loss Interviews

Too many product managers seem to avoid customer interaction. While they know that customer Insights are useful to define products, features and the marketing message, there is this fear of customer confrontation. Yet most customers are actually quite willing to share the experience of dealing with your sales force, and how they chose your product or a competitor’s.

In a recent webinar I learned a few new things about the psychology behind conducting win/loss interviews. I have always told clients to makes sure that the sale is complete and implemented before handing them off to me to interview. In the webinar, Steve Johnson of discussed the timing of the win/loss interview.

Customers are the least confident during implementation, and often experience stress, so you are less likely to get a clear headed reaction to their decision-making process, and what features they do/don’t like or what they think of your products or marketing message. They will be preoccupied with the process of implementation. For example, they might have thought they would get more handholding or professional services during implementation.

Timing is everything in life, and the same is true in win loss analysis. I think the best time to call customers is after implementation, since how that went will often affect their desire to do future business with you or the competition. If implementation did not go well with a lost customer, you might have a chance to jump back into the sales mode sooner. The loss interview will uncover this. You will also learn, in detail, how the competition implemented the product or service, which is great competitive intelligence. The customer is more level headed after the stressful implementation phase is complete and they are trained on how to use the product.

Another observation: It used to be rude to email customers/prospects to schedule win/loss interviews. Now, this is the best way for connection. People appreciate knowing who you are; the value proposition of partaking in a win/loss interview; and that you are not trying to jump back in to sell. Another reason I like to connect via email ahead of time is I hope that they will pick up the telephone when I call them. Caller ID is not a win/loss interviewer’s friend since many people won’t pick up the phone unless they recognize the telephone number.

I like it the best if my client informs their customers and prospects that I will be calling. Better yet, if Sales informs all prospects and customers during the sales presentation that win/loss interviews are part of doing business, and they occur after the sale is consummated and the product is installed regardless of who wins the business: your company or a competitor.

Win/loss learning is often more about the failure of the selling process rather than selling the product. There were several sources that Steve shared that are worthwhile for those who want to understand customers and the buying and selling processes.

The New Rules of Sales Enablement by Jeff Ernst – This explains that the way we sell is often out of synch with how people want to buy.
Buyer Persona – Adele Revella instructs people on how to ask probing questions to learn what matters to your buyers. This relates to win/loss since it’s by probing that you learn the real reasons why your buyers choose you or your competitors, or decide to do nothing at all. You want to uncover how to delight the person who is buying your solution. Other books include: Innovation Games and Never Eat Alone.

In conclusion, if you just have one time to conduct win/loss interviews, wait until after implementation or a rule of thumb is wait 2-3 months after the sale closes. If you wait too long, they’ll forget the details around the sales event that you are trying to collect and analyze.

Win/Loss Analysis book gives you a process to learn why you’re losing business and how to keep more of it!

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Questions to Ask Competitive Intelligence Software Providers

One of my colleagues called today and we spoke about what you might be looking for when you team up with a competitive intelligence software provider. I have links to a few of my favorites here. Rather than extolling the virtues of individual providers, in the spirit of cooperative intelligence, here are some practical questions you want to ask a prospective service provider:

How does your system integrate with what I already have installed at various places in my company? Think salesforce.com that many in Sales use, SAP or Oracle systems. How does this software work with what people are already familiar with? Can the service provider provide a mask that makes it transparent to the user? Can this hang off our CRM? What will the CI software enable you to do that you can’t do today? Why?

How does this software enable competitive intelligence: monitoring, collection, dissemination and analysis? Frankly there isn’t a system out there that I know of that supports the entire competitive intelligence (CI) process. You need to decide what is the most important part of the CI cycle that the software will enable. Is translation built in for global organizations? How will it support multiple languages? Or do you build separate software apps in the native tongue and not support translation?

Many companies use CI software to both collect and disseminate intelligence. As a CI professional, I look for a solution that will free up my time to be a critical thinker, to do the analysis, prepare persuasive communication from what I can deduce, and connection with my users and providers of CI–in some cases maintaining that relationship in others finding and building relationships.

In that same vein, what is involved in keeping the information flow up-to-date? Does the software have crawlers that continue to find new information? How does it accommodate and integrate findings from traditional web 1.0 and social networks? Can my clerks be set up to input that timely information? Does it include any audience opinions such as a favorable rating versus slamming your products? How far back do I want to go in storing information? How do I insure that the date of the information is clearly identified so readers know? Do we have guidelines around copyright?

What is the balance between Push and Pull? Can my system users decide which areas they want to follow and have information pushed to them? How will the information be organized so people can easily find it? How does keyword searching work to locate information?

How easy is this system to use? Is any aspect of it visual? How easy is it for people to add information? Can they do it on the fly, such as from a trade show when they learn new intelligence? How do people correct mistakes and outdated information? Can I use the software for CI project management? How can people communicate back and forth through this software? Can we locate experts by topical area, both internal and external to the company?

What is the system security? How do I keep my strategic information away from Sales, for example? How do I keep all that Sales chatter away from R&D and strategic planners who might not be interested? How many levels of security does the system have?

What is your company’s culture? Are people going to engage with a CI software application or do you already have too many apps for people to process? Timing is everything. If your company is receptive to a CI software solution, where do you test it? How long do you test it? What will be the measure of success that will cause you to expand its usage? How will you train users on how the system works and the benefits of using it?

I believe that companies who can react to and predict the marketplace in real-time, while also having a meaningful long-term strategic plan, will be the winners in this global competitive environment. While you need to look out in the future with your crystal ball, you also need to be flexible enough to react to what is happening in the present moment, and be nimble enough to change, adapt and be opportunistic.

So, what questions would you add to this list?

Strategies, Techniques & Sources to Find Local Business Information

I just listened to a most informative AIIP (Association of Independent Information Professionals) webinar on finding and using local sources—Internet, Social Networks & People—by Marcy Phelps, CEO of Phelps Research and author of the recently published, Research on Main Street. In the spirit of cooperative intelligence, I would like to share some of the key points I learned.

As a primary researcher, I was listening to clues which provide connection to people, often the best and most current sources of intelligence, recognizing that the web contains numerous sites for companies, demographics, population statistics, country, city, county and state data—the core for research.

Marcy’s 5th strategy tipper “Go Off-line” resonated with me. So much local information is simply not in print anywhere, including the Internet. Also when searching privately held companies or subsidiaries within a large company, it’s great to interview local people, since these companies are often the big fish in a small pond. Some of Marcy’s favorite local sources include: journalists, government workers, librarians, local chapter association leaders, local economists, and economic development executives.

Chamber of commerce sites and their employees are a rich source of local data, and often brag about their local companies and personalities, and can refer you to other people, local newspapers and librarians, among others. Speaking to locals is essential to get at sentiment and opinion, which often bring life to research findings. Other local sources include convention/visitors bureaus, economic development  organizations and local chapters of national associations.

I also liked Marcy’s discussion around local news sources since they can lead you to the right people.

American City Business Journals

ABYZ News Links

News Voyager

Radio-Locator

Google News advance search

Topix

Marcy also included discussion around social networks, a fertile source for finding experts. She included LinkedIn and Twitter, but did you know about Nearby Tweets or Local Tweeps to find people by location? Twitter’s advanced search allows you to find local Tweeters and so much more. Placebloggers is a good resource to find bloggers by location. Others include Feedmap and InOtherNews.

Read Marcy’s handouts from this webinar. You can also link to numerous, relevant links which correspond to each chapter in Marcy’s book, Research on Main Street. While these links are valuable, learning how to use them in context is the key. I recommend that you buy the book to learn how to strategically plan your quest for research, whether it’s to locate your new business, conduct an opportunity analysis, provide sales intelligence or conduct competitive intelligence. She covers so much more especially government sources (chapters 4 & 5), which I didn’t even discuss here. One last tipper: use your creativity and have a Plan B in place! Local information is not that easy to locate, but this book will surely boost your approach to finding it!

You must be an AIIP member for the full transcript and PowerPoint for Marcy’s webinar, which can be accessed anytime through AIIP’s website. Learn more about the benefits of being an AIIP member. If you’re an independent running a research, private eye, library or competitive intelligence practice, AIIP is the place to get invaluable advice and resources to help you start and run your business successfully!

Real-Time Competitive Advantage

I am enjoying David Meerman Scott’s book, Real-Time Marketing & PR. He explains the competitive advantage to companies and individuals of being responsive to events that affect them in real-time: that means right NOW, not tomorrow. No longer can you just monitor the news: you have to take action! In this book he tells the story of how United Airlines broke Dave Carroll’s Taylor guitar. Dave Carroll, a songwriter gets back at United with a song about how United breaks guitars which becomes a YouTube hit. The saga continues as Taylor Guitar and Calton Cases (yes you guessed it, they created Dave Carroll guitar cases) capitalized on this event, by responding quickly and decisively. A most amusing story, if you’re not United who came out smelling like a skunk. David tells the story here.

I hadn’t really thought about real-time response as a competitive intelligence professional. Often we’re so busy monitoring, studying and analyzing competitors, market trends and our customers that we ignore what action we should be taking right now to be more competitive. So many companies are stuck in the past and the future and forget that we operate in the NOW!

How many companies are connected to their customers in real-time? Some listen to what their customers say on Twitter and other social media, which is a step in the right direction especially for companies in the B to C space. But what about companies selling B to B? How do they stay connected to their customers in real-time? At SCIP’s annual conference, Rick Marcet spoke about the win/loss model that he developed at Microsoft which is fed by sales. This is the best example I can think of continuous learning from customers. These assessments are completed at the conclusion of the sale, while the information is fresh, and is viewed as part of the sales process. The company takes action on an ongoing basis based on these results. You can read more about this in Rick’s soon to be published book, Win/Loss Reviews: A New Model for Competitive Intelligence.

Carrying this a step further: how many companies have real-time communication with their employees? While many companies claim that their employees are their biggest asset: how many companies really listen to them on a regular basis? Southwest Airlines comes to mind immediately as they solicit suggestions from employees, implement the winning suggestions and reward employees appropriately. This is America’s second largest airline, and has been profitable in an industry which has slim margins and where most competitors have had a bout with bankruptcy.

Almost every company monitors its competitors and the marketplace it perceives that it competes in. However, too many companies just monitor these activities using Google and other forms of electronic connection and social networks. I think this is just a first step and that winning companies take action based on what they learn, and they don’t need to get the board’s approval. Companies that are excellent also have a human source network that they are connected to in real-time who they can count on to be responsive as business needs dictate.

As our world becomes smaller and more easily connected through the Internet and social media, this real-time connection and communication is becoming a way of doing business. Don’t be left out by disallowing your employees to participate in real-time. You will never have enough information to be certain that you are correct, but if you wait until you’re sure of what you “should say” or “should do,” you will be too late.

Preparation: Step 1 for Successful Collection Interviews

Colleagues and clients ask why people share information so readily with me, especially when cold calling. The first secret is that I like people and have a cooperative attitude. This encourages a good connection almost as soon as we start talking. Preparation, even for cold calling, or should I say especially for cold calling, is essential since the other person has no incentive to talk to you until you provide it clearly and quickly.

The first thing I do when I get a collection assignment is to learn the language and jargon of the industry I am targeting. I figure out the habits and challenges of the workers I will speak to.  For example in one project I had to interview hospital employees to learn what equipment they had installed, and how old it was, so we could do some forecasting. I learned the pain points these employees faced as well as the problems that this equipment solved. This made getting the information relatively easy, since they were sharing what equipment they had installed as part of the overall picture of their situation.

The second thing is to figure out who knows the information you are looking for. Who else cares? Who knows and doesn’t realize the value of this knowledge or care enough to keep it a secret.  For example, in this hospital project, I figured out which department would know this information. Once I was forwarded through the switchboard, someone always answered the phone.  The biggest enemy these days is that people hide behind their caller ID enabled telephones, and might not pick up your call. However, if you’re transferred in through a switchboard, often your identity is masked.

Before I pick up the phone, I have all my questions and conversations organized, since I don’t want to stumble or waste time. Most importantly I have several introductions prepared, and when I hear their “Hello” I decide which one might work, or I go a different direction. There is a lot of art to phone interviewing, and listening for how the person “is” goes far beyond their voice.

I think long and hard about what questions the other person might ask me about who I am and why I am calling. If you are thoughtful about this, you can listen more closely to the other person. This is key to a good interview, since conversations often don’t go as planned. You listen for what they say and what they omit, which you had expected them to know.

I find if I am thorough in my preparation, I am more relaxed, and can listen fully since I am not panicking about what I should ask next. I can also think of other angles and questions right on the spot which I hadn’t considered, since the other person’s comments may trigger them or cause me to doubt something I thought I had already correctly collected which their answer contradicts.

Remember preparation is a key step to a successful interview, but it is just the start. In future blogs, I will share other important steps.

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