Elicitation with Enthusiasm

I have been pondering the use of elicitation skills in competitive intelligence collection.  I have been using these techniques for many years, but not quite in the military intelligence way, which seems like using the other person in a more negative way. The techniques take advantage of human tendencies to complain, gossip, correct and inform, which certainly works. However, I like to capture the human desire to be happy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile my research assignment is to get information that clients can use to make the decision at hand, I have a relationship goal as well. By the end of the telephone call, my goal is to make the other person feel good about themselves. This was inspired by Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

A great way to make people feel good about themselves is for you to have an attitude of optimism, joy, and enthusiasm while you converse with the other person. Enthusiasm is infectious, and people like to share with you because you are making them feel happy. There are three ways I get myself in this zone:

1. Overall, I don’t take myself too seriously, so laughter comes easily in conversation. Work is a serious, less fun environment for many that I talk to. A little levity is often appreciated, but only if you sense that the other person is open to it. In my experience, most Americans are.

2. I put a smile on my face just as I am dialing to remind myself that happy is a good way to be. There is something about putting a smile on my face that puts me in a happy place. When I first make that connection with the person I am interviewing, they can feel my smile.

3. Before I dial, I get myself grounded and focused, by taking deep breathes. I want to forget about me, and to just concentrate on the person who I will be connecting with, even if this is a cold call. I want to get myself on their channel, sort of like sitting in their chair in my own mind. This also helps me be prepared for however the interview might go, since they seldom quite go as planned.

Being grounded is the one technique that has improved my success in collection more than any other. I can spend all the time in the world getting my value proposition written out and etched in my brain. But if I am not confident and grounded, the person at the other end can sense it right away, and won’t feel like connecting or sharing with me. When I am grounded and confident they will share, since I am in their zone, and the words just flow.

These practices also have another benefit: they help me get to the other person more readily, since I am more absorbed in how they are, and readily forget about myself while in conversation. My challenge is to remember to cover all the material that the client has hired me to collect, since I will often get lost in conversation as I let the other person control the flow of sharing, according to how they are comfortable.

Learn more about elicitation techniques here. Learn how you can become an elicitation expert.

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Integrate Emotional Intelligence & Selling into Competitive Intelligence

Colleen Stanley

Last week I attended a webinar to improve my selling skills led by Colleen Stanley, Founder and Chief Sales Officer of SalesLeadership, Inc. Effective selling will help competitive intelligence professionals, product management and researchers gain respect, cooperation and appreciation from internal peers. Since many of us have no reporting employees, selling yourself is even more important in this “new economy”.

People obtain more knowledge than ever through the Internet, so they may feel like they don’t need you to provide them competitive intelligence. Due to the recession more people want to see a visible ROI for your solution. This isn’t always possible in competitive intelligence, but be creative and you can develop an ROI solution often enough. People are more skeptical due to the scandals which triggered this recession so really don’t like to be pushed into decision-making–not that they ever did.

Find the pain points and match your communication style to the decision-makers and key influencers in the buying process. This works for every business function I can think of!

People who are optimistic outsell those who aren’t by 33%. When bad things happen they realize that this is just temporary and their self-talk reflects this as they expect positive outcomes since they’re happy. They often find humor when others would be dragged down by unfortunate circumstances or stress. They live with an attitude of gratitude. Optimism must be real: people will see right through you if it’s feigned.

To really be successful in selling, your prospect needs to admit that they have a problem, and identify what it is costing them. This outlook works very well in competitive intelligence. I often ask what it will cost if we do nothing. Sometimes there is a very low cost to do nothing, so it’s not important enough to fix compared to bigger problems where we can more readily measure the impact of success or failure.

I loved Colleen’s Principles of Expectation:
1. Can the Sales person pass the pop quiz test? Make sure all parties in the meeting clearly understand the objective of the meeting.
2. Is there a Mutual Fit? Is the solution we’re discussing mutually good for all parties?
3. Examine your Intention. Are you there to Impress or to Influence? Influencers are intent on understanding customer’s issues; impressing is just selling.

Sales people with high emotional intelligence outsell those with low EI. I think high EI benefits anyone.

Here are some tippers to improve your EI:
Improve your Self-Awareness. Most people don’t take enough downtime to be reflective and introspective to learn why they react a certain way to situations. Solitude triggers the right brain where creativity often kicks in.
Be Assertive: Express your feelings and ask questions without being aggressive or abusive. You have the right to ask for what you need to know to do your job whether sales, marketing, research or competitive intelligence.
Delayed Gratification is usually worth it: Look beyond the immediate. Adopt a long term outlook when selling as relationships are always in development. Be a planner and work on time management towards connection and building these relationships.

Combine these emotional intelligence practices and selling with the collection skill of elicitation and cooperative intelligence, and watch your effectiveness as a competitive intelligence professional soar!

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