The Strategist

Elicitation: How to get your clients talking

02/04/2022 - 05:05

The term "elicitation" means covert drawing out of information. It is an effective set of techniques for influencing people's behavior. Information elicitation is a real art, and this approach is indispensable in the business sphere.

Salespeople and entrepreneurs sometimes spend an enormous amount of time building relationships with potential customers. Many hours (and dollars) are invested in dinners, breakfasts and golf trips, not to mention emails, social media posts, phone calls and cold calling. Worst of all, sometimes these efforts end up in nothing.

But what if, by applying a few simple skills, you could screen out customers who wouldn't buy anything, or unpromising acquaintances? What if you could extract information from a person to see if they would become your customer?

There are many ways of getting a person to talk. Here are some of them:


People are hungry for praise, and well-concealed flattery is much more effective than you might think. Compliments need to be done in a way that makes the person feel good and want to share at the same time.

For example: "The company must value your professionalism very highly, otherwise they wouldn't have delegated you to this conference. You must be one of the best in the business."

Such a comment will prompt the person to elaborate on his specialization and position in the company, right down to information about the projects he is currently working on.

Shared interests

If you want to get a stranger talking, find a topic that interests both of you. You wouldn't believe how much information the person would willingly give up when they see that you're into that too!

For example: "I totally agree, something unreal is going on with home security technology right now."

With this kind of statement, you are signaling that you too belong in this field, so it is safe to discuss it with you. You give the impression that you know the subject, and the person you are extracting the right information from doesn't think he or she is going to tell you something you don't already know.

Start with a question

This simple technique lays the groundwork for a more detailed discussion. It works with those who like to talk about themselves.

For example: "Have you worked for the same engineering company your whole life?"

The question will encourage the person to talk about his or her work experience. If he has actually worked at the same company for a long time, you open the door to the following questions: "What do you like about it there?", "Have you ever thought about leaving?".

A confession of ignorance

By nature, people are responsive and will gladly fill in the gap in your knowledge.

For example: "Oh, I'm an amateur at creating databases. Can you advise me on where I should start?"

After such a confession, someone will gladly enlighten you. Just ask for help - and you'll get all the information you need.

Based on “Agent of Influence. How to Use Spy Skills to Persuade Anyone, Sell Anything, and Build a Successful Business” by Jason Hanson

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