Competitive Intelligence Elicitation Techniques

This article is called Competitive Intelligence elicitation techniques. We offer our thoughts on some fundamental and ethical elicitation techniques. Nothing too heavy and some of which you may be already knowingly or subconsciously using in your day to day activities. Use sparingly and only on people who show specific and usually slight matching character traits.

One question at a time

The first thing to remember is when talking to someone who may have the information you need to to know, ask short, simple questions as they usually provide you with the most precise answers. And resist asking more than one question at a time. 

Flattery

Flattery, used sparingly, is a great way to achieve success in finding out the information you are looking for. When you encourage people to feel good about themselves and what they’re doing through praise, they often keep talking about the subject.

Tell them how great their business is, referencing an article you have read. After a thank you, they’re likely to elaborate on what you’re complimenting them about. 

When watching a presentation, try complimenting the speaker about a point they made and listen to them, provide you with even more information about the subject. You may only get a snippet of information, but many pieces of the jigsaw will create a full picture for you. 

However, be careful not to overuse flattery as it will become very evident. But used with other techniques mentioned in this article flattery can be a potent tool.

Bigger than you

We meet them. You know the one’s who love to tell you how great they are and how well they are doing. Try saying something positive about your company or yourself. Hear them agree with all of them to tell you more about their organisation. Let you know more about them and agree on how great their company is too. 

What else

When you want to get information, start with a single topic question. The one’s that usually begin with a who, what, where, when and why. To get further information from them, and prevent the subject being changed, resist the temptation to dive in with another single topic question.

Ask “What else?” If you were asking what a suspected terrorist was doing and tells you he was planting a bomb, the temptation is to ask where immediately where is the bomb planted?

The “What else” line of questioning will deliver a more detailed explanation about he was doing. 

It can also make them stumble too, as they will not be as prepared for your line of questioning. 

Cross Those Ankles

When men sit listening to you with crossed ankles, they do not want to be in the room hearing the same old thing. If this is combined with crossed arms, they could be saying that they are not interested. So perhaps the time you are going to get some information from them is when you are walking to the lift with them. They will be relieved to be leaving and perhaps their guard may be down. 

Experts

We all meet people who take pleasure in correcting other people. Although annoying, they are showing their desire to be seen as an expert to boost their self-esteem. 

A false statement and you should correct you, backing it up with even more valuable information. After all, they have already put you down, and they may as well grind you into the ground. 

Keeping them feeling good about correcting you but you will have gleaned more information. 

Playing dumb

Playing dumb is one of the best ways of getting the information you need. You may trigger a competitive or protective reaction in the person you are talking to. They usually have an urge to teach you what you want to know.

Erroneous

One of the best ways of getting to understand a subject you have little knowledge about is to come out with an incorrect statement. Say it in the right environment, and you could get a queue offering the correct information.

“I hear John Smith of Smiths Law firm has put back their Birmingham office move a couple of months” or “I have heard that their product launch is struggling and they have decided to put it back until October” and “See they have given that Corporate Partner the chop eh. Never saw that coming!”

There is an excellent chance someone will give you some valuable information without much encouragement. 

Criticism

Similar to the erroneous statement, use the Criticism technique after developing rapport with the subject. Criticise what they say and get a response. They are likely to defend what their comments & give their opinion. 

You would think that causing an argument may not be the best way of finding the information you are looking for. However, nothing could be further from the truth. You ask a question, and they offer a reply which is not enough for you. Suggest that you don’t believe them and they are likely to open up to prove their point and defend their position.

You don’t have to get them in a headlock to suggest you don’t believe them, but that look of disbelief or the raising of your eyebrows could be all that’s required. We have an inbuilt trigger to correct and instruct people if we think they have not understood the answer. When they defend their position against a person who has had the cheek to question them can offer even more information than they wanted to give.

Act dumb

When we come up against people who seem to be a subject expert, some (most) people have a trigger to compete or at the very least protect their position of knowledge. They become guarded to prevent them from looking daft in front of someone who appears to know as much, if not more than them. 

Act dumb and play down your understanding of the subject to make sure they think you know very little. It will encourage them to create a more open discussion and allow them to educate you in their vast knowledge of the subject you don’t know anything about.

Silence is golden

This technique works in a formal business environment and social settings. The person you are talking to probably knows more about the subject than you. You ask a question about something they know. The person answers the question, but it is not enough, or you think they know more than that.

Say nothing. Do not nod, grunt or agree. The other person will want to fill the silence with words, especially if you keep quiet beyond 10 seconds. It will feel like a lifetime, but it isn’t. You will get a more detailed and in-depth answer. This technique works exceptionally well with salespeople and extroverts.

Competitive Intelligence elicitation techniques

Finally, one of the best places to practice these techniques is in the school playground with other parents who are also waiting for their children to escape the classroom. Mention your Bobby has just got a trophy in football and you will sure as eggs are eggs the parent will say well done and then tell you about little Jonny’s Ice Skating medal. 

This article is called what are the basic Competitive Intelligence elicitation techniques. We offered our thoughts on some fundamental and ethical elicitation techniques. Again nothing too heavy and some which you may knowingly or subconsciously use already. 

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