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We Just Don't Know Until We Elicit

Jul 1, 2008
'The devil is in the details.' It's an English idiom I'm sure you've experienced, or at least heard before. This implies that the small things that you weren't expecting or that seemed inconsequential, can sometimes hold up everything. The same goes for the elicitation of criteria. Sometimes we need to explore and delve into the details and definitions of their criteria in order to fully understand them.

At the foundation of all sales is your prospect's criteria. To use a sports metaphor, eliciting their criteria is like rolling that ball down with no gutter balls. Further defining their criteria, getting the details, is like getting a strike each and every time.

Here's how definitions work.

In my career I've done a lot of trainings and students come to see me for a myriad of reasons. For example, two people come into a training. Both of them, when you ask them their criteria, say that what's being taught in the training is important.

If you ask them, "Is this important to you? Do you really want to learn this?" Both of them will say yes. Yet each one has different deeper definitions for their criteria when we elicit it.

The first person might say that the training is important because they want to learn new skills and continue to grow. Your follow up is to ask what that means. They might say that they want to see a list of skills and they want to participate in exercises using the skills so they can learn them.

When you ask the second person what's important to them about being at the training, they might say, well, it's important to me to be recognized for the hard work that I bring to the table. Now that's an entirely different criteria. Asking what that means, they may say that they want their classmates and the instructor to recognize that they are skilled and quick to learn.

These two students are both willing to come to the training, both willing to pay for the training, but if you think about it, despite the similarities in their criteria, they've got wildly different definitions of what a successful training looks like for them.

For any of you that have taught in front of a group, you'll know what I'm talking about here. In any group there will be a section of people that probably know your material and maybe reasonably well, or at least think they do. There will be a group of people that are star struck, thinking, wow, I'm really in the presence of a master.

Another subsection and also a majority of the students are there for knowledge for its own sake and will gain their value simply from what you're saying.

It's important for you to begin to understand that every time you think you know what someone wants, unless you ask, you don't. You're not on target. You're not on track. And until you both elicit the criteria and elicit the meaning, the definition, you are completely missing the boat.

Knowing criteria is an awesome start. And if you want to bowl strike after strike, the key is to learn how to define their criteria.
About the Author
Kenrick Cleveland teaches techniques to earn the business of wealthy clients using persuasion. He runs public and private seminars and offers home study courses and coaching programs in persuasion techniques.
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