You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in an hour of conversation
In 1957, a confident (and maybe cocky) young lead singer of a new rock band met another young musician, a guitarist around his same age, introduced by a mutual friend. They immediately hit it off, sharing their love of American rock and roll and singing songs. The young guitarist showed the singer how to tune his guitar and displayed his virtuoso guitar playing. The guitarist was almost too good thought the singer; he might still his spotlight. He relented, however, and brought the new guitarist into his band. It was for good that the cocky front man brought him on though. It made for a happier world.
There’s a lot you can get out of chance meetings and stories shared; good conversations spur good ideas. In the book The Power of Pull: How Small Moves Smartly Made Can Set Big Things in Motion, authors John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Land Davison write that the companies that are going to shape the future will develop it through creative collaboration. Creation spaces and engaging conversations lead to big ideas. Talking to someone about something interesting is the catalyst sometimes for big things.
An inquiry with an intelligent business or technology analyst can be one such catalyst, and it’s a definitely a two-way street. Analysts, and the firms they work for, spend tireless hours researching and developing their knowledge, but they cannot get a complete picture unless they speak to those in the business, visiting the “factory floors”. Vendors may spend all their waking hours toiling at making the world a more productive and efficient place through technology, but unless they know how their technology compares in the marketplace or even what the marketplace wants, their hours toiling may be spent in vain.
Working your way into engaging conversations may be easy for some scruffy young musicians with little care but Little Richard songs, but for others, it may prove more difficult. It’s a busy time in the world. Between the research deadlines, events, and writing of analysts and the sales calls, management meetings, and jet lag of vendors, it’s tough answering emails and jumping on the phone.
Inquiries, though, still must be pursued to find an audience for a company’s ideas and market initiatives. In today’s high-paced tech world, an analyst’s kudos could make or break deals for many a service provider, so knowing how to make the most out of an inquiry is key to building a company’s internal knowledge and outside thought leadership.
How does one find a chance to make “music” between two busy strangers? Prepare and plan by following the 4 C’s of Inquiries: Comfort, Converse, Connect, and Continue.
One of the tenets of Dale Carnegie was always to be friendly. His seminal book, How To Win Friends And Influence People, said that some of the best ways to make people comfortable to you was to give sincere appreciation, smile, be a good listener and always use the person’s name.
While it may be difficult to smile through a telephone inquiry, vendors can make an effort to make the analyst comfortable by getting to know them before the call and show graciousness for even participating. After short introductions from the members on the conversations, speaking on the analyst’s recent research or blog post is a good way to showing the analyst that you are prepared.
The first few moments in the conversation can make or break the comfort level so be sure to be ready. Some things to remember before you enter a call:
- Have an analyst profile: Know who they are, what they cover, and what they’re interested in. Mention some highlights possibly of their career or alma mater.
- Read over their work: Sharing a view on recent research lets the analyst know that not only are you interested in learning but you already have been learning.
- Give setting for call: Giving a short synopsis of why you are speaking sets the analyst up for what is going to be talked about and sets him or her at ease.
- Put others at ease
- Put yourself at ease
- Weave in all parties
- Establish shared interests
- Actively pursue your own
While our Comfort stage may have already taken care of those first two, the last three should definitely be a part of an inquiry.
Having multiple parties is good on a call, but make sure to have 2-3 people interacting at the max. It’s off putting to try and bring that many people and their questions into the conversation. Additionally, too many people means less of a chance for the analyst to talk which is what you exactly want.
Remember that the most important information in an inquiry is new information. The less you speak and the more you listen, the better chance you have of learning something notable. Let the analyst speak and you will find an even more engaging and excited analyst. Analysts spend all day researching and understanding about something very specific. They are excited to have their voices heard. Let them stay excited.
As they speak and get engaged, be sure to pepper questions that lead to multiple layers. Make sure to go for the interesting ones and make sure Yes/No questions should be taken removed from your list.
You did create a list of questions to keep the conversation going, right?
Research has found that with a serious topic or a good friend, we measure a conversation’s success by how enthralled we were by what the other person said is another thought seen in The Art of Conversation.
Being enthralled by someone, however, is no easy feat.
The real secret in it is that you are the one in charge of ensuring they are enthralling you. The way to really “connect” is by making sure you drive the conversation to where it needs to go. Remember, you called the meeting; you are in charge of the flow.
I have been in inquiries and seen individuals lose their patience with an analyst when things aren’t going right or when an analyst might not be giving them the exact information they require.
This is why Connect is the hardest of these stages; it takes a deft facilitator to find the connecting point between people. This could be their love of a technology, their business savvy, their knowledge of marketplace or their favorite sports team. It doesn’t matter because it’s up to the inquirer to get the most out of the inquiry.
Establishing and keeping a healthy rapport throughout is tantamount. Dead air or no talking during an inquiry can kill the flow of conversation. Being abrupt or rude can never happen.
To truly connect, you have to find the catalyst point for combined interest which you should have already found out through the profile of the analyst. Understand what they know and what you think they want to share. Ask them the right questions and lead them to the information you know they have. That’s how you (and they) will really connect.
The easiest stage in the inquiry process is often the most missed. Ending the inquiry is not ending the relationship; an inquiry is just the start.
You have to leave the conversation with the next action to complete the inquiry process.
An analyst’s work is never done. It doesn’t matter how many research reports, tweets, or blog posts they write because that’s what they get paid to do: write. What that ultimately means is that they continually are looking for ammo for their cannons.
For a vendor, the best time to ask what they’re needing or looking to write up next is when they are right in front of you. The most important thing to an analyst is information, new information. So feel free to ask them what else they may want to do or what they might need such as:
- A briefing from company in their domain
- A collaborative project
- A visit to your office for a more intimate chat
Just ending a conversation abruptly with no follow up takes the “relations” out of analyst relations. Make sure you keep the relationship going.
Active and fun conversations can be organic but orchestrated; it can really happen. It’s up to those in it to make it desirable for both parties.
Inquiries are just one of the keys to understanding more about a subject, the business environment, or even your own company’s standing and your interaction could be more important than you think. You are a reflection of your company in that moment, so you must seize it. Prepare for your inquiry well, pace yourself throughout, and make sure to stay engaged.
Most of all though, have fun. You never know what kind of music you will create.
This blog post originally appeared on LinkedIn.
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