Elicitation’s Secret Weapon: Politeness

10/13/2015

After getting back from another trade show, I talked about it with my better half, Carolyn Vella. When I was (finally) done, we noted that a theme ran through it – other than the usual gripe about the size of the venue.

That theme was the power of being polite. Polite? Before I give a couple of examples of its power, I would note that its power is due to several different causes:

  • Not everyone in business is polite, even when his/her job involves customer/consumer facing activities.
  • For some of those who are polite, the politeness is not “native”. That is, there is no automatic “thanks”, “you are welcome”, “please”, or “could you help me”. It is forced – and people notice that.
  • And for those who have native politeness, smiles are not always present. (BTW – you should smile when you are on the phone. It impacts how you sound to others. Don’t believe me? Try it.)

That makes politeness, true politeness, rare – therefore appreciated, and effective.

So how did being polite pay off? A few examples:

  • At one target booth, the people manning it were all very busy, so I just stood around until one employee worked herself free and made eye contact. I did not immediately demand attention. I thanked her for coming over, she said she was sorry she was busy, and off we went talking about her company’s products, how well the trade show was going, the industry, etc. I thanked her for her time. Oh, when I came back for a follow-up the next day, I said that is what I was doing, could I take a minute more, and she could not have been more helpful then as well.
  • At another booth, I need to talk to a manager-level employee about some industry-wide (not his company) issues. In other words, not to just anyone and not about his booth or its products. As we started, I told him that I had a few learning questions, and that, of course, I fully understood that he might have to peel off to “do some real business”, so please do so – I appreciated his valuable time. My recognition of his real mission allowed us to talk freely for a few, enlightening, minutes – until he had to leave. I thanked him then for his time.
  • I was to meet my client in an industry association suite, where we had met a day earlier. Access was limited to association members and guests (only so long as they were personally accompanied by a member). I got there early and went immediately to the desk; I did not try to enter the adjacent lounge. I identified myself there, and noted that I had been there the previous day with “Frank”. I told the supervisor I was waiting for Frank, and asked if I could sit and wait inside right by the door. She said “yes”. I asked if I could borrow a newspaper from the desk to read; she said certainly, that is what they were there for. Each question was “Please” and each response was “Thank you”. I did not push – I asked. And I said I would return the paper (which I did). Ok, this may not have directly benefited my elicitation, but I was a lot more comfortable while waiting.

So, when involved in elicitation efforts, in person, on the phone, or by email, always be polite, patient, and smile.

Thanks for reading this blog.


One Comment on “Elicitation’s Secret Weapon: Politeness”

  1. […] the power of being polite. Polite? Before I give a couple of examples of its power, I would note that its power is due to several different causes: Not everyone in business is polite, even when his/her job involves customer/consumer facing activities.For some of those who are polite, the politeness is not “native”. That is, there is no automatic “thanks”, “you are welcome”, “please”, or “could you help me”. It is forced – and people notice that. And for those who have native politeness, smiles are not always present. (BTW – you should smile when you are on the phone. It impacts how you sound to others. Don’t believe me? Try it.) That makes politeness, true politeness, rare – therefore appreciated, and effective.  […]


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