For Priceless Information, Bring Out the “Professor”


“Bringing-out the Professor” interviewing draws out information normally thought to be hard to get. Using this interviewing technique with target customers helps to discover key information for developing your new product.

Interviewers using this persuasive technique can:

  1. Unearth direct and latent unmet needs for a new product
  2. Discover how much customers value these needs.
  3. Understand how customers decide that the new product meets their needs.

Bringing-Out the “Professor”

The Professor is dormant inside all of us. Tapped by a seriously interested interviewer, it’s that part of us that likes to talk about a subject we know a lot about.

In the B2B world Professors vary in their line of work but they have deep vertical knowledge of their particular piece of it.  A few are professors. Others have roles such as product managers, plant supervisors, surgeons, mobile telephony engineers, and purchasing agents.

(On one project I interviewed people in the poultry industry ranging from chicken farmers to ex-rocket engineers.  As a byproduct I gained a keen appreciation of how clever you need to be to thrive in this complex industry. I’ll also never look at packaged chicken at the supermarket with the same eyes again.)

Telephone interviews are better than face-to-face interviews for bringing out the Professor. On a telephone call there are fewer distractions to a deep conversation about a subject of shared interest. Once intense listening surfaces, the respondent’s Professor appears.

The interviewer creates this intense listening experience by being an Intelligent Pupil. In this role an interviewer is natural in manner and is an attentive listener. Prompted by the Pupil’s open-ended questions the Professor volunteers information normally thought to be hard to get hold of.