Finding a worthwhile, latent need is not easy

But, once found, it gives a product developer unusual advantages.

Elicitation helps developers uncover worthwhile latent needs.

As a customer research consultant, I use this powerful tool. Clients are lead-product managers. They develop concepts that go beyond routine incremental upgrades. Their task is major extension of core markets.

Mastering the art of elicitation of secrets

Doctors, FBI agents, and developers use elicitation to uncover secrets. Individuals keep secrets hidden from the knowledge of others. Skilled elicitors draw out the underlying explanations for an individual’s reticence.

In elicitation, the individual:

  • Is unaware elicitation is happening
  • Will cooperate with you

Maintaining discipline during the conversation is essential

In the conversation, a master elicitor assumes the role of an intelligent pupil. At the start of the conversation, the elicitor places the individual in the role of the professor. During the conversation, master elicitors maintain these roles.

Teaching the art of elicitation to others is daunting. My pupils, after two disciplined interviews, go off the rails. The rich information gathered in the disciplined interviews convinces them that they now know the latent need.

Seduced, they drop the role of a pupil and assume the professor’s role. Now they ask direct questions to affirm their new view. They believe that maintaining elicitation discipline is boring. And, they lose elicitation’s power.

In my experience, elicitors must interview at least 28 well-informed individuals. This will yield at least 4 potential customers with profitable latent needs. How do I know these customers really want solutions?

Near the interview’s finish, these customers make the following request.

“George, when you finish your project, please have your client contact me; as soon as possible. The concept’s features solve a major problem we have.”

Results after clients met with profitable latent-need customers

  1. All clients found these meetings lead to trusted relationships.
  2. More than 75% formed alliances with these customers and exploited the latent need.

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