June 11 2020 Meryem Khaled
Business Strategy

Primary Research: 8 Tips for Conducting Successful BtoB Interviews

Conducting an interview with an industry expert in an optimal manner can be a challenging task. This is because it implies getting a maximum of relevant insights from the expert in a one-shot, limited time interview. Interviewing experts is a very proactive process where the interviewer needs to show a strong take-charge attitude.

The 8 following tips would be instrumental in conducting a successful BtoB interview:

Tip 1: Preparedness

Before starting the interview, it is important that the interviewer gets ready for the call by ensuring the following conditions:

– To have a quiet room booked beforehand for the interview

– To take ~ 10 minutes before the interview to:

+ Rest and get mentally ready and relaxed to conduct the interview

+ Get some Drink / food / Bathroom time before the interview to be comfortable to lead it for a whole hour

+ To have the following items available during the interview:

+ A phone headset: This is important because using a loudspeaker or holding the phone will be tiring and will not allow the interviewer to properly and effortlessly hear the expert.

+ A notebook and a pen: It is important to take notes as the expert is answering the questionnaire. This will allow the interviewer to grasp and remember the insights more easily, which will help them to challenge and guide the expert during the interview as well as capture the data more efficiently during the reporting phase.

Tip 2: Active Listening

The interviewer should listen very intently during the interview to be ready to:

– Probe the expert further if his answer either feels incomplete or opens on any unplanned follow-up questions.

– Properly challenge the expert on the information he provides in case some of it conflicts with something he has previously said during the interview or even with inputs gathered from other experts relating to the same topic.

Tip 3: Managing the Expert

– The interviewer should not hesitate to politely but firmly interrupt the expert, if necessary, to bring him back on track if this one strays away from the topic at hand or goes on expanding on irrelevant or unnecessary details or examples.

– If the expert strays, he should be reminded of the time constraint and asked to be more concise not to exceed the time budget.

Tip 4: Probing

The interviewer needs to probe the expert in the following instances: 

– The expert’s answer feels incomplete based on the interviewer’s knowledge of the topic

– The expert’s answer is qualitative, and the interviewer would like to quantify the input (E.g. asking to quantify the market share of brands or players qualitatively identified as the “Top” ones by the expert.)

– If any part of the expert’s answer is unclear for the interviewer

Tip 5:  Recapping

It should be a systematic practice for the interviewer to recap the answers of the expert, especially when:

– The answer is not very simple and straightforward

– The accent of the expert is not easily understood 

– The pace of speech of the expert is very slow; it is then worth helping him recap his point or move on to another question once his message becomes clear to the interviewer

Tip 6: Efficient Time Allocation

– The interviewer should allocate the interview time in accordance with the quality and pertinence of the input shared by the expert.

– If an expert is sharing very valuable insights, it would be Ok to allocated 5 – 10 min extra time to his interview, however, if he shares “regular” quality insights, then the interviewer should manage the expert to conduct the interview within the time frame.

Tip 7: Follow-ups

In case the expert says that he does not have certain information at the time of the interview but that he can source it later:

– The interviewer should ask the expert to send the additional information as a follow up via email.

– It is also very useful for the interviewer to send the expert a recap email enclosing the points for which he is expected to provide a follow-up and confirming the time frame in which the expert would be able to share the follow-up information.

Tip 8: Bailing Out of a Bad Interview

In case the expert turns out not knowledgeable enough about the topic of interest:

– For the first 10 min of the interview, the interviewer needs to purposefully assess the actual qualifications and knowledge of the experts about the topic at hand.

– If during these first 10 mins the interviewer is forming strong doubts on the competency of the expert, he should not hesitate to cut the call short with the expert and report his reserves about him to the expert network to change this expert and avoid having him compensate if he is not fit.


Meryem Khaled – Project Lead


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