Any sales professional worth their salt invests time and effort into improving their sales conversation skills. They know that in order to uncover opportunities, they need to ask good questions. This is basic – Sales 101.
But what is the intent behind the questions?
Of course, if your job is to sell, you want to make a sale! In every interaction, if possible. But therein lies the trap. If you are engaging in a call or client meeting with the sole intention to make a sale, three things are likely to happen:
- Your focus will be too narrow and you’ll miss opportunities
- Your prospective client will sense your motives and not trust you
- The grind and pressure of constantly focusing on targets will wear you down and you’ll burn out
Curiosity is the antidote to these ills.
It is the fuel behind the world’s great achievements and discoveries. Genuine curiosity lights a fire between people that is the foundation for mutual respect and lasting relationships.
I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.
Let’s take a look at how curiosity can make you both happier and more effective in your sales interactions.
Curiosity broadens your field of vision
Can you relate to this? You’ve prepped well for your meeting. You know your products inside and out, and you’ve prepared a battery of questions to qualify the prospect for one or more of your offerings. You’ve had two cups of coffee and you are fully wired and ready to go.
I’ve worked with many Advisors over the years who start off with this approach. They are highly conscious of their sales targets, and during client meetings, they are like a hungry cat waiting at a mouse hole. The second the client says something related to one of the products they want to sell, the Advisor pounces!
Even when the Advisor makes a logical argument for the product, the prospect, like the mouse, instinctively senses an ‘attack’. They make an excuse, politely decline, or leave having to ‘think about it’.
This is the hunter, lying in wait. Narrow field of vision. There is no curiosity here.
Questions are asked only to connect with a sale. A more advanced hunter might also ask some rapport-building questions, but the intent is still only to build the minimum required amount of trust before pouncing.
A curious Advisor is more relaxed and open.
They’re just as prepared, but their intent is completely different. They want to know about the person. What makes them tick? What is really important to them in life? – not just in relation to the products on offer. They’re truly present in the conversation, because, like a child, they are genuinely curious to learn what they do not know.
Curiosity breeds trust
When someone can tell that you’re truly interested in them, the floodgates open. They can see that your curiosity is genuine and not just calculated to make a sale. Because they instinctively trust you, they will share things that are closer to the heart.
Be curious, not judgmental.
They feel safe and relaxed and so the conversation is free-flowing. In this kind of interaction, interests and discoveries that have nothing to do with the initial reason for the meeting can be revealed. They often lead to more opportunities for business that come about effortlessly.
Curiosity is energizing!
Let’s face it. Sometimes sales can be a grind. That age-old ‘it’s- a-numbers-game’ wisdom can be daunting to even think about. It can be easy to feel a dull fatigue and dread (punctuated by adrenaline) if all you’re focused on is targets. A sort of anxious sameness can settle into the career of a sales professional.
This is so very different from the alive state of curiosity we felt as children. Everything was new! Everything was a fresh discovery!
As adults and experienced sales professionals, we’ve been there, done that. Taken the trainings, made the calls, held the meetings. No doubt, we gain efficiencies through routine. But don’t let yourself get stuck there.
To embrace curiosity is to choose aliveness again.
Instead of going into the meeting confident that you a) know what they need and b) know what to expect, choose the opposite assumptions!
You can stoke your natural curiosity again by challenging yourself to go into every meeting to find out ‘what makes this person different from every other client in their demographic?’ ‘What truly makes this person unique?’
With that intention, you are no longer on auto-pilot. You’ll be alive and present to the unique magic of each person. They will feel your genuine curiosity and trust you enough to reveal more to you. This is a strong foundation for a lasting relationship, and ongoing sales.
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Kira Callahan is an expert sales conversation coach serving the financial industry. Her private clients typically experience 30% – 100% increase in appointments and business booked. Click here to find out more about Kira.