The importance of ‘passionate curiosity’
“I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious.”
Over a series of sales training programmes since the beginning of the year, I have surveyed managers and sales people in an attempt to determine and better understand those characteristics which can be attributed to high performing sales.
The results are perhaps no more or less enlightening than you would expect – taken from organisations within disparate industries, geographies different stages of maturity, varying levels of success, fluctuating self-awareness and conflicting definitions of honesty.
The process of information gathering was no more sophisticated than asking the simple question:
“ What attributes make up a good sales person?”
Under no time restraints nor imposed conditions, the respondents were simply asked to give as honest an answer as they possibly could.
Overall there were few surprises with most of the answers following a predictable pattern:
– establishing trust
– engaging personality
– product knowledge
– active listener
– good time management
Other attributes which were mentioned less frequently include:
– working on own initiative
– good ‘relevant’ network
– good communicator / presentation skills
Surprisingly, those attributes which appeared least frequent were:
– questioning technique
– empathy / emotional intelligence
And those attributes which didn’t appear at all – out of a sample size of approximately 120 – were:
– story telling
The big question is can anything be made from any of this research?
I think the answer is yes.
As surveys go, it’s raw but I think it’s honest.
Read any sales handbook and you will find similar answers inside – it isn’t after all rocket science.
What the results do tell me is that in every instance the answers were one-sided – taken only from the side of the sales person and not taking into account those very basic needs of the customer.
Trust is important – when you break it down into ‘competency and character’ it’s arguably the single most important attribute but it’s a ticket to entry.
In reality, most of those attributes should be standard features for a ‘medium to high performing’ sales person and the real acid test for a high performing sales person is that they are able to stand out from their competition.
For the right reasons.
Whether you are a student of Insight Selling, Consultative Selling, Solution Selling, Challenger Selling – or whatever book you’ve read last – you and your team need to be able to stand out from everyone else in the market place and there is no better way to do that than through creativity and story-telling, which brings into play a more ‘marketing/educational’ based sale.
An interesting aspect of the survey was that only 59% of those asked felt that ‘questioning’ was an important and influential characteristic.
If you think less in terms of ‘questioning techniques’ – open / closed / directional / informative / signposting etc… and think more about ‘genuine curiosity’ then the needs of the customer remain firmly front of mind.
You think less about the type of questions that you need to ask and more about the responses and engagement that you can generate from your customer.
Curiosity – with its dictionary definition as “A strong desire to know or learn something”– is a most important attribute in all kinds of relationship building and if that curiosity can be made ‘sincere’ then the impact on your desired outcome can be very powerful indeed.