By Jim Hale, VP of Business Development, K&R Negotiations
In my work with sales teams all over the world, I am often asked about what is the most critical trait for a successful sales person. My answer is always the same: “Genuine curiosity.” Curiosity is like a Swiss Army knife with all the attachments. It gets the job done in nearly every situation and is easy to access once you’ve got it in your tool kit. Curiosity helps you:
- Build customer relationships. You will notice a different level of respect from your clients when you show an authentic level of interest in them as individuals and their company. Humans respond extremely well to this almost without exception.
- Increase your business acumen. Being curious about your own industry and the industries of your prospects drives you to learn more. As you satisfy your curiosity, you augment your ability to add value to your customer’s business. Clients want to know that you have invested in learning about their ecosystem: industry, customer set, products, services and impact trends.
- Be believable and sincere. You ask questions that uncover needs because you are genuinely curious, not because it’s in the training manual. People can tell from your demeanor that you’re being natural and not formulaic.
- Solve customer problems. Sales reps who aren’t curious about what makes people tick and why technology works (or doesn’t) don’t solve customer problems; they just sell “stuff.” Curiosity enables you to create unique solutions to their unique issues.
- Negotiate successful contracts. Your ability to understand the positions of the other party is directly dependent upon your ability to be truly curious about them. If you’re not curious, you’ll end up arguing about issues that aren’t important.
- Correct sales errors. When a customer buys from somebody else (or doesn’t buy from anyone), if you’re not curious about what happened, you won’t bother to find out why — and therefore can’t learn to turn your failures into future successes.
In short, curiosity is at the core of truly successful business efforts. If you don’t have curiosity, you can’t expect to be successful as an entrepreneur, a salesperson or even as an engineer. Period.