Asking questions and learning about the client is an accepted part of sales, but the key is assessing curiosity to optimize the performance of outbound sales reps.
Alex Berg, who has a consultancy in curiosity quotient selling, focuses on leveraging mutual curiosity. He said it isn’t so much the case that sellers aren’t thinking about curiosity, but rather that they are thinking about it too tactically.
Learning about clients
Most sales methodologies are a bit too complicated and don’t really require that much detail. Sellers don’t need to write down 27 questions before they sit down with clients. They simply need to learn enough to ask intelligent, informed questions.
Stephen M.R. Covey wrote a book called Speed of Trust that reports a significant correlation between the development of trust and the pace of decision making. In other words, if you really want to accelerate your sales cycle, build trust. And the fastest way to build trust is to demonstrate curiosity.
Types of curiosity
Alex distinguishes between social curiosity, which is about people, and technical curiosity, which is about how things work.
If you’re in a transactional sales environment, you must focus on getting a decision made quickly. So too much open-ended curiosity could be detrimental.
Begin by assessing what kind of sales organization and what kind of sales process you’re engaged in. You also must know what sort of clients you’re selling to.
Then, assess your individuals and your organizations to determine whether you have the right characteristics to thrive in a particular sales environment. From there, you can assign or hire people based on their ability to deliver on those requirements.
As an individual, a certain degree of introspection will help you determine whether sales even makes sense for you as a career. There are many assessments available that can help you determine whether you’re epistemically curious with a general thirst for knowledge or perceptually curious with a desire to solve problems and fix things.
If you’re epistemically curious, you’re well suited for long sales cycles, complex selling, and larger deal size. If you’re more focused on getting it done today, you’ll benefit more from a transactional sales environment. You’ll get more satisfaction from quick decisions.
Once we understand where people’s strengths lie, leverage this information in the sales environment and then coach your team accordingly. The most important part of the sales process is the initial discovery. That’s where you’re qualifying the prospect.
The thing you have the most control over is how you spend your time.
Determine whether you even have a solution that makes sense for the prospect.
If we can get a little better at driving rapport and a little better at collecting information, we can reduce the sales cycle. Imagine what it would do to your bottom line if you could shorten it from 6 months to 3.
You must begin by learning enough about the client to ask intelligent questions. Your leadership must also have a mindset that encourages curiosity.
Make appropriate risk-taking acceptable. Many companies will say they want to develop a curious organization, but then they don’t act that way. They focus more on mitigating risk than on allowing reasonable risk.
Ask the tough questions that aren’t always comfortable. Don’t necessarily show up with a list of 15 questions. Instead, develop a list of the five most important questions and then focus your attention on those.
Before you get on the phone with your clients, eliminate all distractions. Turn off your notifications on your phone so you can really listen to what the other person is saying.
Don’t simply go through the checklist. Focus on asking better questions.
Realize, too, that if you learn from situations that you view as a mistake, then they aren’t truly mistakes. They are learning journeys, and they aren’t negative experiences.
By demonstrating your interest in your prospect, you develop rapport, make the sales cycle more efficient, and hopefully shorten it.
Individual sellers can begin by learning the tools to become more curious. The big win, though, is when companies try to inject more curiosity into their organizations.
Companies that are too internally focused and not client-centric make poor decisions. Alex recalls working for a company who sent a rep to get a deal signed by a prospect who was in the hospital following a heart attack.
The key to long-term success is delivering great value to your clients. In order to do that, you must conduct yourself in a way that communicates your intent to deliver the best possible outcomes.
Arm your people with tools to conduct themselves that way. Leverage technology to make sure your reps have the information they need at their fingertips.
People judge our intelligence and empathy by the questions we ask. As a seller, it’s better to approach a client and ask about the issues that are most critical to the company’s growth.
Communicate to the client that you aren’t throwing out a blanket solution. Base your proposed solution on what the expressed needs are.
Come prepared. The primary reason clients become dissatisfied with sellers or that they don’t buy is because the seller didn’t care about them or their businesses. This seller deficit disorder happens when we propose solutions that aren’t informed by knowledge about the client.
We must make it painfully obvious that we understand the client’s perspective so our solution feels like something uniquely designed to solve their problems rather than something off-the-shelf.
If you’re a sales manager working inculcate more curiosity into your sales organization, offer tools that help your client and your salesforce be more curious. Then, when your people use them and find success, celebrate that and give them the opportunity to share their stories.
Embed ambassadors in your sales organizations. Don’t forget this is about mutual curiosity.
When you think you know enough about your clients, ask one more question.
“Assessing Curiosity to Optimize the Performance of Outbound Sales Reps” episode resources
You can connect with Alex via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on his website at www.cqselling.com where you can schedule an interview or a phone call. You can also call him at (770) 330-6221. Check out his article, Crushing Quota: Why Curiosity Matters.
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