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Curiosity; Cluelessness; & Authenticity…

True enough – that heading is a mouthful.  Conciseness is an art that does not come naturally to me.  Evidently, Pascal either:

I apologize for writing such a long letter.  I didn’t have the time to write you a short one.

Unlike Pascal, I was no child prodigy; anything but.  What I remember about my childhood however, built a foundation for my future sales career.  As it turns out, I am naturally curious coupled with being comfortably clueless.

I’ve always been comfortable with my cluelessness.  It drives my wife crazy though.  She is amazed I can make it home from work each day without getting lost!  But I digress…

Sales &Marketing Management © magazine is a popular read of mine.  In my opinion, the magazine offers thought leadership about my trade that is pragmatic; actionable; and backed by just enough science to avoid tuning me off as being too theoretical.

This article by Randy Sabourin, a specialist in helping teams and individuals communicate under pressure, caught my attention: https://salesandmarketing.com/content/every-great-conversation.  Permit me to paraphrase my understanding of his main point:

Attention – Curiosity – Empathy – Clarity are techniques to address the Avoid-Approach behavior many prospects portray when a sales person tries to contact, engage, and ultimately sell them.

More by accident than by plan, I have developed these attributes, and then some (e.g. cluelessness plus authenticity) that have served me well over the years.  But of them all, authenticity is crucial.

The TV character Colombo became symbolic of inauthentic cluelessness, true?  Everyone in the viewing audience knew his detective style was a façade.  In my opinion, our clients and prospects can detect inauthenticity coming a mile away.  That may trigger the Avoid-Approach behavior Randy Sabourin writes about.

So here’s the thing…  I believe prospects prefer sales people who are authentically curious about their needs and interests.  Prospects prefer sales people who give them our undivided attention (e.g. no multiple monitors; side chats; or multi-tasking of any kind).  My friend and former colleague Adam Katzenmeyer put it this way:

You only have to tell me twice, once.

Prospects prefer sales people who can participate in a business meeting grounded on business language vs. technical; acronym-laden; product pitch oriented; vendor-speak.  My company refers to this skill as “business acumen”.  We believe our people need it, but don’t yet have it.  I know I’m dating myself, but Irv Kupcinet called it:

The art of the conversation.

And here’s the “magic”!  When the prospect believes we are attentive to them; genuinely interested in their situation; make it easy for them to converse with us; and we come across as curious and empathetic to their realities… even if we are a little clueless, that’s OK.

Throughout my career I have had prospect after prospect notice how hard I was trying to keep up with them; trying to understand their needs; their priorities.  And when those moments occurred, they would “take me under their wing” and help me sell them!

It may sound backwards, but “closing” the sale actually begins best by “opening” the conversation.  If we listen – and if we’re authentically curious about the prospect’s business – they will tell us exactly what they will buy + when + why + how they will justify their investment.  They will literally close themselves, if we are skilled at opening up the conversation.

I’ve always been willing to let my prospects help me; being naturally curious along with being a bit clueless.  I’ve had no other choice.  But I’m curious… What about you?

GAP

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