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Curiosity May Have Killed The Cat-Is Lack of Curiosity Killing Sales?

How curious are you about being curious? And, if you are curious, are you being curious about the right things?

Questions that buyers frequently ask salespeople, their co-workers and managers alike, are often along the following lines: “What makes your product different?” “What are your ‘Unique Selling Propositions’ (USP’s)?” “What are your differentiators?” “Why should I buy from you rather than anyone else?”

All perfectly reasonable questions and, what kind of response does this elicit? Usually some sort of a ‘pitch’: “These are the top three reasons...” or “Let me demonstrate my product” or an “Elevator Pitch” all answers carefully crafted in advance and in anticipation of such questions. What then happens? Usually questions to the buyer to ‘qualify the opportunity’ such as: “What is your budget?” “What is your authority (to make a decision)?” “What is your need, or specification?” “What is your timescale (to make a decision)?” All summarised by the mnemonic: “BANT”. Again, all perfectly reasonable questions.

But, and if you recognise any of this, what is the quality of such an interaction in the eyes of both parties? My experience is not much; yours too? Why so?

After all, I have been trained in my product: it is a great product, better than any of the ‘so say’ competitors and my company is fantastic, too and so why wouldn’t any buyer want to do business with me? And I have been trained to ask proper qualification questions about budgets and decision-making and needs and timescales. If the answers to these are deficient then I am in grave danger of wasting my time, better move on to another potentially more fruitful situation.

And so sales becomes a numbers game: calls plus demonstrations equals sales and you can even work out ratios that will show that for every sale you need this many demonstrations and to obtain this many demonstrations you need that many calls. Thus, for example, my track record might show that for every sale I need twenty calls that lead to five demonstrations that leads to one sale. And, if I need one sale each month then I have to make no fewer than twenty calls each month, and five demonstrations and, of course, one sale. Key performance measures are aligned to it. Sales reporting becomes a function of measuring quantity of activities rather than quality of conversations.

The thing is, it works even though I have not yet met anyone who is enamoured of working this way. So, why do it?

I would argue firstly that, whereas there might be a case for its use in transactional sales of commoditised products, it has no place in consultative sales of high value products.

Then I would cite the following three reasons: culturally, most people are not curious as, understandably, they would not wish to be considered intrusive; it is challenging to be curious in an unintrusive manner; where they have been trained, they have been taught to be curious about the right things at the wrong time in the interaction between buyer and seller. So, what is to do?

Here is a thought promoter. The other day I caught the tail end of a report being mentioned in a news bulletin. It was a report into the level of satisfaction patients recorded about their experiences with their GP. The data showed that level of satisfaction varied with the prescription of antibiotics. Those doctors who mostly prescribed antibiotics received higher satisfaction ratings than those who did not frequently prescribe them. However, it also showed that those doctors who engaged with their patients, listened to them and carried out fulsome diagnostics received the highest ratings, even amongst those doctors who did not prescribe antibiotics.

The lesson that comes out of this is that the key to high satisfaction levels derives not from the solution but from the diagnosis. And, translated into our world, if we can nurture and develop genuine curiosity into what it is that our buyers are looking to achieve by focussing not upon our products but upon their goals, their barriers to achieving them and what it is that they are looking to accomplish from their investigation into our products and then, if we can help them, understanding with them their buying process and helping to facilitate that, then we will have differentiated ourselves by the way in which we converse with our buyers and so providing insights into them and their situation that they will value and appreciate.

Sales then becomes a “Quality of Conversations” journey rather than a “Quantity of Activities” game.

Being curious about the right things will hopefully keep cats out of danger and will prevent sales being killed.


If you are curious about this, register your interest by contacting me, John Busby, to discuss at:; + 44 7968 066 165

Copyright©2014 John Busby

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