3 Simple Steps that Transform Your Sales: Pause, Listen, Ask

Everyone’s heard the saying, “Curiosity killed the cat.” A similarly disparaging saying dates back to 397 AD when St. Augustine wrote “…In the eons before creating heaven and earth, God fashioned hell for the inquisitive.” Both expressions paint a bleak picture of the outcomes when someone dares to be curious.

But there is another side to curiosity that shouldn’t be ignored.

Merriam-Webster defines it as “an inquisitive interest in others’ concerns” and an “interest leading to inquiry”. Curiosity is what arises when something grabs our attention, causing us to pause, observe and wonder. Curiosity unexpressed leads only to presumptions which are limited by the hearer’s knowledge and experience. On the other hand, curiosity expressed leads to asking questions that go beneath the surface revealing a deeper understanding, an enlarged perspective of the subject at hand.

Curiosity is a “must have” in every sales conversation.

Here’s why I state that as an absolute: Sales are made where needs and supply intersect. Curiosity helps us discover not just the surface need, but the deeper, often hidden reasons driving a person to buy. Surface reasons aren’t always enough to rationalize an expenditure, especially for higher priced solutions.

Curiosity prompts us to understand the buyer at the level of their greatest needs, wants and desires—because it sets the table for people to share those deeper emotions with us. Asking invites the expression of truth, which many people won’t share unless they are asked. In my experience, most salespeople don’t take the time to go deep enough.

Assumptions are the enemy of curiosity.

As we interact with others, we are constantly drawing conclusions at a subconscious level. Without facts we will fill in the gaps with assumptions based purely on our own perspective. It’s all too easy to project how we think and how we feel onto someone else, thereby drawing inaccurate conclusions which we assume are “reality”. The problem is that they aren’t reality. They are fabrications of our imagination that can be relationship killers in the end.

My challenge to you.

Be aware of the power of curiosity. Train your mind to pause, listen and ask to gain a deeper understanding. Practice during everyday conversations with friends, colleagues, and family. Then be brave and do it on your sales calls, too. I guarantee that you will be amazed at how much you learn about what really matters to others by asking just one more question to gain a deeper understanding.