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Curiosity, Critical For Sales And Leadership

by David Brock on September 11th, 2014

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it is a critical competency for top performing sales people and sales leaders.  Oddly, enough, I’ve seldom have seen anyone write about it, I seldom see it listed as a skill we look for in recruiting.

It’s curiosity that drives a sales person to wander around their accounts and territories–building relationships, finding out what’s on the minds of customers, finding opportunities they may be missing, areas to improve.

It’s curiosity that drives the sales person (and manager) to find out what drives people, what their dreams and aspirations are, what frustrates them, what keeps them up at night (even though we aren’t supposed to ask that).

It’s curiosity that drives the sales person to learn about their customers’ businesses, their strategies, their goals, their competitors, what’s happening in their markets, what shifts/changes may impact their customers positively or negatively.

It’s curiosity that drives the sales person to ask questions and learn.  To constantly question, to wonder why the status quo is the status quo and what would happen if it were disrupted.

It’s curiosity that drives the sales person to listen, probe, understand.  It drives the sales person to ask, “What do you think….”  “Why….”  “How does this impact you….”  “Have you ever considered…..”  “What if……”

It’s curiosity that causes the sales person to think, “There has to be a better way.”  It causes her to experiment, to explore, to innovate, to grow.

It’s curiosity that causes the sales person to understand their own company.  How do things get done?  How do I engage my colleagues and peers?  What drives them?  How can I help them?

It’s curiosity that causes sales people to look at other top sales people.  What do they do differently?  Why do they do that?  How does it impact their results?  What would happen if I did it?

It’s curiosity that causes sales people to really understand their products and services.  To learn what they mean to their customers, to learn how their products, services, solutions and how they impact their customers.

It’s curiosity that causes sales people to learn, to improve, to discover ways they can become better.

The curious sales person will not be stopped, he will figure out another way.

The curious sales person is self directed, they don’t need to be told what to do, they know what they need to be doing.

The curious person is motivated–by their own curiosity, their quest to learn, to discover, to improve themselves and to help their customers improve.

Curiosity is critical for sales managers (all managers for that matter).

Like sales people, it drives them to be interested in the people they lead.  What makes them tick, what are their goals/aspirations?  How can I help them to perform at the highest levels possible?  How can I help them achieve their full potential?

It’s curiosity that causes the sales manager to understand what it impacting the performance of each person and to discover how to improve the performance of those who are struggling.

It’s curiosity that causes the sales manager to always think, “Is there a better way?”

It’s curiosity that causes the sales manager to constantly innovate and improve.  The curious sales manager is not satisfied with the way things are–regardless how well they are going, but thinks there may be a better way.

There are a lot of other things about curiosity.

It’s a demonstration that we care.

It’s a demonstration that we are engaged and interested in engaging others.

Curious people are interested and interesting.

We like to be around curious people because they spark our own wonder, interests, and curiosity.

So it makes me curious. Why don’t we talk about curiosity more?  Why don’t we look for curiosity when we recruit?  Why don’t we seek to develop peoples skills in leveraging curiosity?

  1. Great post Dave and you are right…most recruiting doesn’t seek out or talk about curiosity. I like the term “intellectual curiosity” as a core, human capital value. It should be part of any organization or group that wants to be a thriving, energetic, viable operation.

    • Lisa, it’s great to see you here! It is definitely something we should be actively seeking in our candidates. Interestingly, based on Jack’s comment, we can develop and increase our curiosity, as well.

  2. Dave,

    What a coincidence that you wrote this! I’m currently reading Curious, by Ian Leslie. He tells us there are three forms of curiosity: diversive, epistemic, and empathic. Of these the two that will help salespeople are epistemic curiosity, which drives us to learn and to understand, and empathic, which makes us curious about other people and their motivations. Unfortunately, we all also suffer from diversive curiosity, which causes us to check emails constantly and click on videos of cute cats.

    The good news is that there are ways to increase and sustain your own curiosity, even later in life. But I haven’t read that far yet, so if you’re curious, you’ll have to wait until I write a blog post about this next week!

    • Jack, thanks for the reference on the book. I can’t wait for your blog post. (Also, I’m curious about the book, just got it from Amazon.)

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