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Why Are We So Incurious?

by David Brock on August 3rd, 2022

If I were forced to identify the single most important capability for anyone, at any level in selling, I think it would be curiosity. I wouldn’t identify prospecting, relationship building, closing, goal orientation, or any of the numerous competencies/capabilities of great sales people.

I don’t mean to diminish their importance, but as you peel each of those back, underlying these capabilities is usually some aspect around curiosity.

Curiosity is important in engaging our customers, it’s important when we are trying to achieve our goals, it’s what helps us through adversity, it helps us continually improve our performance. When things don’t make sense or when we don’t know how to get something done, curiosity helps us figure things out. We know continuous learning and improvement is critical to our success, curiosity underlies that.

Yet, somehow, too many sellers seem remarkably incurious. They want to be told what to do and how to do it. We generate playbooks, scripts, sequences, they must execute without deviation. We probe with an agenda, not to understand. When things don’t work, we rarely sit down to figure out why, instead, we go back to the scripts, executing them with greater intensity and volume.

We are supposed to understand our customers, before we seek to be understood. Curiosity is the foundation for this, but doing this stands in the way of our prescribed processes.

Too often, both managers and sellers opt for “coaching conversations,” that focus on telling/instructing, rather than shared learning and discovery. We want to be given the answers, rather than taking the time to discover them. It’s easier and takes less time. And when we fail, we were doing just what we were told to do, so the failure is never on us.

We strive to be perfectly predictive, in a world filled with uncertainty.

As I look at my feeds, they are filled with “here are the answers…..” “just do this thing….” “Here’s how I made $1M….” Readers love these, because they don’t have to figure out what works for them.

I have to confess, more and more, what I see in selling, makes less and less sense to me. I’ve been struggling with what has changed and why. I haven’t been able to put my finger on it until now.

Of course, in the past, the old days, sellers made lots of mistakes. We pitched too much, we focused on our goals and not the customers, sometimes we have been just lazy. But there’s something different in the past 10 years, that wasn’t so obvious in the past.

It’s that, at all levels, we seem to be incurious.

We seem to be going through the motions, getting what we get, without questioning “Why,” or “Could we do better?”

I know it’s not a generational thing, I see the same behaviors in boomers to Zs. I tend to think technology aggravates the problem.

We are seeing declining engagement, employee/customer satisfaction. We are seeing less caring–more mechanistic behaviors in our organizations and how people are treated. If people, whether customers or employees feel less cared for, they are less engaged, less curious. And on top of that, we are seeing changing attitudes toward work.

Perhaps we need to be asking ourselves and those we work with, “What’s happening, why, what’s the impact, what should we be doing?” But that requires curiosity……..

From → Innovation

One Comment
  1. Joël van Beelen permalink

    ‘Why Are We So Incurious?

    1) Hiring: all you want to understand is how someone thinks and what do they believe is important information for their job and where do they look for it (look for it themselves vs expecting some app to barf up ‘helpful data’).

    Their crm-handling qualities or ‘having a proven track record of overachieving quota’ is just job post filler. ‘How do you think and what do you read’ should guide recruiters and hiring managers. (With voluntary reading the no 1 signal for curiousity of course).

    But that recipe suggests an understanding of how those 2 questions are important and the ability to ask good questions to identify the right hires, instead of just finding the hires that match the requirements list (which is a copy of the person leaving).

    2) Digital Taylorism: sellers (reps & marketers) have become (happy) human stages (or clients?) of a mostly digitized chain. It’s comfortable for reps since they rely on tech and can point at the wrong tech / missing tech when things don’t go that well. While hiring managers have a clear template: insert this kind of rep here, that type of sdr there, a ‘growth hacker’ there etc.

    Ford began by making the same car, Sales’ is producing mostly the same rep.

    3) Business knowledge vs motivation: a lot of sales consultants, sales blogs etc write about motivation and how to stay motivated or motivate your people. Apparently it’s very hard to hire for motivation and it should somehow be inserted from the outside regularly. But if you have found someone who reads about his job and his buyer’s business environment you have found an intrinsically motivated person. Who also happens to be curious. This is all you need to hire for.

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