The inspiration for this post was my recent visit to Boston and one of my closest friends in the world twin sons. They are identical twins and are four years old. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that they are absolutely the cutest boys on the planet.
My experience with four year olds is somewhat dated as my own children are now 19 and 16 years old respectively. What struck me during our visit was how curious they were. Every day the world presented them with endless opportunities to learn new things. They are the proverbial sponges that soak up information with a real sense of joy.
I’ve been in software sales for 25+ years and pride myself on constantly trying to improve, and learn new and better ways to sell technology solutions to the enterprise. How do I do that? I read and consume copious amounts of text on business and sales strategy. I learn through my peers and professional and personal networks. I learn through my experiences, both successes and failures.
But most of all, I learn because like my friends sons, I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge. My curiosity manifests itself by asking a lot of questions. Sometimes that persistent questioning can come across as annoying, just like a four year old sounding like a broken record that keeps repeatedly asking “why” over and over again:-)
So I got to thinking,…why does the four year old keeping asking the same question over and over again? Because they need to understand and comprehend to truly learn. They need to process the new information and put it into a context that they can grok. This is their fundamental learning process prior to any formal educational system being introduced to them.
So back to being curious. People are wired differently and naturally have different levels of curiosity. Some people are not curious at all. Some people will ask a question or two and stop asking questions even if they don’t understand what the answers to their questions mean. Some people are afraid to admit that they don’t know something and simply avoid the subject altogether or pretend that they already knew it.
And some people have an inherent depth of curiosity that is such that they can’t help themselves when there is an opportunity to learn something new. They become obsessive about learning, processing and figuring things out. Just like the four year old twins and their incessant, but still cute line of questioning. So how does this relate to enterprise technology sales?
Every sales leader is on a perpetual quest to find what makes great sales people. There are countless studies, research and professional experiences that are drawn upon and yet we still hire bad sales reps. The epiphany that I had after the visit with my friends sons is that all great sales people have an inherent level of curiosity that is insatiable. As such, they consistently “out discover and discern” their peers and competitors. They learn more about the customer’s problems and have a much deeper understanding than their competitors about the hot trends in the industry. Due to their curiosity, they tend to bring real insight and value add to the customer conversation because they simply know more and at a deeper level than others.
Sales leaders constantly talk about traits and characteristics of great sales people. I submit to you that one of the most important, if not the most important trait to look for is their level of curiosity. I’ve always maintained that when interviewing sales reps, I pay more attention to the questions they ask than the answers they give during the interview. The questions the sales candidate asks in an interview really informs you as to their research, thought process and ultimately the level of their curiosity.
Ironically enough, the twin’s favorite book and character is none other than Curious George, who has been engaging children around the world since 1939 and has been translated into hundreds of different languages (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curious_George).
In closing, I want to thank my close friends four year old twins for teaching me something valuable about the importance of curiosity in sales. Ironically, my close friend is a great sales person himself and has built and sold several companies largely through his sales prowess. I think I might offer his twins a sales territory tomorrow in my company:-)