Where does the dark go when the light comes on? Why isn’t there a light that can make it dark for bedtime? Why do snails poo yellow? What makes the wind? These are a very small sample of the questions my kid asks on a daily basis. Her desire for knowledge is insatiable. When I’m in ‘good’ Mum mode, I’ll take out my phone and we’ll google the answer together (what did parents do before Google?!). If I’m in the car when I get one of these questions, I’ll generally put the question back to her and ask her what she thinks the answer is. If I’m in rushed and stressed Mum mode, I’ll give her the fall-back answer – because it just is.
Obviously, the richer conversations and greater learning comes from the first two ways I choose to answer her question. It made me think about the different ways we respond and communicate when we’re stressed, tired and living through a pandemic. I’m as guilty of this in work, as I am as a Mum, but being curious can have a dramatic effect on the conversations you have. If you can be curious, you’re going to get better information, and this will help you formulate better partnership plans. Curiosity is a skill that needs to be developed and nurtured and here’s some examples of when It comes in useful in sales.
Good research is the foundation for any partnership meeting. I often find that research profiles, completed by someone else, take things at face value. Reports, websites and annual reviews are read and the content of those are transferred into research profile. This is why I hate anybody doing research for me because I want to get a feeling for what’s being communicated. If you think about how carefully you curate your own online image for social media – for most of us we only display snippets of our lives – not the full picture, as we aren’t on a reality TV show.
Business communications are no different. Their content is carefully curated, and this is when curiosity is really helpful. Whilst you’re reading that content, can you ask yourself why? Who is the intended audience for this communication? What are they aiming to say to that audience? Are they focusing on a certain aspect of their business that might be around a new product, or thanking their loyal customers or talking about why they are such a good place to work? If you can steer your research into thinking about why they are writing about these things rather than accepting them at face value then you’ll be able to have a much better conversation when you meet them. You’ll know what questions to ask to get to their pain points and where to focus your curiosity to discover their ambitions.
Yes, we all know that we should be doing thorough discovery meetings with our prospects to find out what’s important to them and their business. Asking a few additional questions in a meeting can really help to clarify your understanding of a situation. Can you get good at asking questions which basically have the meaning why? I’m not sure why ‘why?’ has gone out of fashion in business meetings but I think it’s one of the best questions you can ask. It can move a conversation from the functional aspect of ‘what’ a partnership can achieve, to the purpose of a partnership in the first place. It helps you get rid of confusion because instead of assuming you understand what is being said you can ask – ‘why is that?’ Having a WHY conversation can often take the conversation to inspirational levels when you can talk about purpose, big picture and ambition rather than talking on an activity level.
With your contact
There are always 3 internal questions I ask myself when I’m communicating with someone. Why is someone asking that question. What’s the real meaning behind it? How do they feel about it? You’d be amazed what you can find out. What’s their motivation? How is what I’m proposing going to make them look good? Do they care about that? Are they under pressure?
Understanding a person’s motivations around their career, what’s happening in their life and their personal connection or knowledge of your cause will help you to shape your partnership proposal in a way that ticks their boxes as well as those of the company they are working for.
Curiosity needs to be developed and nurtured, especially when it comes to making partnerships. We often have our blinkers on about what we want to say and what is being said, especially when focusing on targets that need to be met. Making assumptions can make you miss important details. I encourage you towards being curious and thinking about why things are being said. If you nurture this skill your conversations will be much colourful, you’ll gain better insights and you’ll enjoy them more. As Walt Disney said, “we keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths”. You’ll find lots of interesting ways to partner and lots of new solutions if keep nurturing this vital skill.