Curiosity. Killed the cat? I doubt it.

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It probably gave the cat more information and therefore increased its chances for survival.

I once sat through an hour-long sales presentation at the insistence of a corporate VP who could not make a meeting by a vendor.  Two sales people had flown to Minneapolis from Chicago for the purpose of demoing a new technology.  When they were done with their presentation and were wrapping up, I asked them how they thought the presentation had gone.  They replied that they thought it had gone well and my questions were good.  Then I asked them to explain to me what the client’s company business was.  They looked to each other blankly, and one answered, “The digital business?”  Not only had they not done their homework, but they had not asked me a single question about my client’s business problems, and how I might use their technology to solve those problems.  I hadn’t asked questions during their presentation because my client had insisted I attend.  I was simply curious about their technology.

I have the great opportunity to interview many sales and marketing professionals.  One characteristic for evaluation that isn’t on most corporate interview regimens is… how curious is the candidate? Why is this important?

We live in a sound bite world.  The average person reads less than one book a year.  We watch endless hours of pabulum on TV.  We depend on modern devices for which we have no idea of how they actually work.  We expect instant or simple solutions to complex problems, whether it’s job creation, education or energy.  So as a society we are woefully and perhaps blissfully ignorant.

This can be true in sales and marketing as well.  The danger is that we become less adaptable to the changing marketing and sales environment.  In one of my first posts I listed ten major changes that have occurred in marketing and sales over the last ten years.  So if you are not curious and not asking questions then you are not learning, and your chances of surviving or even succeeding are limited.  From a sales perspective, how can you sell if you are not genuinely interested in your client’s business problems?  Or for example, if you are in marketing, and don’t care to understand the impact of social media, what will you say when a competitor using social media overtakes your market share?

The question is what will you do to stay current, foster your own curiosity and learning?  Curiosity is in some ways an innate trait and some of us are life-long learners. However, it can be cultivated.  One thing I do is spend thirty to sixty minutes a day on reading, networking and listening to other marketers and sales people.  This is about eight to ten percent of my working time.  I also tend to read things eclectically outside of the marketing space.  A question I ask candidates is what is their curiosity ratio? How much time do they spend dedicated to looking at new things?  Then I ask them to give me examples.  It’s a curious thing and it hasn’t killed me yet.

PS:  The reason my client asked me to sit through the sales presentation was that the vendor has sent him a golf putter if he would set up the meeting.  He wanted the putter, but wasn’t interested in the presentation, so he sent me instead.  I wish I had been more curious and asked him why beforehand.  However, I learned something.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Hiring Sales People - Part VII - Curiosity - Prairie Sky Group | Prairie Sky Group

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