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The Death of Curiosity

The older guy looked as if he’d never taken a SPIN class before.


As a SPIN veteran, I knew that there wasn’t a lot to know about operating a stationary bicycle to loud music, but there are a few things, and I was hoping that the instructor was giving him an orientation as he set the various calibrations for seat height, proximity to the pedals, and arm height.


Five minutes into the class, I noticed the guy pedaling furiously. Maybe he doesn’t have much resistance on those pedals, I thought, but he sure is expending a lot of energy!


He kept it up for an entire hour. And when the class ended, he was tired, but loose. Maybe that’s why he started chatting with me.


And boy, did that guy talk! Told me about his family. The depression he’d been suffering. An embezzlement he’d experienced. Legal problems. Anger. More about the depression.


He didn’t even ask my name.


The last song had been “You Don’t Know Me” by Michael Buble. A great cool-down song, very pretty. I’d heard the guy tell the instructor that he’d like to dance to that, if only he had a partner.


Was chatting me up his idea of how to connect with a woman?


If so, he was making the classic mistake – the same mistake my clients who are in sales make on a regular basis. 


He wasn’t curious.


Oh, he was interested in himself, all right. And he was interested in talking. He just wasn’t interested in me.


As we were leaving the gym, he said, “What’s your name?” I said “Lenann,” and when he looked puzzled, I started to spell it … L – E – N … and then he started spelling it with me. He couldn’t even wait long enough for me to spell my 6-letter name, he had to talk about how HE would spell my name (which was wrong, by the way).


Are YOU guilty of making assumptions about others – even your prospects? Do you think you know what they’re going to say, before they say it? If so, they get it -- you don’t care and you’re not curious about them! You’re just trying to shove them into a box labeled with some belief you have decided must apply to them because, after all, you’ve been around a long time and you’ve seen it all before!


That’s death to the sales process.


You have to be curious – interested, wanting to understand how your prospect sees the world, what your prospect thinks he wants, what she’s been doing about this up until now. You don’t know this stuff, so be quiet and let him tell you. And when he does, ask questions that indicate a serious interest in really understanding his perspective.


Every human being thinks of themselves as being unique. Behave as if you think of others in the same way, and are interested in understanding the ways in which they are unique and special … and you’re likely to break down the natural barriers that people feel against strangers, particularly strangers that are selling something.


For those of us who sell our services, we’re asking people not to buy some thing, but to buy us. It’s vitally important that we convey interest. Beyond that, we need to adopt an attitude that suggests that, whatever they’ve done up to this point was done for reasons that made sense at the time. We can’t imply that their earlier choices and strategies were stupid; it’s likely that our prospects are intelligent human beings operating under constraints that we don’t understand at all. 


Assume intelligence and reasonableness, and inquire about their past choices, looking for the areas in which they have become disappointed, or disenchanted, or frustrated. That’s their Pain, and if we can address it better than their current supplier, we’re a good bet to get their business.


Lenann McGookey Gardner, CSP, is a Harvard MBA and a seasoned industry executive. She works with professionals in accounting, consulting, research, consumer products, telecommunications, banking and technology industries.  An international speaker, she is the author of Got Sales:  The Complete Guide to Today’s Proven Methods for Selling Services, which was nominated for the Axiom Business Book Award as the best sales book of the year. Profiled in Who’s Who in America every year since 2004, she serves as an executive coach to professionals around the world. Visit her websites: http://YouCanSell.com and http://YouCanLeadCoaching.com.
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