The One Attribute That Makes A Big Difference

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

be curiousSalespeople often ask which is the most important skill they need to be successful in modern-day sales.

Personally, I don’t believe there is just one skill that will put someone head and shoulders above the rest. But if I was forced to choose one skill, attribute, belief, characteristic or attitude that would serve a salesperson best in the new world of sales it would be ‘curiosity‘.

Does that surprise you? Has it piqued your interest? Has it raised debate in your mind as to whether you agree or not?

Then I have induced curiosity into your thought patterns!

These days we are far too quick to judge whether something is true or if we agree with it. Someone states a belief…we hear it and filter it through our belief systems…we interpret its meaning….we bounce it around our minds and contrast it with other ideas…we determine if it’s right or wrong based on our views of the world…we make conclusions….we judge, condemn, criticise in our mind…then we express our opinion.

All in a fraction of a second.

Consciously, we are not always aware of how we came to that conclusion. All we know is that the other person has a different opinion to ours. Many people think that now is the time to set them straight, show them the error of their ways and bring them back to the road of fact and truth.

Yes, they air their own opinions, sometimes diametrically opposite to the other person’s view.

This spurs a defensive reaction from the other person, determined to support their view with more opinions and ideas, driven on by them having to justify their position.

Hs this ever happened to you? Is coal black?

Well, one way this situation can be softened is by concentrating on being curious. Curiosity is a mindset that evokes questions, enquiry and deep thoughtfulness. It goes deeper than surface level because it digs up what facets lie beneath the belief or opinion. It creates quality conversations because it unravels deep-seated concepts and highlights hidden ideologies without being judgemental.

Imagine you’re in a prospect meeting, and they give an opinion or statement that you disagree with. The conversation could go something like this:

“Well, we’ve tried this kind of product before, and it didn’t work, so I’m sorry but we’ll stick with what we’ve got”

You reply, “But our product is different…just try it out and see how it improves performance…”

“No, as I said, we’re happy with what we’ve got”

You reply, “If you just give it a go, I’m sure you’ll be delighted with the results. I can guarantee you’ll see improvements…”

“Look…which part of ‘no’ don’t you understand…!!!”

The salesperson has simply been pushy and hasn’t heard the signals the prospect is sending out. If he had shown curiosity first, it would have uncovered the real objection and identified the way forward. Here’s the same example again, this time with the salesperson showing a curious mindset:

“Well, we’ve tried this kind of product before, and it didn’t work, so I’m sorry but we’ll stick with what we’ve got”

You reply, “That’s interesting…when did you try it, and what were the circumstances?”

“About two years ago, and it was no better than our current widget. Productivity wasn’t affected and it cost more to run, so we stayed with what we already had”

You reply, “I see…and are there any circumstances that would make you think about changing now?”

“Well, only if it could be proved that productivity and profitability would be increased”

You reply, “So, if I could prove to you that those areas would improve, would this be something you might consider?”

“If it was worth the change in the long run, I might take a look at it, yes”.

Here, the simple idea of being curious opened up the discussion to determine how the product could benefit the prospect. There was no pushing of the product or trying to force it onto the prospect…the salesperson simply enquired about what the circumstances were that brought the prospect to that conclusion.

So, the next time someone states an opinion or idea, resist the temptation to jump in with your opinion. Stop for a moment and think to yourself, “I wonder why they think that? I wonder what brought them to that conclusion?”

That curious frame of mind might help you to dig deeper and identify the real facts that might be lurking beneath the surface. You will find out more information and create a framework to build real solutions from that won’t tread on their well-formed beliefs.

Looking for more tips on becoming a great salesperson? These articles will help:

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training | Image courtesy of Patricia Glogowski at

450 sales questions free report

Originally published: 10 April, 2013

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