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Curiosity Might Have Killed the Cat. But, a Lack of Curiosity Definitely Kills the Sale. With Babette Ten Haken [Episode 513]

Babette Ten Haken, Founder and President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, joins me for the second time on this episode.


Babette thinks the biggest challenge sales reps face is that they don’t take the time to discover fully the context of the issue, and so they may propose inappropriate solutions.

Curiosity is the hallmark of any discovery process. Data leads to assumptions. Reps need to discover what is relevant, out of all the prior information they receive about a prospect.

Andy cites Jill Konrath on ‘overwhelm.’ Information overload may suppress asking good questions. Far too many reps end up convincing themselves, but not the buyers.

Playbooks define the process too much. The art of selling is based in discipline. Babette compares it to opera. Interpretation is added by the artist. Being curious creates an organic conversation that cannot be scripted.

Technology provides much information to help ‘B’ and ‘C’ players, but ‘A’ players take artistic chances that can’t be quantified. Reps need to feel empowered to act. ‘A’ players ask hard questions that help customers make hard calls.

A seller should master relentless curiosity, researching the industry and subject matter deeply, to become expert, and should be ready to ask great, sometimes spontaneous, questions to uncover the customer’s needs.

A rep should not be satisfied with only the information their company provides. They should hold informed opinions from their own research. They may find their product needs updating for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

“The moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question.” — Jonas Salk. Babette says sales reps stop the process when they think they’ve discovered the question. There’s a question behind the question. What is the context?

Never be satisfied. Don’t stop selling before you have the correct solution for the customer. Discovery is needed all during the sales process. It’s like archeology. Keep digging.

Reps are feeling pushed to have their deals go through the pipeline at a certain velocity. ‘A’ players step outside the process. ‘B’ players should take a risk to be more curious and try to find out the questions behind the questions.

The line is thin between ‘A’ and ‘B’ players. The answer is not for ‘B’ players to copy ‘A’ players, but to take the best practices of ‘A’ players, and apply them to the best version of themselves. Everyone is not the same. Babette explains more.

Reps need to be strategic. Managers need to allow sales engineers to go with ‘B’ and ‘C’ players, after the proper discovery is made for a proposal. Babette ends with encouragement to keep the fun in selling, through curiosity.