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Stay Curious! Planning to Listen

By Tim Deuitch

Stay Curious! Planning to Listen

Despite knowing good Discovery and listening skills we often stop Discovering right when the information is flowing from the customer or prospect. How can we listen more and talk less?

Tim Deuitch: 00:01  Well, hello and welcome to the Strategic Insights Podcast brought to you by Strategic Enhancement Group. I am Tim Deuitch, Senior Performance Consultant, and today I'm joined by Susan Hall, Vice President Business Development and Performance Improvement. Hi Susan.

Susan Hall: 00:17  Hi Tim, good to be here.

Tim Deuitch: 00:23  Let's get to it. The sales world is full of axioms about listening and probably the most common one we've heard is, "We were born with two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we speak." Yet in the world of sales, this is much easier said than done. So Susan, why do you think it can be so hard to just listen more than talk?

Susan Hall: 00:50  I think there's probably a few reasons for that, but I know my experience with a lot of salespeople is that they think that selling is telling and they need to tell their customers all of the great things about their product rather than listening and really questioning to find out what's value to them.

Tim Deuitch: 01:18  So true, "Selling is Telling", I love that. Yet in our work, we spend a significant amount of time helping sales teams on effective discovery questions. How to know what lanes to ask open-ended questions, so they're talking more than you. We work on actual listening skills and what we find is that the salesperson and the team gobble up these skills. They love new questions. Sometimes they see them as a new angle on something as opposed to just a pure capacity to know more about their customer or their prospect's needs. And so despite knowing these skills we often stop discovering, right when the information is flowing out of the customer and prospect. So for these moments, I use the mantra, Stay Curious. It is a simple definition, the need to stay curious surfaces when a customer has shared something that you know as a salesperson you can address that thing they shared. You can fix it or you have a solution for this thing they just shared. That's that moment the salesperson often impulsively starts telling them what we can do to help, they begin positioning. So, in that context then, Susan, why Stay Curious?

Susan Hall: 02:42  Well, I think for a number of reasons, first of all, if you're a true consultative salesperson, you want to be curious because you want to understand what the real problem is so that you can hopefully go about beginning to help the client solve that. Also, I think that in terms of building trust, we all want to feel like we're being listened to like we're being heard, right? So, in terms of building trust, I think that's really important to, not so much a technique, but just really authentically try to per the old covey, "Seek to listen to understand."

Tim Deuitch: 03:29  Isn't it interesting, sometimes the salesperson will fool themselves. They'll say, "I'm going to build trust by telling them that I have the solution they need" as opposed to what we're saying here, which is, you're going to build a better bed of trust by listening, by drawing out and having a greater understanding of what their needs are. Does that make sense?

Susan Hall: 03:29  Yes, absolutely.

Tim Deuitch: 03:53  So let's look at skills to Stay Curious, and this is especially hard for salespeople that use a lot of words. They are just wordy, or they talk a lot. Here are a few. One is to take notes. The action of actually writing things down helps you stifle your verbal response by having a discipline of writing whatever they've shared with you by writing it down and repeating their statement back to them to ensure you have it right. It slows down the cadence and it puts breaks on what might be a natural tendency for you to talk. Another is to arm yourself with Stay Curious follow up questions. You stifle telling them something by following up with a question. So I have a few like the most obvious and poignant stay curious question is, "Why?" Why is that important to you?

Why is this a priority, this thing you just told me? Why is that feature essentially necessary for you? Even if you think you know, the answer behind the why, asking them, keeps them in the flow, keeps them talking. A couple of others are, "Well that's interesting to me what you just said. Can you tell me more about that?" or "I've written that down. What else should I know?" As opposed to, "I've written that down now. Now, I'm going to tell you what we can about it." Susan, do you have other?

Susan Hall: 05:28  Those are all great questions, Tim. One of my favorites is at the very end of the meeting to just ask that catchall question, "Is there anything else that you think would be important for me to know that we haven't discussed yet today?" And 90 percent of the time your client will sit back and they might even say no, and then they'll proceed to tell you something really, really important.

Tim Deuitch: 05:55  A really amazing salesperson once told me that the catchall question at the end that asks if we missed anything, can surface as much as 30 percent more discovery than you had before then because that client or prospect now wants to help you understand the whole situation and they think through things that maybe they didn't need or that are at the top of their mind. Another one that I bring as a skill for Staying Curious is to declare in advance that you intend to share that you can help. What I mean by that is that when somebody shares something that is really a live one for you, it's a golden nugget. You're like, all right, well, you know, there's one and I know we can meet that need or I know we can sell to that need.

You simply use the technique of saying, "Oh, that's interesting and I may be able to help you with that, but I don't want to say anything until you shared all that's on your mind or all the interests and concerns." So then you'll have let a little energy out. You say, "Oh I can help you with that, but keep going first ." Again, it helps the customer think through all that matters without you interrupting their thought.

Susan Hall: 07:14  And keeping the momentum going.

Tim Deuitch: 07:16  Yes, and the momentum being their voice, their thought. Staying curious for many salespeople is a conscious act. It needs to be, it's a skill that you need to hone. Here's how I look at it, always remember that we rarely talk our way into long-term trusted relationships, we listen our way into them. So by planning to stay curious, you get a chance to build the most trusted relationship and be able to provide what may be the highest value solution for both them and for you. So Stay Curious. You'll be glad you did and more importantly, your customer would be glad you did.

Susan, thanks so much for joining me.

Susan Hall: 08:06  Always a pleasure.

Tim Deuitch: 08:10  Thank you for joining us today and if you have any additional questions or thoughts, please visit us at

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Published: May 30, 2018


Tim Deuitch

Vice President - Client Success

Tim brings over 25 years of experience working closely with business leaders throughout the Twin Cities and the USA. He has worked within a multitude of workplace cultures and economic cycles, helping leaders and teams improve their effectiveness and results. Since joining SEG in 2007, Tim has continued his work as a change agent, helping organizations meet their goals. Tim graduated from Warren Wilson College in 1983 with a B.S. degree in social work.

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