BY Russell Wardrop

DATE: 28 MAR 2023


Be Curious, Stay Curious

Being curious can get you ten times the opportunity, here are two examples:




First call this morning was with a global exec who’s spent time turning the tanker round to face new, global energy opportunities. It’s fascinating to hear the challenge of establishing new income streams as old ones diminish.

At the end we got talking about travel and he mentioned visiting a far-flung place for an opportunity of “only maybe worth five million…”.

I asked why he went and he first said it was essential as Zoom doesn’t cut it, then reeled off three or four new areas where they were going to help this business.

I asked how much that might be worth.

“Ahhh… maybe fifty million a year.”

The two things that unearthed a potential tenfold increase were getting out to see prospects… and curiosity.




We are running hot at KWC Global. I imagine you think it’s because we pitch well, as we surely do.

But pitching without listening gives you poor fare.

Yesterday I spoke to a prospect about a keynote, a gig I’m always keen to get in the diary. After a gentle interrogation- who the three hours is aimed at, why they were doing it and what outcomes they were after- they mentioned 600 senior consultants who would benefit from a sharper business development focus.

Small group training for a big number is quite an uplift from a one-off gig… then there’s Rainmaker, which is another realm altogether.

We are some distance from a comprehensive sales programme, but doors were opened.

Imagine you could question your way to sales success (you can); imagine you knew questions can be more effective than pitches (they are); imagine you knew what every prospect’s favourite subject is (you do, it’s them).


Ask Brilliant Questions 


Asking brilliant questions matters more than pitching your benefits. Being curious entails suppressing your self-interest and not only builds rapport but is a shortcut to trust, the holy grail of relationship building.

Staying curious for longer usually means you find more ways you can help, since your prospect is thinking about their business, not your sales pitch. And makes it more likely you’ll close the sale, because it keeps the focus on your prospect’s needs, provided you are ready to ask for the business when the time is right.

Work on open questions, save your best ones in a notebook and ensure you follow them up. Spend time on envisioning a range of answers and think about how you can ask another question rather than sell to them.

“So… where are you with the process engineering that will allow you to announce your five-year plan to the global business?”

“Nowhere… Sales are through the roof, which is terrific, but it puts huge pressure on elsewhere, so we don’t have the people to even get started…”

(Kaching! Obviously… but rather than going off on how you can help, “WE CAN DO THAT…blah blah blah”… ask another question…)

You should also be mindful of your prospect’s type:

Analyst: What is the cost of those sales to the business and what key processes need help so you can start?

Amiable: How is that affecting the division heads and project leads- they were already under pressure- and how are you coping with the pressure?

Driving: Nice problem to have… what you going to do?

Expressive: Wow, sales through the roof in this market… that’s not what we hear elsewhere in your sector… how have you managed that?   

Maister’s trust equation says you should establish your credibility, reliability and intimacy before showing too much self-interest; asking the right questions does that.


Delay Your Pitch


Be careful when that door opens a crack, the first sign your prospect has seriously engaged with the issue. Seeing that sliver of light is pure nectar after poor engagement: this is your big chance. On a sugar-rush, you’re now in full flow, words and slides and handouts flying.

Don’t do that; delay your pitch.

Imagine closing business without having to pitch at all. Imagine being wide-eyed and deckless and your prospect asking for your help, based almost entirely on your curiosity.

I exaggerate, but not by much: Experts gonna expert, but there’s a time for that and it’s not usually in the first half of the client chemistry meeting.

Staying in “receive” mode is easier for some than others; just as you should assess your prospect’s style, know your own. Are you Ask or Tell assertive (a Driving/Expressive or Analyst/Amiable) and adjust accordingly?

There comes a point when you need to pitch and sell, but don’t make a big deal out of it. Take ten seconds to show off then tag a killer question at the end of your small and perfectly formed pitch...

This allows you to show off, but turn it round to be about your prospect by the end.

So, from the examples above:

We’re happy to get to grips with what you need to get started and how to reduce your team’s input… but lots of contracts is a nice problem to have… what are you gonna do?

Have a range of short, sharp pitches, then ask your killer question.


Men In Black Zapper Questions


Be prepared to ask the most challenging questions and be sure to ask them in your own way, because challengers close most sales.

Think: what would you ask if you had a Men In Black neuralyzer handy? Do you really love me?

First, be prepared to ask the difficult questions; get the right mindset. We like people who get to the nitty-gritty and assert themselves, assuming they do it in the right time and the right way.

And second, think of the things you’d like to know and find a form of words that might get you an answer.


About Money

"How much have you got? Which of the Rainmaker programmes is affordable?”

“Well I’m not spending over 50k on a sales programme…”

(It’ll be the 29k programme then.)


About Fit

“Who’s not keen on us… and is it me?”

“Some of our delegates are more reflective and need a slower pace.”

(Sure… I’m not for everyone, let me see who else is available.)


About The Competition

Who is our competition here and how much is their proposal?

“I can’t tell you that but you were the most expensive of all the offers…”

“How much do you need to see the investment reduce by to stay interested?”

“It’s not about the investment, it’s about global reach…”

(Let’s talk about Live Virtual Learning… hugely effective and one third of the cost.


The Big Payoff


The big pay-off comes at the close, when your goal is to come away with an advance that takes you further along towards a sale. Think about your best and worst advance before you get in the room; looking into the future is never a bad strategy.

While some chemistry meetings need you to deliver a pitch early on, usually when dealing with a driving personality, most take a route that has you staying curious for a while.

And finally, it’s difficult to be curious with a huge deck.

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