Curiosity Charms the Customer
Your curiosity can be a business superpower. But the last time you were *authentically* curious was probably at age 6.
Here's the problem: As we get older, we get these horrible things called responsibilities: School, homework, activities, college applications, college, jobs, adulting, marriage, kids, retirement planning.
Time to get serioius - no time to be curious!
At age 6, I was digging holes in the backyard because. Just because.
Maybe I thought I could get to the other side of the world. Instead, I found worms and other bugs and got real dirty. But I just kept digging. (Thank goodness for the old days of "unstructured play," when I wasn't on 3 sports teams and over-scheduled with multiple playdates.)
That was authentic curiosity. curiosity for no other reason than being curious. No agenda, no goals, no guardrails. I learned how to have fun without toys, games or equipment. I also accidentally learned how to build a rudimentary aqueduct, courtesy of our garden hose.
But for most of us, as our responsibilities increase, our authentic curiosity gets squeezed out, often down to zero. We don't have time or a compelling reason to be curious.
When we lose curiosity we lose a lot:
We lose the opportunity to learn.
We lose the chance to build empathy.
We lose the ability to gain new skills.
Early in our careers, we execute priorities that have been established from 10 levels above us. We aren't being paid to be curious - to ask questions and bring up other possible solutions.
But here's the truth: Those exhibiting curiosity at work (assuming we're doing our jobs well) can differentiate themselves professionally. They can be known as problem identifiers and problem solvers. A combination of execution and curiosity can make you indispensable and promotable.
But being promoted means more responsibility and less time to be curious. Curiosity can even become scary, because you're now in a cohort that views questioning the status quo as slowing down process and progress on their initiatives - and therefore risky to their careers. "We gotta get sh%t done, we don't have time to question it!"
As someone who has benefitted tremendously from rediscovering and leveraging my professional curiosity, I strongly encourage you to try it.
Start by asking your stakeholders - internal or external users, customers, sponsors - for some "step back" time.
Ask them some disruptive questions that will help you understand their tailwinds: Why they are making the requests they're making.
These conversations will improve transparency. Transparency will foster mutual empathy.
And empathy will help you uncover information and insights to help you be more successful in supporting their priorities and goals.
Great discussion over at Gain Grow Retain on "Helping customers become more strategic,"
where a member said this:
"...some clients cannot see, refuse to see, or refuse to even care about the value and importance of the services we offer and stay focused only on what is in front of them at the moment."
Here's my take:
How to get customers to be heads up vs. heads down (tactical). Tip: Ask if you can take 10 - 15 minutes for a "step back" conversation, then ask a few disruptive (disrupt the customer's same ol' thought patterns) about their company's priorities and challenges and their team's broader priorities - instead of about your product and the value they perceive.
Also - and perhaps it's just me - but the wording of the post sounded understandably frustrated but even a bit anti-customer: "Some clients cannot see, refuse to see, or refuse to even care about the value and importance of the services we offer." There could be an empathy gap here.
IMX (in my experience) and the experience of the teams I work with, customers talk 70%+ of the time when you use these approaches.
Raj Khera of MoreBusiness.com is one of the best interviewers I've had the privilege of speaking with.
He listens. He's comfortable with a bit of a pause or silence. He's curious as heck.
To see for yourself, listen to or watch our recent convo on his podcast below.
The topic: Power Questions that Unlock Product-Market Fit.
While we covered a lot of insights and tips for businesses, it was a wide-ranging discussion, for example:
How much better would our society be if just 1% of people got 1% better at understanding the perspective of the person they're talking to?
To quote Jeff's podcast page, here's what he said about this episode in his fantastic GSD (getting services done) podcast:
Jeff sits down with the legendary Bob London to discuss Strategic Conversations. Bob has over 2600 customer conversations analyzed among sales and CS, and has put together a framework for talking to customers called the Five Customer Love languages. Jeff and Bob dive deep into the 5 love languages and talk about how to use the framework to get your customers to open up about what's important to them. We discuss how these interact with customer calls, 45 minute zombie QBR's, and also how to overcome imposter syndrome. Additional topics include: working with Covid, schadenfreude as a Red Sox fan, getting fired and finding your own path.
The 5 customer love languagesRead Now
I recently had the privilege of presenting a webinar, courtesy of my friends at ChurnZero, on how to better engage our customers and prospects by understanding THEIR definition of value (aka love) based on what's important to THEM, not us.
Here's a great recap article from ChurnZero with highlights.
And here's the full recording of the webinar.
And to see the slides, just click below:
"86% of people think their listening skills are above average." Wait, whaaaA?Read Now
"86% of people think their listening skills are above average."
I know it's first thing on a Monday, but hopefully your math radar just went off.
Kudos to listening guru Oscar Trimboli for that stat which reveals a significant lack of self-awareness and understanding of so many folks - including me!
Amazing things will happen when you "mute yourself," especially when talking to customers and prospects.
Start conversations with a quiet mind.
Don't rush to solve or sell.
Go where THEY want the conversation to go.
Don't judge or defend.
Generally speaking, just...
Here's a link to Oscar Trimboli's wonderful podcast: https://oscartrimboli.libsyn.com/the-four-villains-of-listening
Hard to believe that it's been nearly 2 years since I got a big taste of how generous the customer success world is.
After I did two podcast interviews with Jay Nathan and Jeff Breunsbach of Gain Grow Retain (which was in and of itself a somewhat generous act since I was a nobody in CS at the time), someone I did not know, Diana De Jesus, wrote two articles summarizing my interview. Here's one.
And I liked her summaries better than my interviews!
She clearly and concisely highlighted points that were relevant to HER and HER AUDIENCE - something I wasn't able to do at the time.
Fast forward to last evening, when I finally had the privilege to speak live with Diana, 1:1. And she blew me away again with her insights.
So thank you, Diana, for providing significant emotional tailwind to my customer journey. Looking forward to our next chat for sure.
And give her a follow on LinkedIn or at her web site.
There's gold in the "margins" of every customer meeting. Let's recapture it.Read Now
Remember how much you learned and gained from the "margins" of a F2F customer or prospect meeting?
You know, the few minutes before the formal agenda begins where everyone's filing in and chatting? And the last several as folks are reflecting on what was covered?
Meeting margins are where two important things grow: customer relationships and insights.
But with virtual meetings, the margins disappear right? You jump on and jump off.
Not so, according to a senior #customersuccess manager in one of my coaching sessions.
She uses several of my disruptive questions (see cheat sheet in comments) to effectively recreate the margins in the body of her virtual meetings.
These questions effectively open the conversational aperture far beyond the standard agenda. The customers talk about what's happening in their BUSINESS. And how those priorities and challenges relate to the customer's desired outcomes.
I get it - F2F meetings create intimacy with customers and prospects. But you can get similar insights and relationship benefits by asking better questions during virtual meetings too.
This is inspired by a really interesting observation by a customer success manager yesterday during our weekly team check in call.
His said he looks forward to these meetings because it is a welcome departure from his regular routine. He appreciates the opportunity to take a step back once a week “to think and reflect a bit.”
To think about
- how things are going.
- how we engage in customer conversations.
- what we can do differently to reach desired outcomes.
It reminded me of the question coaches often ask business owners and entrepreneurs, “Are you working in your business or on your business?“
In it = The regular routine, the daily grind.
On it = Taking a step back to be curious and reflect.
So I’ll end this post where it started: “Are you working in your job or on it?”
Have a great Friday and to my US friends, hope you enjoy the long holiday weekend.
How to handle sales people who get nervous when CSM's ask my disruptive discovery questionsRead Now
"As a customer success professional, I work accounts in tandem with #sales. Some of them panic when I ask these (bold, disruptive, open-ended) discovery questions, even if the answers I get are great. Any advice for working with nervous sales folk?"
That is an actual question from my webinar this week with Involve.ai - and I've heard it before. Here's my answer:
But consider the facts...
Questions? Email me at email@example.com.