Nurture Your Intellectual Curiosity

BY Jessica Helinski
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Salespeople often spend time cultivating skills like prospecting and negotiating. But there are other ways that sellers can improve themselves that can really set them apart. Nurturing intellectual curiosity likely isn’t on many reps’ to-​do list, but doing so can have a major impact on success.

What is intellectual curiosity?

In an article for BetterUp, Maggie Wooll examines the topic of intellectual curiosity, defining it as, “a person’s willingness and desire to learn new things and dig deeper than the surface.” Having intellectual curiosity turns learning into something more than just a chore; it becomes a natural process and often, one the individual actively seeks.

She adds that, “When you’re intellectually curious, you’re more willing and interested to acquire knowledge. You naturally ask more questions and seek to understand why things are the way they are.”

Why does it matter?

Sellers who nurture their intellectual curiosity grow in ways beyond basic sales skills. They seek to learn, not just about themselves, but also about their prospects and clients. They strive to go beyond basic knowledge. This benefits sellers in many ways, including:

  • Better problem-​solving skills
  • Improved decision-​making and constant learning from every problem.
  • Ability to approach situations with more creativity and out-​of-​the-​box thinking
  • A more active, engaged mind
  • More open to learning new things and new experiences

Industry leaders are increasingly aware of the importance of curiosity. In an episode of SalesFuel’s Manage Smarter podcast, Dr. Diane Hamilton notes, “A lot of people recognize the importance of motivation and drive…but what I found is that it goes back to the spark of curiosity…The problem is that we give a lot of assessments and training but we aren’t getting right to the root of the problem. If you want to become an innovative company that is highly productive, then you really must get to the root of it all, which, to me, is curiosity.”

How to develop this soft skill

Intellectual curiosity is considered a soft skill, which means it needs to be nurtured and grown rather than explicitly taught. Wooll offers suggestions for ways that sellers can cultivate intellectual curiosity. She shares five actions that sellers can do to develop their own curiosity that, in turn, can further their career and professional development. Two of her tips are highlighted below.

Ask more questions

Sellers may not ask as many questions as they’d like out of fear of looking like they’re not capable or knowledgeable. But they’re missing out on the opportunity to feed their curiosity and boost understanding. “When you ask questions, you’ll inevitably learn more about a topic,” she writes. “You’ll clarify things you didn’t understand or misconceptions you might have.”

Asking questions are vital to successful selling. Whether you’re speaking with a prospect, client, mentor, or fellow seller, don’t shy away from seeking to understand or learn more. It can feel vulnerable to put yourself out there, but you’ll benefit from the deeper knowledge and understanding that you’ll gain.

Admit when you don’t know/​understand something

Speaking of vulnerability, admitting that you don’t understand or know something can make you feel extremely vulnerable. But doing so encourages your intellectual curiosity, as well as setting you apart from other sellers who may act like they know everything. This can be refreshing to others, especially buyers who may be tired of working with more arrogant salespeople.

Admitting you don’t know something can help you bridge your knowledge gap and instill trust in the other person. And saying you’ll find the answers, and following through on it, shows dedication and integrity. “Your willingness to admit when you don’t have all the answers and your curiosity to find them will lead to better decision making and greater trust,” writes Gaurav Gupta for Forbes​.com. “Knowledge is important. But overestimating the importance of having all the answers (or the belief that you already possess them) can quiet your curiosity to explore all the facets of a topic with a fresh, learning focused mindset.”

Embrace opportunities to learn

Nurturing your intellectual curiosity can be so rewarding for sellers. Not only will you widen your knowledge, but you'll also go beyond the average rep to truly understand your prospects and clients. Plus, you’ll set the foundation for a trusting, collaborative relationship with others. So put yourself out there and embrace any and all opportunities to learn and grow as a seller. 

Photo by Vanessa Garcia