Since the first salesperson was selling stone wheels thousands of years ago, a salesperson's favorite word was—and always will be—"Yes."

However, I believe a salesperson's new second favorite word should be "how."

If someone asks you, "How?" it means you've struck a nerve and sparked some curiosity.

Moreover, inspiring people to willingly ask for information is much different than force-feeding them, even if information is what they need.

By stimulating the natural curiosity in their brains, however, absorption and retention increases.

The other key component of "how" is time. When your prospects ask, "How?" they're giving their time to you as the presenter.

The following is a list of the top seven elements that can have a positive or negative impact on your probability of hearing "how."

1. A relatable protagonist

Part of getting to "how?" is through the use of compelling stories. All good stories need a protagonist, and the hero must be relatable. If your prospects can't relate to your hero nor imagine themselves in your story... then curiosity will not grow. Instead, they will become bored or irritated.

2. A challenge

To garner curiosity, a perception of challenge must exist. If what you're sharing is too simple, then there's no need to inquire further.

For instance, if someone said, "I got my mail today," your natural reaction might be "So?" The assumption is that you wouldn't possibly make such a boring statement without an exciting twist. Now, if someone said, "I got my mail today without stepping outside the house," that might be more likely to receive a "How?"

3. Realistic amazement

Imagine if someone told you, "I lost 100 pounds last week" or "I bought a private jet while I was on welfare." You'd probably respond with a resounding, "Yeah, right."

Most people have been burned by practical jokers and don't like to be perceived as gullible. As a defense mechanism, we've built up healthy "BS detectors" over the years.

To get a "How?" a statement or question has to be something out of the ordinary—but not too far-fetched.

4. Something hot and new

Aside from proud laggards, people don't like to be the last one to know things.

With social media, trends build and spread quicker than ever, and there's a natural desire to be in the know.

Having exclusive or limited information is especially motivating in today's fast-paced, interconnected world. If your audience has a fear of missing out, it can be enough for them to ask, "How?"

5. Personal excitement

Curiosity is closely tied to emotion. For example, my son and I love superhero movies, and the other day we read an article that talked about a new movie in which the villains would be the main focus of the movie. The article was short and vague, but it caused a passionate "How?" from both of us. That question was followed by 30 minutes of additional research for answers.

6. Presenter excitement

If you're not excited about your subject, why should your prospect be?

Prospects like congruence in your message. If there's a disconnect between what you're saying, how you're saying it, and what they're expecting, the result is a negative gut feeling and a natural defensive reaction—both of which are harmful to curiosity.

7. Source exclusivity

We live in a world of answers. As early as four years old, my kids refused to accept the answer, "I’m not sure." They knew—as does everyone these days—that a world of information resides in our pockets.

As a presenter, that can be a major obstacle to curiosity. Though you want to raise questions in people's mind, you don't want them to just Google the answer. If prospects can easily look something up, they won't waste their time asking you to elaborate.

They need to feel like you're an exclusive source or that the information would be too much work for them to find on their own.

One word of caution, though: Don't abuse the power of "how."

If you build intrigue, but end up delivering a tricky or unfulfilling answer, you'll lose future credibility. A bait-and-switch strategy may extend the conversation, but it will quickly crash and burn. It's like inviting friends over for pizza, but forgetting to tell them you need their help moving furniture... It might work once but probably not the second time.

* * *

Tapping into natural curiosity isn't easy. Working with different companies each week in every industry imaginable, it's become clear that there's only one way to bring this all together to consistently create customer intrigue.

For the salespeople and companies that do it right, it means a measurable impact on top-line growth.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Joe  Collins

Joe Collins is a facilitating consultant for Corporate Visions.

LinkedIn: Joe Collins