All of this curiosity and information-gathering can also be applied on a more granular level — and I’ve used it over and over again as my career moved to new sectors. Now that I’m working with nonprofits at Salesforce.org, I still use all of the same “curious tactics” to discover and unravel their challenges, concerns, needs, and personal motivators. But there’s one more key “curiosity” you need to pursue: Become a customer.
For nonprofits, I will sign up to be a donor and see whether they reach out to me. Do they send me personalized emails or do I start to get spam? Do they have a mobile application that makes it easy for me to see the effect their organization is having in their nonprofit sector? It helps me get a glimpse of where there might be gaps and how I can ask more beneficial questions during my conversations with them.
The same holds true on the commercial side. Retail is one of the easiest examples. Purchase an item online and maybe even try to return it. What’s the process like? In other industries, you can call customer service and see what the experience is like. Do they have online help? Or does another site provide better answers to your questions about a particular product than the company itself? Maybe submit a question online and see what the response is (or if you receive one at all). In your meetings, you can share these perspectives and suggest ways to make the customer experience better.
While becoming a customer may be a bit harder if you’re working with a direct manufacturer or an energy company, there are still ways to perform the research online and parse as much information as possible. Overall, it’s not just about the company and its numbers (although that’s incredibly important). It’s also about determining the insights that will contribute to a valuable conversation about increasing those numbers or decreasing operating costs. Then you can begin to move the needle for both your customer and your sales.
When you stay curious through empathy and an open ear for your customer, you help to grow your knowledge and your career, and create strong, long-lasting relationships — even if it’s a whole new world for you.