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Can Not Knowing Enhance Communication?

Socrates once said, "The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing." He understood that wisdom comes from starting with nothing and permitting everything to come in.

So I started to think what are the mind states that sales people should demonstrate with their customers that promote being open to everything and closed to nothing; open-mindedness, ( not knowing), inquisitiveness, curiosity, being non-judgment, trustworthiness, etc.

So much has been written about so many of these with very little about the first one ( being totally open-minded) not knowing. Then I found a great book by David Jensen author of "Selling With Service and Soul." He had a very thought-provoking and counter-intuitive philosophy about the strategy of confusion to enhance communication.

"Have confusion as an objective. Learn how to be confused. Confusion is a state of learning. If you look if you think you already know the answer, you aren't open to learning. If you're confused you will see knowledge," says David Jensen.

This concept reminds of my favorite uncle growing up who was a vey successful business owner. He was the archetype of someone who does not know. He was dumb as a fox. Dumb in the sense that he was not projecting the superior posture of having the upper hand and knowing everything. Because of his perpetual state of not knowing it put his customers at ease and made them feel comfortable with him. His unassuming, nurturing and non-threatening position allowed him to get maximum sensitive and important information.

Not knowing allows you to really understand your customer's unique point of view. Customers do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Being in a state of wonder allows you to enhance trust and have an open flow of information. "Your mind is a sponge, searching for more information in order to give you new awareness. To learn what your customer wants, you must do more than listen; you must be in a state of wonder. What your customer says must not go into the section of something you know, but into the section of what you don't know, but want to find out. Confusion does not come naturally; you must make it into a conscious undertaking. With confusion as your objective you have the power to stop judging information and enjoy its possibilities," said David Jensen

The beauty of not knowing is you are in a constant state of inquiry. When you do not know you are filled with curiosity and that state will enhance knowledge intake. As Larry Leissner said, "If confusion is the first step to knowledge I must be a genius." Not knowing demands productive engagement with customers to get to the truth. "Unfortunately, most sales people accept information if it only confirms what they know. They generalize, distort, and delete new information until it confirms their preconceptions. Customers reject these type of self-serving salespeople, because by their actions, they reject their customers," says David Jensen. Not knowing allows sales people to connect with customers by first seeking to understand before being understood.

He goes on to say, "The best salespeople realize there is no bad news, only a confusing situation that must be analyzed and explored until new information opens up new choices. The best sales people work very hard to stay in a state of not knowing and they profit greatly." Sales people build trust and respect when they are not afraid to hear bad news, and when they ask questions that the customer is more interested in answering than the sales person is in hearing the answer. In other words, they are not afraid to ask potentially damaging questions to get to the truth of the customer's unique point of view.

Not knowing is not for the faint of heart. When one is in a state of learning it can be imposing because one gives up a sense of control. What most sales people do not realize is when you give up control you gain control. Moreover, for most traditional sales people asking risky questions, leaving their ego at home and putting all the focus intently on the customer can be daunting.

David Jensen sums it up very well when he addresses his detractors about being in a perpetual state of learning, "The concern is when you meet a new customer is that confidence and enthusiasm is more important than your customer's clarity. If you were in your customer's position, would you prefer a sales person who was open to everything you said and fully understood what you wanted, or one who thought he knew what you should do based on what he would do?" Not knowing honors your customer's ego by assuming you will never know their business as well as they do, and that you need their active participation in helping you help them.

Richard Farrell is President of Tangent Knowledge Systems, a national sales development and training firm based in Chicago. He is the author of the upcoming book Selling has Nothing to do with Selling. He trains and speaks around the world and has authored many articles on his unique non-selling sales posture.

Phone: 773-404-7915
EMail: rfarrell@tangentknowledge.com
Web: http://www.tangentknowledge.com