For about a year now, my inquisitive 4 year old has been asking me a lot of great questions, but none are so thought provoking than when he asks “why”. ‘Why does the hot sun, not feel so hot in the winter?’, ‘Why don’t the needles in the pine tree change colors in the fall?’, ‘Why does milk go bad’, ‘Why is this toilet paper softer than that one?’ The one-answer- response is no longer good enough (even if, what I believe was a good attempt at answering). We get into full conversations, involving the family, sometimes, we might even ‘phone a friend’ for the answer. The purity of the question of ‘why’ comes from my little guy just not knowing what the answer is. He is not assuming what the answer should be.
Recently, I was coaching a fairly new client (Emily) who said she felt she had had a great sales call, but didn’t end up closing the deal and didn’t understand what happened. She felt like she ‘lost control of the meeting’, while answering all of the prospects questions.
While debriefing the call, I asked Emily “why they invited her in?” She indicated there was a ‘big’ problem that the prospect wanted to address. I asked her one question, for which, she had no clear answer: “Why was that a problem?”
I asked, “If it has been that big of a problem, why haven’t they fixed it already?” If she didn’t assume what the answer could be, Emily again, didn’t have an answer. She said the team has been struggling with coming up with a solution, to which I asked “why didn’t any of the solutions work?”, and “why did they bring you in, when they have a team already?”
We debriefed for about 20 minutes, at the end of which, Emily had a lot of questions she didn’t have answers to. If given the opportunity, she would need to go back to the prospect with more questions, all of which would lead off with ‘why’. She tallied up about 15 ‘why’ questions that she would have to get answers to, to determine if the prospect was even QUALIFIED to continue the conversation. She also discovered that the person asking the ‘why’ questions, will always be in control of the selling process.
If we aren’t genuinely curious about ‘why we are talking’, ‘why the problem exists’ and at least 15 ‘why’s’ after that, we run the risk of taking too long to close the sale, becoming an unpaid consultant, or getting ourselves backed into a corner answering their ‘why questions’, like: ‘Why should I buy from you’, ultimately losing the sale.