Asking the Why Question

Asking the Why question makes the How, What, Where, When and Who that much easier to answer.

At a recent TEDx conference, Jeffrey Fox, the NYT best selling author of How to Become a Rainmaker, How to Become a CEO and Rain to name just a few, was speaking to an audience of sales people, sales managers and company owners who were also in sales. Fox’s talk was on the concept of dollarizing your product or service. His contention was that terms such as “value added, highest quality, best of class, award winning” have no meaning to your customer. These terms and others like them mean nothing unless a dollar value can be associated with them. Your customer is not buying value added or best of class. They are buying your product or service because it will solve their problem and make/save them money. These terms also mean nothing to your customer because everyone uses them.

Fox then asked his audience if any of them or their sales people ever asked their customers the Why question, “Why do you need our product or service?” No one answered. Fox suggested that perhaps only a handful of sales people in the world ask the Why question, those he refers to as Rainmakers. Obviously there were no rainmakers in his audience.

Most of us in the recruiting business identify potential customers based on our specialization, our service offerings, research, marketing campaigns (including trade shows), direct inquiries, etc. We then conduct some more research and begin to develop a needs analysis based on available information from the prospects web site (they have 80 positions posted on their career site), news releases (recently announced an expansion in a new city) and networking (using our contacts from the various social media channels).

With all of this information we then make the first call knowing full well that we have services that they need, that they should do business with us and it is just a matter of price. But we never ask the Why question, “why do they need our service?” In many cases we need them more than they need us.

Asking the Why question allows the customer to open up and discuss the real problems, the real issues, the real needs. And it allows the sales person to offer a service that is solution based and dollarized. Remember customers only buy your service to solve their problem and to make/save money. If you can provide as good or better service than your competitors and demonstrate that your service will make/save more money for your customer than your competitors, you will win the business.

Knowing that a customer has multiple openings that your company can help fill is important. Asking why they need your service or a service like yours could provide you with the following information:

  • These are all revenue generating positions. Everyday that they go unfilled the company loses revenue.
  • Currently using high paid contractors to fill positions, margins are low and relationship with client is delicate. We could lose the business.
  • Company reputation is at risk, since we market ourselves as providing the best talent, quickly. What we sell is not what we have been delivering. Losing market share and business.
  • Some of these positions are replacement positions. Recently lost a number of experienced people to competition and internal resources have not been able to find the level of talent needed.

Successful selling is all about asking the right questions and listening to the answers. Those of us in the recruiting business put this into practice everyday. Some might say that recruiters are always asking Why questions, “Why is the position open?, Why would someone want to work for your company?, Why do you want to work for this company?, Why do you want to leave your current position?”  All good questions but none of them provide you with the key to your success. Knowing why a customer needs your service will allow you to become the Rainmaker you would like to be.

I am going to begin asking the Why question of all of our company’s prospective customers and insist that our new business consultants do the same.

And just so that our company is prepared, I have just ordered six new umbrellas.

Let the rains begin!


2 responses to “Asking the Why Question

  1. They say, “When it rains, it pours.”

  2. Great information! It seems that “Selling” a service or product is not the answer to new business. Presenting a Client with a laundry list of your offerings is like engaging them in a game of “connect the dots” – figure out how our offering can benefit your bottom line!

    It seems that asking the “Why” question is an excellent opportunity and/or segway (depending of course there’a an obvious fit) to articulate to the prospective Client how partnering with your firm can address the items mentioned during the “Why” conversation.

    Asking the “Why” question will also inevitably quickly lead to whether there’s a high probability of doing business with the prospective Cient. We all know the pipeline has to be full but there’s no point in wasting time with “Low- Potential” Clients.

    Is it just me or can anyone else see some parallels here relative to conversations with prospective Candidates? Candidates are often extremely busy and don’t have time to talk but when I have the luxury of catching someone who has a few minutes to spare I always ask them the “Why” question – “Why are you on the job market? What’s going on in your world that you’re open to learning about new opportuntities?” The answers vary but depending on what they share it’s information I can use to Close them later or it’s intel I can share with my employer or Client about their competition.

    Also, as much as we all strive to meet or exceed our Submittal Goals we’re not doing our Clients any favors by sending them “Low-Potential” Candidates.

    Let me know when the umbrellas arrive – don’t forget to put an order in for 6 matching galoshes!

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