Even a Lean Salesperson Should Never Ask Why?


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When most people think about Lean, they view Lean only from a problem solving perspective, that 5 Why stuff. In that context, a Lean sales person would assume the role of an expert solving a problem for someone. When I apply Lean to Sales and Marketing, I view Lean as a knowledge building exercise. It is the deeper understanding of the customer business that we achieve through the methods of PDCA and EDCA. We are exploring opportunities and helping the customer become more efficient or create better opportunities.

It is not the role of expert that you must take. Experts are only average sales people. You must allow your customer to become your Sensei and learn their business from their perspective. This opens up the role of The Challenger Sale, which happens to be the most productive type of salesperson.

Next week’s podcast guest Leigh Ashton, author of iSell and head of The Sales Consultancy  explains the problem with Why in great detail in this podcast excerpt.

Joe: How does this lead to better conversations? Because what it’s all about is the conversation with the customer, how do we create better conversations out of this?

Leigh: For me, it’s always with open questions – who, what, when, where and how, are great leadings to open questions but you absolutely must listen to the customer. It’s really crucial when you ask the question that you don’t start answering the questions for the customer. I can’t tell you Joe how many times I hear this. Even though salespeople know that closed questions are not great, you’d be amazed how many of them do that. When you ask an open question; there are two that are more powerful to me that would get you more information, and they are what-questions and how-questions. What questions give you criteria that are important to the other person. How questions give you the process that’s important to the other person; how they do things, the process they use.

Many salespeople, these days, ask why questions especially when they lost the deal, and they want to know why the person has gone elsewhere. Now, why-questions should never ever, ever be asked in a sales conversation. As soon as you ask the why-question, the other person become very defensive because actually what you are asking is justification for the previous discussion. When you do that, the person will defend their corner, and they will give you an emotional response rather than factual one; one that kind of meets their needs and alleviates their pain. They might have told you that your offer is very poor to somebody else. It’s much better if you want to know the reason you didn’t get the deal to say, “What was it about the other company or the other offering that made that perfect option for them?” And then, they will tell you the criteria that made them choose that offer. If you ever get the opportunity to sell to that person again, you will know exactly what criteria you are going to offer them and make it a much better proposition. Another question you may ask is what made our offering less than perfect, and they will tell you where the shortfall is in your own offering.

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Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


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