The 5 Whys of a Lean Sales Conversation


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I have found talking to little or too much are both ineffective ways to proceed in a sales conversation. When we discuss a Lean Sales Person, many people think of this problem solving person that is out finding the root cause and how their product/service could benefit the customer.  I have expressed my views on that subject as a problem solving salesperson ends up typically being an average salesperson. More on that subject in this blog post, Lean Salespeople are Challengers, not Problem Solvers.

I think we need when having a Lean Sales Conversation it is not about asking 5 Whys to find the root cause. Rather, I like the CAP-Do approach where we concentrate more on the downloading of information at the beginning.  This conversation is not what I would call one of discovery, that seems to be little premature. I think of the yoga saying; “if you want to take a deep breath, you first need to exhale.”  And, in a Sales conversation the person that needs to exhale is the customer.

I learned this process from the book, Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.  I get more mileage of these words than any other sales pitch or script I have ever constructed. Instead of saying Why, the response should be Hmm! Really! Sorry, that is the second response. Before I get into a parody of Who’s on first, Here is my list of 5 Whys:

  1. Hmm
  2. Really
  3. And So
  4. Then what Happened
  5. Tell Me more

In my job, I will write auto-responders and telephone scripts. The first step in this process is not to think what you want a customer to know, feel, and do. That leads to an attempt  to manipulate the customer actions. Instead, try to learn what the customer knows, feels and wants to do. I look at this from a perspective of learning, the Lean way.  Hmm, and Really equate to exhaling. You learn what they know. And so, and Then what Happened draws out the feelings. Tell me more opens up the response that signifies what they are going to do.

These 5 little prompts, mixed with a small amount of conversation will get you further than any other preconceived  planning that you can do. This is the Check in the CAP-Do cycle and why you must stay away from the elements of PDCA and root cause. Don’t discover, learn! It all starts with a Hmm!

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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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