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Sales Solutions
The Most Important (Little) Word in Sales vol 6, issue #10
October, 2009

Countless articles, books, and blogs have been written, and podcasts and videos created, on what to say and how to say it in sales. "If the prospect says this, say this". Often times the "this" is so long, and so scripted, that you can't imagine yourself actually saying it in a real sales situation - it just sounds too contrived.

This month's recommendation is one small, but very effective, word - "why".

"Why" has many valuable uses in sales. For example, I was recently asked by a client to assist them in a contract negotiation. The prospect had developed a champion relationship with her primary contact - but had not developed any relationship with a key influencer at the company. This individual was particularly obstinate - insisting that the prospect grant him a privilege they never grant anyone. Among the recommendations I made (for example, establish some rapport with the influencer before delving into the issue) was to ask him why he felt he needed this particular privilege, and also to ask him grant my client the opportunity to explain her position. This accomplished two things: it put this somewhat belligerent guy on the defensive, and it forced him to provide a rationale for his request. In the end, Mr. Belligerent was not able to provide as convincing a rationale for his position as my client was for hers, and he dropped his demand.

Similarly, "why" gets you a lot of mileage when dealing with sales resistance. How many times have we heard some variation of, "I'm not interested"? Try simply asking, "why?" (or more appropriately, "why not?"). The prospect has to respond with something, and more often than not that something will reveal a deeper issue ("cold callers annoy me", "I don't appreciate being interrupted", etc.). If you have suitable responses to these kinds of remarks, you can often get around them and earn your way to a dialogue.

Lastly, "why" is a great question to use during the Discovery phase of the sales process. When, during the course of your questioning, a prospect reveals some sort of problem, asking, "Why do you suppose that is?" gets him to think - and a thinking prospect is a much more engaged prospect than one who is simply responsive.

Such a small word, yet so powerful.


Action Item

Think of some situations you've encountered recently that are analogous to the ones above. How might you have used a simple, "why" to advance a sales, or deal with a sticky situation? Play the situation through in your head - how might the prospect have responded, and how might you, in turn, have responded? Then start incorporating this little word into real life situations where appropriate. I'm confident you'll find it as valuable as I have.

Good Selling!

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