The essential sales question: why or why not?

to_be_or_not_to_be_blogIf Hamlet was focused on selling, he may have asked himself an alternative question in his most famous soliloquy – why or why not.  That is the real question every Sales Professional must be asking themselves when evaluating the possibility of closing a deal.  Fundamentally the question is a precursor to the “Is this prospect worthy of my time investment”, however we will discuss the value of time in a future blog post.  Instead let’s focus on the value of the Why/Why Not questions, how one can achieve the answers, and what you can do with those answers.

Why Why Why?

Human’s by nature are curious creatures and learn from an early age to ask why.  I know many a parent who was driven to near insanity by a young child’s incessantly asking “why?”.  I find that most sellers are able to articulate why a client will invest or sign off on the deal.  However, the answers are usually a regurgitation of the presented value proposition that the seller presented at various points in the cycle.  Instead we want to bring the focus to the actual buyer and why they will spend their time, money, and reputation points in moving forward with you.  For starters, the answer must include the value of what the solution will bring to their business or business unit, what it will bring to the individual, and why you or your firm.  With these three pillars, you now have the ability to negate almost any concern or objection that may come up.

How to ask Why Not

There are two ways in which to ask Why Not.  The most common is post decision, when the seller has not identified the 3 pillars in why.  It is an almost pointless exercise in futility and grasping at the proverbial last straw.  Instead, let’s consider asking this question upfront.  As you are working to understand the why, ask why not.  Ask yourself, your manager, your coworkers, but most importantly ask your prospect.  You are an expert in what you sell, identifying in advance the biggest risks to the project, while partnering with your client creates bridges of trust helping both of you understand the potential hurdles that may be in play.  Macbeth did not have the benefit of sitting with those that opposed him; take advantage of your ability to do this.

Introducing Why/Why Not

I find that Why/Why Not is a concept that is best introduced early on in the process, but does not end there.  When first speaking with a prospective client, your goal is typically to qualify them in/out.  I would suggest this is a good time to start building out the Why/Why Not concept.  At the start you are looking to understand if they’ve done something similar before, how it worked, what did they learn, etc.  You are being curious and open, empathizing with failures and pointing out their successes.  During this, you are starting to build out the Why and the Why Not.  As you continue to learn more about them, moving through the sales stages, continue to identify new reasons or changes in reasons.  As you build rapport with the client, share with them why you see them moving forward (gain confirmation), but indicate you are struggling to identify why they would not.  Often people will share these thoughts and ideas with you.  If they shy away from showing their cards, try sharing how another client raised an objection recently and it made you think of this evaluation.  It is in both of your best interests to identify these reasons, track the evolution and seek mutual affirmation that both of you understand Why along with Why Not.  These are not one and done questions, the answers will evolve, so must your strategies to mitigate the risks.

As a Consultant, a question I ask of every VP Sales or CEO is simply – why do you lose?  I am amazed at the breadth of answers I receive.  What these answers have in common is they are almost always based on the concept of a loss review, whether formal with the client or informally diagnosed based on an internal assessment.  The challenge with this approach is we do not take into account the current client.  Instead we need to flip this dynamic on it’s side and understand the Why/Why Not early and validate often.  It is not enough for this to be a static data point that is established early in the cycle, you cannot assume that the answers do not evolve over time. Instead be comfortable asking the questions directly or as part of a story.  Learn to dive deep into the answers and not take them at face value.

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