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Move from What and How to Why


Guest articles > Move from What and How to Why


by: Deb Calvert


Any seller who lasts longer than a day in the job can explain what their product does.

Any seller who makes it through a few commission checks can explain (or bring in experts to explain) how their product works. They may even be able to explain how their product works better than the competitors’. A lot of sellers stop there. A lot of buyers don’t buy because sellers over-rely on what and how to make the sale.

This is why buyers are beginning to see sellers as unnecessary. Your marketing department, your company’s website, consumer reviews and industry publications already do the job of explaining what your product is and how it works. No one really needs you to do that work.

But there is something different you can and should do. It’s something no one else can do, and it will dramatically improve your sales effectiveness. What’s more, buyers are clamoring for this and appreciate it more than any other sales-related activity.

You can explain why.

  • Why a buyer can benefit by choosing your product.
  • Why a buyer is missing out without your product.
  • Why your product provides, adds and creates personalized value for your buyer.

Explaining why takes selling to the next level. It makes you – the person answering this tough question – more than a walking billboard. It positions you as a resource with meaningful information that no one else can provide.

In “Start with Why” and in his TED talks, author and research Simon Sinek challenges the assumption that customers make purchasing decisions because of superior quality, features, price or service. He describes how typical manipulations do drive sales – price reductions, innovations, special promotions, fear and pressure tactics, and promises of future reward all result in some sales being made.

But Sinek continues to point out the hidden costs and downsides of relying on these types of manipulations. They are not sustainable long-term, and they leave sellers wide open to being undercut or one-upped by the competition. Manipulations, he says, lead to transactions, not to customer loyalty.

What’s missing in these manipulative sales tactics is that buyers are not inspired. Each one buys for the same reason (the current manipulation). No one buys for personal reasons, the kind of reasons that do engender loyalty.

In order to inspire buyers, sellers have to dig deeper. The manipulations are all superficial and for that very reason, anyone can use them to steal your customer.

Digging deeper means understanding why the buyer needs your product – but not just for the obvious, superficial reason. It’s a classic features/benefits equation. Superficially, a buyer buys a drill to make a hole. Knowing that, a seller can manipulate price, present features or run a promotion to make the sale.

At a deeper level, why does that buyer want to make a hole? The seller who learns about the project taps into what is really driving the buyer. Knowing that motivation means the seller can inspire the buyer – a drill sale may become a complete remodeling project. The seller who understands and responds to this will sell a lot more than a drill. The buyer who connects with a seller in this way will be less susceptible to price, promotions or manipulations that would otherwise lead them into sales transactions elsewhere.

To understand “why,’ sellers have to ask “why?” It’s not a comfortable question to ask a buyer, but it’s an important one if you hope to connect and inspire buyers. Try these alternatives if “why” seems intrusive or confrontational.

  • Help me understand more about what led to your interest
  • What’s driving your need for ___?
  • What makes this important to you at this time?
  • Since this is one part of what you do, describe the bigger picture to me.
  • What difference will it make to you, personally to __?”

No matter how you phrase it, put a little why in every sales call. You’ll gain insight, build rapport, inspire your buyer and close more sales.


Deb Calvert is President, People First Productivity Solutions

Contributor: Deb Calvert

Published here on: 05-Jan-14

Classification: Development



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