I was always the inquisitive, and sometimes annoying, child in elementary school who asked the teacher WHY. As it pertained to certain math problems, I wanted to understand how and WHY that answer was correct, or WHY my answer wasn’t. In most cases, it was easy to understand and absorb. But on at least two occasions, my annoying questions of WHY uncovered mistakes in the grading book, much to the chagrin and embarrassment of my teacher.
As I grew, I applied the WHY to learning and competing in sports … WHY does that method produce better results than the other method? So through my 40+ years of executive sales leadership and business ownership, I’ve never lost sight of how asking WHY can be used to succeed.
WHY May Be the Most Powerful Word You Can Apply to Your Business
- “WHY do customers buy and not buy our products or services?”
- “WHY do we exist as a company?”
- “WHY does our sales team continually miss their sales goals?”
- “WHY did our competitor take away business from our top customer?”
- “WHY do our employees like to work here?”
These questions and hundreds more can be the key to your success – if you take the time to understand the power of the word WHY and how you can use it to both identify business problems and uncover the solutions to those problems.
Let’s take a quick look at the first question above: “WHY do customers buy our products or services?” Pretty simple and straightforward, right? Actually, in many cases it’s not that straightforward and requires you to take a deep dive into every aspect of your business, and not be afraid of what you might find. From your Business Value Proposition and understanding how each department impacts the Customer Experience; how you manage warranty claims; shipping orders on time; how you handle delinquent accounts without losing the customer; how your products or services can make or save money; to something as simple as the tone of your voice when you answer the phone and on and on and on … WHY is the single most powerful word you can use in assessing your business.
WHY Can Identify Issues in Your Business
Let’s explore an example that illustrates how the power of WHY can identify issues in your business.
COMPANY A – Manufactures plumbing products, has five key competitors and declining sales the past two years. WHY are their sales stagnant? The CEO sits down his management team and works through a brainstorming and information gathering event they have called “Operation WHY.” Here are some of the questions and team answers:
- WHY do customers buy our products?
- We have a vast line of products so customers can obtain most everything they need from a single source.
- We’ve been in business 42 years and are known as an industry leader.
- We ship 97% of all orders the same day.
- Our products have low warranty claims.
- WHY are our sales stagnant and not growing?
- We haven’t stayed ahead of the competition, who has developed some new products that our customers want and need.
- Our company has lost its customer-first commitment.
- We had turnover in Customer Service and have had issues with attitudes and lack of relationship building.
- Competitor A is targeting our key accounts and offering lower pricing on several of our key products.
- Competitor B offers an extra 15 day terms to all their larger customers.
- New account and pipeline development has declined.
Do you see some key trouble signs here? Absolutely. Competition is luring customers or part of their business away because they are in it to win it. Company A has stopped being the industry leader in many critical aspects of their business and thus has lost out to more aggressive and forward-thinking competitors.
Hopefully this exercise was a wake-up call for the management of Company A and they re-commit themselves to being the best in every aspect of their business. Just having a great product is only a part of WHY customers buy from you. Like Lean Manufacturing Best Practices, you must constantly evolve and improve as a business, and the Power of WHY is a great place to start.
WHO Goes With WHY
Another aspect of business is understanding who contributes to a positive customer experience. This is part of your “WHY do they buy from us” analysis. Since people do business with people, the first exposure to your company may be the salesperson. But they aren’t the only ones who contribute to the overall Customer Experience. Anyone that interfaces with your customers – Receptionist, Customer Service, Delivery Person, Accounting, Technical Support, Operations and more – are representatives of your company. Your reputation is in their hands. You will succeed by making sure that everyone who interfaces with customers has the same commitment to treating customers as they would want to be treated themselves. If your first cultural business change is the Customer Experience, then you are off to a great start.
WHY CHANGE TODAY – WHY NOT?
Steve Weimar is the founder and President of STI Enterprises, Inc., a fractional VP of Sales firm that provides comprehensive, performance-driven sales solutions for small to mid-sized corporations. You can reach Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.