Getting deeper in conversations is a problem many people deal with. If you are struggling with this in your conversations, then perhaps you need to consider HOW you are asking your questions, not WHY. Huh?
It is very natural for us to ask a person a ‘Why’ question when asking about something that isn’t working or is broken. That said, I would encourage you to think back to your childhood when you were asked a ‘Why’ question by a parent (e.g., Why did you do that?). I don’t know about you, but for me, I immediately mounted a defense every time that kind of question was asked. After all, who wants to be treated as if you did something wrong?
When you ask questions that begin with ‘Why,’ you almost guarantee the first word of their response will start with ‘Because.’ How often have responses starting with ‘Because’ won the deal? You see, ‘Why’ often times puts a customer in a position to defend or justify ‘why’ they made a decision, a change, etc. Consider the difference a question beginning with ‘How’ can make when asking about a decision or a choice made versus ‘Why.’
- Why did you choose that particular solution? Asking why they did this can imply that you think they have made a bad decision and often leads to the prospect spending the rest of the conversation on making sure you know they had good reasons to change to whatever they are using now. In fact, your intended proposal would require them to make another change to your product. If they did feel like you were questioning their reasoning, how might that predispose them to respond to your proposal?
- How did you decide on this solution? Asking how lends itself to more of an explanation of the process they used, which can surface very useful information.
For clarity, I am not at all advocating the banishment of asking ‘Why.’ It can, in fact, be very effective when used in the right context and circumstances. As with all things’ use your judgment. Then next time you get a defensive response from a customer, perhaps consider ‘why’ that happened.
Jeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.