A prospect calls one day. “I’d like to buy a widget,” she says.

Nine out of ten salespeople will respond, “Sure, let me show you some widgets.” Which means they will all be competing for the same sale, with little or nothing to differentiate them.

Those are pretty tough odds.

The salesperson most likely to have an edge will be the one who starts asking, “Why?”

Every time you ask why, you dig deeper into the buyer’s needs. Research shows that it usually takes about five “whys” to get to the root of any problem. That’s five opportunities to leave your competitors behind – and five opportunities to expand your sale.

Let’s look at an example:

“I need a new widget,” the buyer says.

“Well, you came to the right place,” you say. “We sell lots of widgets. So tell me, why do you need a new widget?”

The buyer says, “Because my old widget broke.”

You’ve already gained an edge. Where your competitors are selling any old widget, you know your buyer is most likely to be interested in highly reliable widgets. But don’t stop there.

“Sorry to hear that,” you say. “So why did it break?”

“It overheated.”

“I see. Why did it overheat?”

“Well,” the buyer admits, “we didn’t maintain it properly.”

“Really? Why not?”

“Because we’re too busy to keep up with all the different maintenance schedules in our plant.”

“Wow, sounds like you’re really swamped over there. What’s keeping you so busy?”

“Well, we had to lay off some of our maintenance staff.”

Aha! This customer needs a lot more than a new widget. She desperately needs someone to help her short-handed staff maintain all those widgets. Our seller’s company provides support services. That’s a huge opportunity – but without digging down deep, it would have been an opportunity missed.

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