Thursday, June 11, 2009

What vs Why?

Why use What?

We are all taught that the best questions in the discovery process are open-ended questions which can kick-start a conversation. They are way better than closed-ended questions which elicit a "yes" or a "no". Closed questions have their place at the start and end of conversations, but open-ended questions are the way to go.

Almost every sales methodology teaches the utility of "Who, What, Where, When, Why and How?" So is one of them better than another? Today we'll look at Why vs What. Now maybe it is my classic British education, but I find What to be a far more open and smoother conversational pivot than Why? Using Why always seemed to be more confrontational and questioning than using a What? Take a second to think about it and examine these two variations.

1. Why do you think that?

2. What do you think about that?

I prefer option #1, as do most people in my unofficial poll. In fact, to borrow a line from Scott Eblin, the only bad what question is "What in the hell were you thinking?"

So the lesson here, especially if you are one of those people who mentally prepare their questions beforehand, is to prefer the What over the Why when you are trying to build a relationship in the initial phases of the sales cycle.