I’ve taken a few different sales seminars over the years. Like anything else, I remember the bits that work for me and forget the rest.

A couple of years ago I attended a bootcamp with David Weinhaus, a sales enablement leader at Hubspot. I figured, hey, Hubspot is a sales-centric (and, mostly, customer-centric) organization so why not take a sales course from a company that is great at sales, right?

One of the concepts that I remember most from this training was the Five Whys. David didn’t come up with the idea. Interestingly enough, it was formulated in the late 19th century by a Japanese inventor named Sakichi Toyoda, who’s son would go on to create a little company you may have heard of, called Toyota.

    The Five Whys

    The Five Whys were established as a technique to determine the root cause of a problem. I’d heard of the model as it relates to problem solving, but David is the first sales person that helped me realize how easily it applies to the concepts of sales and company values – so I’m giving him credit for that.

    The concept is very simple – when you want to get the the root of an issue (including the problem a prospect is trying to solve), you have to ask “Why?” five times until you get to the real answer.

    Me: Why did you hide my car keys? (#1)
    The 8 y/o child: Because I wanted to

    Me: Why did you want to? (#2)
    Her: Because I didn’t want you to drive anywhere

    Me: Why didn’t you want me to drive anywhere? (#3)
    Her: If you drive somewhere then you will be gone at night

    Me: Why do you care if I’m gone at night? (#4)
    Her: Because I want you to help get me ready for bed and I don’t want mama to do it

    Me: Why do you want me to help get you ready for bed? (#5)
    Her: Because I can get away with more stuff with you than I can with mama

    Me: Are you sure you didn’t hide my keys because you’ll miss me too much if I go away?
    Her: Nope that’s not the reason. I’m sure of it.

    As you can see with that example, by asking “Why?” five times I was able to uncover the root of the issue: I am a bad parent and, as such, my child will maneuver in order to walk all over me.

    Had I only asked why one, two, three or four times, I would’ve mistakenly assumed that I was a good parent and she hid my keys because she’d miss me.

    Five Whys sounds like a lot, but this has been studied for over 100 years and, though not foolproof, it is guaranteed to get the person on the other end really thinking about the reasons they are doing what they are doing.

    the five whys

    Why The Five Whys

    When I ask people to tell me about their job or their company, more times than not I get a description of what they do.

    “We sell widgets to people who really love widgets. Our widgets are awesome.”

    Here’s the thing though, “whats” do not inspire people. “Hows” do not inspire people. People are inspired by the “why”.

    When I ask somebody about their company, I will be more engrossed if they give me the Why. The Why grabs my attention and leads to the What and the How.

    Why is your company doing what they are doing? Why does your product exist? Why is your role important to the mission of the organization?

    Without a company knowing their Why, there will be less productive employees and more people doing a j.o.b. Without the Why there will be less brand advocates and more transactional relationships.

    Without that Why, you will only have consumers and not loyalists.

    Whether you are in the C-Suite or the C-Space*, make sure you ask why you are doing what you are doing. And ask it five times so you walk away with the real answer.

    It’s not easy, but you are worth it.

    *C-Space = “common space” where all the worker-bees work

      If you like this article, please share it

      Somewhat Relevant Quote

      Today power is gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it.

      Dharmesh Shah, co-founder/CTO of Hubspot

      Random News

      RGB – She’s gone, but she’s still determining your fate

      Cuzzins – Your oldest ancestor was just found

      Robbery – This might be the best instance of breaking and entering ever

      Pretty – Somebody loves colors so much they spent the time to make this website

      Don’t Miss Out!

      Join thousands of others who receive the weekly newsletter in their inbox.

      Share the Article

      Leave A Comment
      Let me know somebody read this

      Related Posts

      if you liked the article above, you’ll love these others

      By Title Only with Jeff Matlow

      Ready to Transform Your Business?