Using the 5 Whys Questioning Method with Your Prospects

Most business owners are looking for a quick fix to a problem. They search out a developer, designer, or consultant to quickly devise and implement a solution to their problem.

What they’re really asking for is generally a Band-Aid for a wound that really needs antibiotics.

While you could take on this project it’s probably a bad idea. In three months the issue will boil to a head again and you’ll either be applying a fresh Band-Aid or find out the client is telling other people your Band-Aid didn’t work.

What’s your job?

You may think you know what your job is, but I’d guess that many of you are wrong — you don’t actually know. If you’re a designer your job is not to design things. If you write code for websites your job is not to write code. If you’re a writer your job is not to write.

At their core, all three of the jobs above are the same. They are there to affect change in someone or something. The designer improves (changes) brand perception with a great brand identity. The developer increases (changes) conversions with a faster site. The writer communicates new ideas with the intent to change the opinion of readers so they can be better people than they currently are.

With that in mind I have a question for you.

Do you want to make good change or bad change?

I hope that everyone reading this wants to affect good change. I’m at least going to assume you do want to affect good change.

That means you need to get past the superficial fire that your prospects present to you and you need to find the root cause of the problem.

Enter 5 Whys

The 5 Whys is a really simple questioning tool to have in your tool belt. It simply consists of asking Why? 5 times.

Client: Our sales have dropped in our store and we need to fix that!

Question: Why have they dropped?

Client: Our competitor rolled out a new store and we saw a drop in sales right away.

Question: Why do you think this new store precipitated the drop in sales?

Client: Well, the new store of our competitor is mobile-friendly and our site isn’t. At least that’s our guess.

Question: Why do you think mobile friendly is a big deal?

Client: Of course, lots of shopping is done from a mobile device but more than that our demographic is skewing more and more to younger people and they use mobile devices even more than most.

In this case, we only needed 3 of the Why-based questions to find out that the demographic is changing. That lets us know that we may need to build a site that’s geared towards that younger demographic in more ways than just supporting mobile devices.

To prep for this (and we’ll talk about my prep routine near the end of the month) make sure you write down 5 WHYS in bold at the top of the page you’re using to take notes on the call. Underline it and circle it and put a pink unicorn sticker beside it. Do whatever it takes for you to remember to ask WHY 5 times in the next call you have with a client or prospect.

I’d love to hear how that call goes. Send me an email at curtis@curtismchale.ca.

photo credit: pasukaru76 cc