For the last eleven years I taught the most powerful word a salesperson could ask a prospect or client. ‘Why?.’ ‘Why is that?’ ‘Tell me why that is?’ These questions had two purposes:
- To gain a complete understanding of how a prospect/ client makes decisions. By asking why you gain an understanding of their values, which influence their priorities and choice.
- To ensure that you are not imposing your beliefs on them. By asking why, you don’t assume and therefore limit our natural tendency to judge another person’s perception of the world. You seek to understand. By understanding you learn their perspective and how they funnel information in their decision-making process.
The reward to the sales person is obvious. Get an understanding of the prospective buyer and how they make decisions, and you can tailor information about your product or service in a way that would be in line with their values and buying decision.
Although I have heard much debate about when to use ‘why’ and when not to, I hold my ground when it comes to influential sales techniques. This question exposes much of what we need to know to understand the other person.
More recently the power of ‘why’ and our obligation to ask it as a critical tool in our progression toward being equal citizens in a society became apparent. The goal is still ‘seek to understand.’ Through understanding only can progression take hold.
Recently I interviewed on Wisdom Exchange tv, Bience Philomina Gawanas, Commissioner of Social Affairs at the African Union. As a woman who has spent most of her life in pursuit of equality for women, she explains the obligation for not only women to ask why, but for men.
The commissioner talks about what equality means.
“(It is) not equal to men because there is no ‘man’s standard’ that I want to be equal to. It is about women and men being equal to each other. And it is the standard that we use to measure that equality is the human standard.”
With this responsibility the commissioner sees it is an obligation for women to:
- Frame the question
- Ask the question
- “Why does this rule exist?”
- “What does this rule intend to achieve?
If it is discrimination, we have the right to question.
Women need to ask these questions at all levels of society. If they are leaders in parliament, they must not accept the status quo. If they are leaders of their organization, they must not accept practices that alienate women and deny them opportunities. If they are leaders of their family, they need to treat all their children as capable and having the right to achieve their potential. And if you are a child, just a leader of your life, you need to ask, “Why does my brother not help with the dishes?”
The Commissioner feels that if all women question, we won’t continue to accept the inhuman traditions, nor accept the unfairly imposed political and business practices that have been passed down from generation to generation, or were created in the male-dominated boardrooms without any question at all.
This responsibility does not start and stop with women. Men too should want to seek equality for women. As the Commissioner explains men should be asking themselves, “Why have I lived such a privileged life?” “Why do we do the things we do?” Why am I treated as superior to women?”
Many women I have interviewed over the course of five months have agreed that there are consequences to being vocal, to speaking up for one’s rights and to question a man in private or public. Common accusations are that they want to become a man, or they are power hungry, or that they are too ambitious. The Commissioner handles these accusations in a similar way to promoting equality, and that is to ask the question. Ask, “Is it wrong to be ambitious?” “Is it wrong to have power?”
As a society, only when we all start to question will we be able to benefit from the contribution of all human beings to our family, society, companies, and countries. Questioning and understanding each other’s perspectives will be the only way to bring about positive change where all people can be treated as “equal” according to the “human standard.”
I have always been an advocate no matter in sales, leadership or in questioning our equality – She or He, who asks a question, is the one who controls the conversation; ultimately the one who asks the question is also the one who has the power to transform the situation. When it comes to your future, and your societies’, a few questions can lead to understanding and be the foundation of positive change for all humankind.
Action: No matter what your role, ask someone ‘why’ this week. Keep asking ‘why’ until you completely understand their perspective. Only then will you have enough information to challenge or support their perspective.
Suzanne F. Stevens, Conscious-Contributor™ Cultivator
Certified Speaking Professional, (CSP)
Social entrepreneur |Professional Speaker | Host | Author | Philanthropist
2017 National President: Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS)
Awards: TIAW World of Difference Recipient for women economic empowering
Accreditation: Suzanne is one of 65 Certified Speaking Professionals (CSP) in Canada and is in the exclusive 15% of speakers who have this designation internationally.