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There’s something to be said about children who continue to ask “why” about everything. When they ask and you respond, and they ask “Why?” again, it means they don’t have the complete answer to their question. They will continue to ask until they understand the entire concept or until the adult gets frustrated.

In business, asking “Why?” five times can produce the same quality understanding to prepare for better results.

Common complaints we hear often in business:

“Sales wants more quality leads from marketing. The leads we currently receive from marketing don’t convert to clients.”

We may want to respond with a demand from the team:

“Get more leads for my business!” instead of trying to determine "Why" leads are currently slim.

We start on the surface by asking:

  • “Why don’t current leads convert?”
  • After a bit of blaming back and forth, the company drills down to the answer: “Because the majority of prospects we receive from marketing already have a solution in place and do not have a want or need for change.”

    Instead of making assumptions, we can drill down by asking “Why?” again:

  • “Why do we attract leads that already have a solution in place?”
  • The answer: “Because our advertisement language is promoting free information on a popular industry concept, not specifically a product benefit or value.”

    Going even further we question our practices again:

  • “Why are we promoting free information on a concept, not the product?”
  • The answer: “Because targeted advertising space for a new client base is expensive and out of our budget range.”

    Asking “Why?” a fourth time produces an even stronger response:

  • “Why is advertising space out of our budget range?”
  • The answer: “Because we spend a significant portion of the company’s revenue on expanding the capabilities of the operation.”

    And finally, we see the root cause of the problem:

  • “Why have we allocated a significant portion of the company’s operating budget to operations?”

The answer: “To plan for future growth.”

Today, this company’s bottleneck may appear, at first sight, to be the marketing team’s ability to attract leads. But asking why five times uncovers the underlying weakness. The company has made a decision to allocate what may be too many funds to one department. This has shifted the company’s bottleneck from operations to sales and marketing.

Without leads, there are no sales. Without sales, there is no revenue. Without revenue, there is no company.

In this case, as with many other scenarios, it’s easy to blame departments and processes on the surface. Rest assured, you’ll understand the bigger, clearer picture if you ask “Why?” five times.

Posted May 29, 2014

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