Asking the Why question makes the How, What, Where, When and Who that much easier to answer.

At a recent TEDx conference, Jeffrey Fox, the NYT best selling author of How to Become a Rainmaker, How to Become a CEO and Rain to name just a few, was speaking to an audience of sales people, sales managers and company owners who were also in sales. Fox’s talk was on the concept of dollarizing your product or service. His contention was that terms such as “value added, highest quality, best of class, award winning” have no meaning to your customer. These terms and others like them mean nothing unless a dollar value can be associated with them. Your customer is not buying value added or best of class. They are buying your product or service because it will solve their problem and make/save them money. These terms also mean nothing to your customer because everyone uses them.

Fox then asked his audience if any of them or their sales people ever asked their customers the Why question, “Why do you need our product or service?” No one answered. Fox suggested that perhaps only a handful of sales people in the world ask the Why question, those he refers to as Rainmakers. Obviously there were no rainmakers in his audience.

Most of us in the recruiting business identify potential customers based on our specialization, our service offerings, research, marketing campaigns (including trade shows), direct inquiries, etc. We then conduct some more research and begin to develop a needs analysis based on available information from the prospects web site (they have 80 positions posted on their career site), news releases (recently announced an expansion in a new city) and networking (using our contacts from the various social media channels).

With all of this information we then make the first call knowing full well that we have services that they need, that they should do business with us and it is just a matter of price. But we never ask the Why question, “why do they need our service?” In many cases we need them more than they need us.  

Asking the Why question allows the customer to open up and discuss the real problems, the real issues, the real needs. And it allows the sales person to offer a service that is solution based and dollarized. Remember customers only buy your service to solve their problem and to make/save money. If you can provide as good or better service than your competitors and demonstrate that your service will make/save more money for your customer than your competitors, you will win the business.

Knowing that a customer has multiple openings that your company can help fill is important. Asking why they need your service or a service like yours could provide you with the following information:

  • These are all revenue generating positions. Everyday that they go unfilled the company loses revenue.
  • Currently using high paid contractors to fill positions, margins are low and relationship with client is delicate. We could lose the business.
  • Company reputation is at risk, since we market ourselves as providing the best talent, quickly. What we sell is not what we have been delivering. Losing market share and business.
  • Some of these positions are replacement positions. Recently lost a number of experienced people to competition and internal resources have not been able to find the level of talent needed.

Successful selling is all about asking the right questions and listening to the answers. Those of us in the recruiting business put this into practice everyday. Some might say that recruiters are always asking Why questions, “Why is the position open?, Why would someone want to work for your company?, Why do you want to work for this company?, Why do you want to leave your current position?”  All good questions but none of them provide you with the key to your success. Knowing why a customer needs your service will allow you to become the Rainmaker you would like to be.

I am going to begin asking the Why question of all of our company’s prospective customers and insist that our new business consultants do the same.

And just so that our company is prepared, I have just ordered six new umbrellas.

Let the rains begin!

Views: 873

Comment by Valentino Martinez on July 25, 2011 at 11:00pm
Why do you think "How, What, Where, When and Who" don't have equal, and sometimes even priority value over leading with "WHY?"  As a recruiter I need to know What you did; When you did it; and Where you did it and will defer HOW and WHY to the technical experts.
Comment by Nick Tubach on July 26, 2011 at 9:07am

Valentino, all questions have value. The WHY question that I mention in my blog is the question we should all be asking of our prospective clients(the ones who are paying for our services). WHY do they need help in filling their positions, building their candidate pipeline, developing hiring strategies? Once we know their WHY we can ask the other questions, WHAT types of backgrounds are you looking for, WHERE are these positions located, WHEN do you  want to see qualified candidates, and WHO will be conducting the interviews, and finally, HOW do you want to work with us? 

The WHY question allows you to dollarize your solution. It allows you to say to your customer, this is WHY you need my service.

Thanks for the comment.

Comment by Valentino Martinez on July 26, 2011 at 11:42am


You're right.  My take was more directed at the candidates we pursue rather than the questions we should pose to our clients. 

You do realize, that by pushing the WHY This?  WHY That? The client may say, "Wow, I never thought of that...I don't need you're help after all...I'll promote from within."

Comment by Barbara J. Jones on July 26, 2011 at 2:04pm

Why is the Million Dollar Question!

I agree with Nick, but I take the question even farther. I have been in this business for over 35 years and I have found this personally to be true but also train this to new recruiters.  Why is the great equalizer for most objections. Send me a resume? Why? We only pay 15%! Why? We don't use recruiters! Why? the list goes on. On the Candidates side" Why"  works as well.

You need to develop a way to ask the "Why" that is not abrasive, abrupt or too condescending.  "Why" should always be your mind set. Your success as a recruiter can be determined by how well you master the Question Why...

As for the directing it to the candidate more than the client... We need to have the clients questing themselves; I do. I push for the "NO"... but that is my approach and it has worked for me. If I can somehow be of service to in the in the future, I am an email away. I wish you a life to be proud of, Legally Protected, Barbara Jones, President and CEO: an active member of  SixDegrees and, MLPF, SCN Supply Chain Network and I am an open net worker (LION)., barbara(dot)apbglobal(at)gmail(dot)com

How can I make your day excellent? Portland, OR   PS: I wish you a life to be proud of; is not a statement it is a way of life and I do my best to live it.

Comment by Leigh Cosgrove on July 27, 2011 at 4:25am
I have to say that I am dubious about asking "why do you need our services?" I can imagine that the answers will be much the same as Valentino highlights answers would be we don't, we have a preferred suppliers list, we don't, we only pay 15%, we don't, we have an internal recruitment team. Whilst I can see this gives you an opportunity to extoll the virtues of your service offering against what ever they have in place you have already started the conversation with them telling you that they don't need your services which is a very difficult place to come back from.
Comment by Nick Tubach on July 27, 2011 at 10:23am

Leigh, my response to the prospect's answers to the WHY question would be, "Are any of them working? Are your preferred suppliers helping you fill your openings, build your pipeline, lower your recruiting costs, reduce your time to fill?, Is your 15% fee structure helping you solve your problems?, Is your internal recruitment team able to produce quality candidates in a timely manner, consistently?"

Asking the WHY question gets you to the real problem, the prospect is losing business, losing money, losing good candidates. If you can demonstrate that your service will help the client make or save money thgen none of the objections you mention will matter. And if they continue to come up then you are talking to the wrong person. The higher up we go in the corporate food chain to ask the WHY question, the more important the dollars become.

Comment by Valentino Martinez on July 27, 2011 at 11:33am



Don't trip over too much talk.  If the door is open for you to perform--then perform.  Staffing managers have an aggressive list of proven service providers who also want access to their business.  If you want to play 20 Questions too often you may Piss-off the Pope and get passed over.  



Comment by Nick Tubach on July 27, 2011 at 1:04pm
Certainly don't want to Piss-off the Pope, especially the current one. But I am not asking all those questions, just one, the WHY question.
Comment by Valentino Martinez on July 27, 2011 at 1:31pm
Sorry for having to drop the Pope Card.
Comment by Nick Tubach on July 27, 2011 at 2:37pm
No problem. The last time I dropped the Pope card was when John XXIII was around. Thanks for the good banter on this topic.


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