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Applying 'The Five Whys' to your enablement strategy

Sales processes can be complex, involving multiple stages, stakeholders, and challenges. When something goes wrong in the process, it can be tempting to jump straight to a solution without fully understanding the underlying problem.


That's where 'The Five Whys' technique comes in. Developed by Toyota in the 1950s as a problem-solving tool, 'The Five Whys' involves asking why something happened multiple times to get the root cause of a problem.


In this guide, we'll explore how 'The Five Whys' technique can be applied to a sales process to improve outcomes and drive success.


Step 1: Identify the Problem

The first step in applying 'The Five Whys' to a sales process is to identify the problem you want to solve. This could be negative sales velocity trends, decrease in conversion rates, increase in customer churn among other issues. Once you have identified the problem, you can begin asking 'why' to get to the root cause.


Step 2: Ask 'Why' Five Times

The next step is to ask 'why' five times to get to the root cause of the problem. For example, if the problem is a downward win rate trend, you might ask:


Why 1 - Why is my sales team's win rate dropping?

Because they are having trouble convincing prospects to make a purchase.


Why 2 - Why are they having trouble convincing prospects to make a purchase?

Because they are not effectively communicating the value of our product.


Why 3 - Why are they not effectively communicating the value of our product?

Because they are not trained on how to build and present a compelling business case.


Why 4 - Why are they not trained on how to build and present a compelling business case?

Because we don't have a formal Business Case training program in place.


Why 5 - Why don't we have a formal Business Case training program in place?

Because we haven't prioritised developing and implementing one.


By asking 'why' five times, you can drill down to the underlying cause of the problem and identify actionable solutions.


Step 3: Implement Solutions

Once you have identified the root cause of the problem, you can begin implementing solutions to address it. In the example above, we have identified that the root cause of the problem is a lack of formal Business Case training program to support the sales team's ability to build and present a compelling case for our product.


We can now implement solutions to address this issue, such as developing a structured Business Case training program that covers the key elements of building a business case, such as identifying pain points, quantifying the benefits, calculating ROI, and presenting the case to decision makers.


We can also define an environment for ongoing coaching and support to reinforce learning and ensure continuous improvement. These solutions can ultimately impact the team's win rates by enabling them to better communicate the value of our product and make a compelling case for prospects to make a purchase.


Benefits of 'The Five Whys' Technique in Sales

Applying 'The Five Whys' technique to a sales process can have several benefits, including:

  1. Improved problem-solving: By getting to the root cause of a problem, you can develop more effective solutions and avoid treating symptoms rather than the underlying issue.

  2. Increased collaboration: The Five Whys technique can be used to facilitate collaboration between different teams or stakeholders, allowing everyone to understand the problem and work together to solve it.

  3. Better outcomes: By addressing the root cause of a problem, you can improve outcomes in your sales process, from conversion rates to customer satisfaction.


'The Five Whys' technique is a powerful tool for problem-solving in any context, including sales processes. By asking 'why' multiple times, you can get to the root cause of a problem and identify actionable solutions to improve outcomes and drive success. So next time you encounter a challenge in your sales process, remember to ask 'why' and use 'The Five Whys' technique to get to the heart of the issue.

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