The 5 Whys simplicity

Commissioned recently by a leading manufacturer/distributor of hydraulic kit to help stimulate sales of a new kind of filtration product, I rolled up my sleeves only to learn that none of the sales team were really selling it.  Over the past 18 months or so, only 6 examples of ‘wins’ could be fully traced.  Knowing this would raise alarm bells for their management, I wondered how I could add value to their planning, whilst also not setting myself up for being a messenger that got shot!

So to let the sales manager shine, I attempted to unravel his issues using the 5 Whys technique.  It’s a decent technique to help get to the core of an issue.  The idea is that if you ask “Why?” five times, relating each subsequent ‘why’ to an issue from the previous answer, then by the fifth answer, you’ve a clear idea of one potential remedy.  Like any such technique, it’s not an exact science (there’s always a few candidates for that of “right answer”) but it does prove a useful guide.  Here’s an edited version of how one solution was proffered:

Why are sales less than hoped for?
When initially mentioned on calls by sales people, a lukewarm response typically resulted.

Why are responses lukewarm?
It can be considered that they’ve already got a supplier that they’re relatively happy with and to change could cause them hassles with cross-referencing part numbers and changing stock systems etc.

Why aren’t these ‘hassle’ ’perceptions tackled?
No need to push again if other products can make targets, and as the Sales team are generally more comfortable with other, traditional products, as befits their background, they focus on those at the expense of the new product discussions.

Why isn’t focus maintained on the new products?
After having one conversation about it with no joy, why revisit or re-pitch? Especially if apprehension bubbles under about perceived lack of new product knowledge – and discussing them could introduce a customer to possible gaps in our range/knowledge/capability.

Why is “re-visiting” an issue?
Despite the new products being considered an everyday item, they still need several conversations to bear any fruit and momentum inevitably ebbs.  To embed this into sales peoples routines, focus should be introduced so that you can monitor how key conversations are going, their impact and progression……

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