How You Can Leverage the “Why” Behind a Customer’s “What”

Think back to the various sales presentations you have experienced in your life. How many of them made you want to continue having conversations with sales people?

One? None? Less than none?

Sad but true, this really is the way your customers feel. So, why is this?

To answer that question, consider this typical car sales scenario:

Sales Person: “I am so glad you came in today. What can I help you find?”

Customer: “Well, my wife and I want to take a look at the new Nissan Maximas.”

Sales Person: “Fantastic! We certainly can help. Have you thought about what color you might be interested in and were you thinking new or pre-owned?”

Customer: “We definitely want new and we also want a low payment. As for color, black or silver.”

Sales Person: “Got it. I have a few on the lot. Would you like to test drive one?”

Customer: “Sure.”

So, what is the only thing we know from this exchange about the customer’s viewpoint? The only thing we know is the WHAT.

  • What color (Black or silver)
  • What style (Maxima)
  • What age (New)
  • What the payment requirements are (Low)

You might be thinking, “So? That is all good information to know, right?”

It is good to know, but there is so much more to a sales presentation than simply knowing what a customer wants.

If we only focus on what buyers want, then we behave just like every stereotypical sales person who unloads an avalanche of feature and benefit jargon in an effort to make a sale.

If focusing on the ‘what’ is NOT the answer, then what should we focus on?

Consider this alternate version of the car sales conversation:

Sales Person: “So, you are looking at cars… how is it going?”

Customer: “Okay. Kind of a little frustrating, actually.”

Sales Person: “I understand. You have probably run into a lot of sales people who are more focused on getting a sale than they are on you. To help make this a better experience, can I ask you a few quick questions?”

Customer: “Sure.”

Sales Person: “Great! Why are you thinking about buying a new car in the first place?”

Customer: “Well, my wife’s car is getting old so we thought we would take a look.”

Sales Person: “Can you tell me more about how her current car is ‘old’ and what kind of challenges you are having with it?”

Customer: “Well, it’s an SUV and we wish we did not have to get rid of it, but gas prices are killing us!”

Sales Person: “Killing you… how so?”

Customer: “Well, our daughter is heading off to college out-of-state and we want to visit her often, so getting a more fuel efficient car would really help cut down on costs.”

What did we discover in this version? The customer’s WHY!

Once you discover what specific factors that turned them into a customer to begin with — the why — you hold the most powerful sales tool of all.

The what is secondary. Aim for the why and change someone’s world!


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About the Author: Ryan Taft

Ryan Taft is consumed with a passion for helping others achieve breakthrough results in sales, business and life. With a career spanning two decades training and coaching sales teams from call centers to new home sales to Realtors®, Ryan combines his knowledge of human performance, psychology and sales skills development to deliver extraordinarily engaging, energizing and insightful training experiences that drive peak performance at all levels.  Learn more at and follow Ryan on Twitter.