I just spent an entire week working with a sales team facing increasing competition and suffering from a less than stellar closing ratio. They were having difficulty differentiating themselves despite their position as the market leader.

When I began working with them I was more surprised than usual as we began to work on compelling reasons.

They believed that their prospect’s compelling reasons to buy were reputation, warranty, construction, quality, safety, design and customer service. Wrong! These are features of their product, benefits of ownership, and important as they are, none provide a compelling reason to buy anything. At best, they create peace of mind after someone has decided to make a purchase.

If those aren’t the compelling reasons to buy, what are? To answer that question, you must ask yourself, what would make someone want this? In their case, it started with a follow-up call after a catalog request. While they had been asking if the catalog was received, whether anyone looked at it, etc., I had them change the call to this: “out of curiosity, why did you request the catalog?” That question gets to the compelling reasons.

Do you know what the compelling reasons are that prospects would want to buy your product or service? Have you made the same mistakes as these salespeople? Those features and benefits don’t become important until after you identify your prospects’ compelling reasons to buy.

Use the Infield Why Rule from Baseline Selling to get at compelling reasons. How many times must you ask ‘why’ before you get to the compelling reasons? Let’s try this exercise on something you probably don’t sell, like yachts:

Let’s pretend that you are the yacht salesperson and you ask your next prospect, “so why are you interested in a yacht?”

[always wanted a boat].

“Sure, but why?”

[we love the water]

“Most people do. But why do you want to own a boat?”

[want to be in control; want to feel the exhilaration; want to cruise when we want, where we want, as long as we want, as far as we want]

“OK. How long have you felt that way?”

[for years]

“So, why now?”

[we feel like we’re running out of time]


[we only have about 10 more years before we retire and we want to own the boat by then. We won’t be able to afford to buy one after we’ve retired so it’s now or never]

In the exercise above, we identified three compelling reasons only after we had asked three ‘why’ questions. On the fourth, ‘why now?’, we heard the compelling reason that gives us urgency. Can you do that?

Many salespeople don’t help their prospects feel and articulate the urgency needed to close a sale. Compelling reasons provide the urgency. Try this exercise again, but this time, do it on the product or service that you sell. See how many times you might have to ask ‘why’ before you get to the real, compelling reasons why someone would buy.

For more detailed help on compelling reasons, reread the chapter on Getting to 2nd Base in your copy of Baseline Selling.