“Why” Sales

Huddle publishes commentaries from groups and individuals on important business issues facing the Maritimes. These commentaries do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Huddle.

By Chris Weir

Enable Client Action by Leading with Purpose

Why I am a sales professional, mentor and a sales educator has to do with what I believe my purpose is. I believe that this region needs growth and that I can play an important role in helping organizations and people achieve their growth potential.

With that in mind, I want to introduce you to an idea that may help you sell more of yourself, your company or your products because I have recently been inspired with a different way of doing things. I love new ideas and I love sharing new sales techniques, especially when they are proven to work. By focusing on communicating your Purpose, your Why, you increase your chances of being successful in moving people to take action.

Focusing on how to communicate your big “P” Purpose, while selling, came to me from a book I received as a gift. The book is Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek.

Sinek writes that any person or organization can explain what they do, some can explain how they are different or better; but very few can clearly articulate Why. The heart of Sinek’s point is that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” And it is an understanding of another’s beliefs or purpose that has a lasting impact on trust and loyalty.

Sinek’s simple yet effective concept “The Golden Circle” is a framework upon which he claims “organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired” – and it all starts with Why (i.e. your big “P” Purpose, cause or belief). First, tell someone why you do something (your purpose), then how you do it (your company/job) and end with what you do (your product/service). The best leaders all communicate by first stating their Why and it is the effective communication of Why that helps to create a lasting connection with people.

Diagram of the Golden Circle, as shown in Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

If you are a sales professional, leading with your Why when talking to clients has the potential to create trust and loyalty, something most people want in a business relationship. I know I do. Sinek doesn’t say this in his book but I think his philosophy is also related to the expression “No one cares how much you know until they first know how much you care.”

It feels good to work with people who believe what we believe. Stating your Purpose also helps identify who our ideal clients are by allowing them an easy way to choose us based on our beliefs, cause or purpose. Ideal clients care less about price and the quality of our products compared to our competitors (even though these things are still important). Sinek likes to use Apple as an example of a company that has created incredible market success by leading with their Purpose or Why (e.g. remember the “Think Different” ads?). Their products are not always the best and they are expensive compared to their competitors but no one can question Apple’s ability to create a loyal client following.

Unfortunately not all clients are ideal ones and not all clients care about their sales person’s personal purpose. I believe that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” but it doesn’t hold true in all cases. There are many different types of buyers, sellers and products. When we buy a commodity for instance we often just want to buy it and save as much money as we can when doing it. Sinek also neglects to discuss how hard it can be for some people to find and then articulate their Why. Knowing oneself can be the hardest thing of all, which makes it special when we find someone who appears to have figured this out. When selling something other than a commodity (e.g. professional services), I believe Sinek’s framework can play its most important role in helping sales people be successful.

Sinek’s “Golden Circle” idea, when applied to selling, would seem backwards for many people. If you have a great product to sell then shouldn’t you lead with that? Plus, starting a conversation by talking about yourself seems selfish and rude (especially if you are an introvert). Yet, in my experience, as a seller of professional services, clients want to know who they are dealing with. Many feel more at ease when they first understand the motivations of the people who they could be working with. Consciously or subconsciously, clients are always asking themselves “why should I work with this person?” So, give them an answer!

“Why” Sales, the title of this piece, is not a question. It is a statement. We all know the importance selling plays in the success of business ventures. It is essential. “Why” Sales is a new perspective on selling for you to consider. Think of it as beginning client conversations and relationships with the end in mind. You are seeking to work with people who believe what you believe and you are giving them a chance to see themselves in you.

Stating your Why is an open door. It gives a client a chance to connect with you on a level that may be different than your competitors. If you haven’t tried connecting with clients on this level, then it is worth a try. Give more of your prospects what they need to move forward with you in a new business relationship. Or you may take an old client relationship to a new level. Hopefully this article will help you grow as a sales person and in turn your new skill will help your employer, business or clients grow too. “Why” not?

Chris Weir is a Business Development Executive at EY and an instructor in the MBA program at UNB Saint John.