Simon Sinek’s brilliant Ted Talk video ‘Start with Why’ has been viewed by more than 13 million people. If your role involves selling or marketing and you haven’t watched it yet then this could be a great investment of 20 minutes of your time – certainly many of your clients will have seen it! Alternatively read this article first and then look at the video, if we have tempted you…
The one paragraph summary…
At some point in every sales conversation, the subject will come round to who you are, how you can help your potential client and of course, what sets you apart from your competitors. If you have been on our programmes, you will hopefully have spent the majority of the time up to this point focussed on them, asking great questions, educating them about the market and earning real trust. Now you have ‘earned the right’ to talk about your own company – but just how do you open this part of the conversation? Do you talk about your products, your happy customers or your differentiators?
Simon Sinek, makes a great case for doing none of this – at least not straight away – instead suggesting you keep the focus from the beginning on explaining just WHY you as a company exist and what is the essence of what you do.
Using the Power of Why to truly differentiate your company and solutions
Many salespeople we come across are passionate about their own company, what they do and their products which may be better, more technically advanced and overall superior to those of their competitors
In fact when we ask sales teams ‘what differentiates you from your closest competitors?’, we get the same answers time and time again:
- We have better support
- We offer better quality
- We have better geographic coverage
- We are larger / smaller / more nimble
- We are more cost effective
- We have a better track record
In other words WHAT you do and maybe HOW you do it….
You may come up with a similar list of your own -try it out… But then ask yourself – what would your competitors’ sales teams say about their own differentiators? Is it that different? And is it really compelling when you talk to clients about it – especially when they have heard the list many times before?
The difference that makes the difference…
Sinek uses examples of the really successful organisations (Apple being the notable example, but there are of course others) and how they successfully differentiate them from the ‘also-rans’. He concluded that it is definitely not what they do that sets them apart; it’s not even their products ……
In fact Sinek suggests that WHAT you do rarely consistently sets you apart. Many of our clients would agree with this – whether they are Professional Services Firms, Software Companies or Technology Providers, it’s becoming harder and harder to truly differentiate yourself based on your products or services alone. Some companies we talk to are therefore focusing more and more on HOW they deliver their products (delivery times, support, added value services etc) This might give them a short term edge – although they are finding that their competitors are tracking their moves and duplicating them…
The other factor here is how clients actually make decisions in high value, complex B2B sales. From our experience, decisions are rarely made on the WHAT ( eg functionality, price or delivery speed) In fact, when sales people reduce the conversation to what they do and why this is faster, better, cheaper, they run the risk of sounding like every other supplier and often the sales conversation and resulting negotiations will be confined to price rather than on value delivered. A dangerous and slippery slope especially in a competitive market when margins are tight.
The Golden Circle – and how this can help you cross sell
Sinek’s work reinforces some principles adopted by some of the top Professional Services Firms we work with – e.g. the realisation that when C level clients evaluate a solution, they are actually more concerned about what’s fundamentally different about your organisation and your offerings. In short, although they may not have the time or bandwidth to get into the detail, they might remember ONE thing about what really sets you apart….e.g. WHY do you do what you do??
Sinek describes his Golden Circle – and makes the point that most salespeople start off by explaining WHAT they do, maybe covering HOW they do it and rarely mentioning the underlying WHY -or even if they do, people may have stopped listening because they have just got a version of everybody’s elevator pitch that they have heard many times before!
In Sinek’s research he looked at many of the world’s most respected organisations and people – the ground-breakers, the true leaders, and the pioneers – and discovered a remarkably consistent pattern to their communications: they didn’t define themselves by describing what they do or how they do it instead they inspire their audiences by first defining WHY they do what they do….
If you think about it, truly inspirational sales people don’t inspire us with their portfolio of products and data sheets. They inspire us because they project a clear vision – that they can persuade the rest of us to buy in to.
Importantly – he suggests once a client has ‘got you’ as an organisation and understands your WHY, they are much more likely to buy more from you – not just more of the same but a much wider variety of products and services. This point really resonates with us – many of our clients see cross selling as a key challenge and spend a lot of time selling the WHAT of every single new service…Using Sinek’s model, we are now working with them to clearly articulate the broader WHY and they are already finding that it takes a lot of pressure off having to explain the detail of the WHAT and HOW.
Making this work in practice
Very few organisations or sales people spend time articulating clearly and compellingly the three most important things that will inspire their clients:
- WHY they choose to do what they do e.g. their passion for their market, their mission, their specialist knowledge etc…
- WHY their company exists e.g. where they have decided to fit into the competitive mix
and finally and crucially
- WHY does that matter to their customers – “what this means to you is…”
Clients and senior decision makers in particular are not only interested in buying our products and services. They want to buy into our companies, our people – because WHY we’ve chosen what to do and HOW we go about doing it resonates with them.
And, of course, that’s not the end of the WHY: just as importantly, our sales conversations need to help our clients understand why they need to change from the status quo, why they need to change now rather than later, and why they need to make that change with us.
Because whether we want to get our clients to recognise the need for change, and do something differently or whether we are trying to persuade them of the value of implementing our solution… it all starts with why.
Realigning our sales messages
We work with our clients to get them to take a fresh look at the messages they craft for their clients. How can they shift those messages and sales conversations from an emphasis on ‘what we do’ and shift the focus to ‘how’s’ and those crucial ‘why’s’.
At the start it can be a challenge but it does not take long to realign those messages starting off with the big WHY then on to HOW and finally the WHAT – a sequence which if you follow can make all the difference and truly inspire your clients. With practice, feedback and encouragement we’ve found this soon becomes a habit which is then positively reinforced by the sales success that the new approach delivers.
So – what is your company’s WHY???
Greenbank are a global Performance Consultancy specialising in developing leaders, strengthening teams and ultimately driving sales growth.
We invest our time to really understand the business needs our clients have and then we add our own expertise and experience to develop tailored programmes focused on delivering measurable and sustainable results
For more information on us, or if you are interested in how Greenbank can support your transition to a WHY-based sales approach, please contact Ian Hirst, Greenbank CEO on +44 (0)20 8299 4060 or email@example.com