Are you selling the what or the why?

Whether or not your job title reflects it, you are a salesman. We sell to our customers, to our managers, to our family and friends. We are constantly selling what we believe, asking others to buy it and come along to where we want to go. My three year old is my toughest customer, especially when it comes to selling her the idea of washing her hair before bed!

Simon Sinek always starts with why.

Ideas resonate strongest with me when I hear them confirmed in unexpected places. Recently I watched a classic Ted Talk by Simon Sinek about how leaders inspire action. The same day I heard part of a sales training webinar featuring Tim Wackel about improving conversion rate on leads. The main message is that people are much more interested in “why” you are talking than “what” you are talking about.

Sinek uses Apple and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to illustrate his concept of the “Golden Circle:” three concentric circles containing why, how, and what.

Tim Wackel’s “value proposition 101” states the issue, action, and outcome.

He proposes that “why” appeals to the center of our minds, the part without language that controls emotion and relationships. Wackel calls it “value proposition 101:” state the customer’s issue, the action you propose, and the outcome they can expect.

In both cases, when we make an appeal to the belief, aspiration, or concern in the hearts of other people, we capture their attention and signal alignment. If we build on that alignment with an action or solution that fits their rational needs, we are much more likely to get to “yes.” Just as importantly, if the initial statement of “why” does not resonate, both parties move on without wasting time over fruitless discussions about “what.”

So the next time you are selling an idea, at work or at home, start with your statement of “why.” You’ll find the approach to be much more enjoyable for everyone involved in the conversation–I know that bathtime at my house certainly is.


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