The sales power of communicating your WHY

By Renae Gregoire | Differentiation

Aug 19
Simon Sinek WHY

When I started my business back in 2002, I was on a mission.

I wanted to help small business owners, solopreneurs, and marketers lead more people to YES with clear content and strong positioning that would differentiate them online and offline. 

As time went on, my motives became less altruistic. Growing more and more tired of crappy content on crappy websites that may or may not work, I also set out to make my own experiences on the web as smooth and pleasant as possible.

My mission enlarged a bit. Now, I'm out to make the web a better, easier place for all of us, one website, one web page, one blog post at a time. ​

Tall order, right?

I'm working on it.

Along my journey, I've discovered that there are actually two secrets to creating content that leads to YES: 1) HOPE, and 2) WHY.

Secret #1: HOPE

The first secret is simply to recognize that the people reading your content are reading with HOPE. 

They're reading your content because they HOPE you're the right business for them. 

They HOPE you can solve their problem, ease their pain, meet their challenge.

They HOPE you can give them what they need so they can say YES.​

Your job, then, is simple: to NOT dash those hopes.

I work with my clients to methodically weed out all of the things that dash hopes.

That's the first secret.

Secret #2: WHY

The second secret to better sales, to stealing sales away from your competitors, is to light up your prospects, to inpsire them, by sharing your WHY. 

Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why, explained in his famous Ted Talk  what your WHY is, why it's so inspirational, and therefore why it's extremely important.  

Every single person, every single organization on the planet knows what they do, 100 percent. Some know how they do it, whether you call it your differentiated value proposition or your proprietary process or your USP. But very, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do. And by "why" I don't mean "to make a profit." That's a result. It's always a result. By "why," I mean: What's your purpose? What's your cause? What's your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?

He's saying that every business talks about WHAT they do -- your competitors included.

Some businesses talk about HOW they do it -- their process or secret sauce or USP.

But very few, he says, talk about WHY they do what they do.

WHAT, HOW, WHY: The trifecta to aim for

Picture this trifecta of WHAT, HOW, and WHY as a circle, what Sinek calls the Golden Circle. Most people, he says, talk about their businesses in terms of their WHAT and HOW, rarely ever getting to the WHY. Those people are communicating from the OUTSIDE, IN. But the people who wind up with hordes of fans, followers, and customers start with their WHYs; for them, the WHAT and HOW are less important. Those folks, the inspired and inspirational ones, communicate from the INSIDE, OUT.

Knowing your WHY: How to find your ideal customers using Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle

Here's a real-life example from the TedTalk transcript that illustrates why starting with your WHY matters so much:

As a result [of most people starting with their WHAT and HOW], the way we think, we act, the way we communicate is from the outside in, it's obvious. We go from the clearest thing [the WHAT and HOW] to the fuzziest thing [the WHY]. But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations -- regardless of their size, regardless of their industry -- all think, act and communicate from the inside out [starting always with their WHY].

Let me give you an example. I use Apple because they're easy to understand and everybody gets it. If Apple were like everyone else, a marketing message from them might sound like this: "We make great computers. They're beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. Want to buy one?"

"Meh."

That's how most of us communicate. That's how most marketing and sales are done, that's how we communicate interpersonally. We say what we do, we say how we're different or better and we expect some sort of a behavior, a purchase, a vote, something like that.

Here's our new law firm: We have the best lawyers with the biggest clients, we always perform for our clients. Here's our new car: It gets great gas mileage, it has leather seats. Buy our car.

But it's uninspiring. Here's how Apple actually communicates. "Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?"

Totally different, right? You're ready to buy a computer from me. I just reversed the order of the information. What it proves to us is that people don't buy what you do; people buy why you do it. This explains why every single person in this room is perfectly comfortable buying a computer from Apple. But we're also perfectly comfortable buying an MP3 player from Apple, or a phone from Apple, or a DVR from Apple.

As I said before, Apple's just a computer company. Nothing distinguishes them structurally from any of their competitors. Their competitors are equally qualified to make all of these products. In fact, they tried. A few years ago, Gateway came out with flat-screen TVs. They're eminently qualified to make flat-screen TVs. They've been making flat-screen monitors for years. Nobody bought one. Dell came out with MP3 players and PDAs, and they make great quality products, and they can make perfectly well-designed products -- and nobody bought one.

In fact, talking about it now, we can't even imagine buying an MP3 player from Dell. Why would you buy one from a computer company?

But we do it every day.

People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it.

The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.

That underlined bit is the most important message of all.

simon sinek quote

The thing is -- if you share your WHY, why you do what you do, what you believe, what makes your heart beat and your fists pump, then you'll give space for people who believe what you do to make that connection -- and to say YES!

  • Yes! I know exactly what she's saying!
  • Yes! That's the way I want it to happen!
  • Yes! This gal's speaking my language; I know with her help, we can do it! 
  • Yes! This person is the right one for me.

Do you inspire? Does your content inspire? 

Do I know why I sell writing, editing, and brand and content strategy services? Yep. As I said at the beginning of this post, I do what I do because I care about the experience of readers and online shoppers and anyone who's on the web trying to learn something, solve a problem, buy a product, or improve their lives.

Do you know why you’re selling your training services, coaching services, accounting services, SaaS services, legal services? 

Why did you get into the industry? What’s your story?

An example from someone I know in financial services

​Here's the true story of a guy I know in the financial services industry. We'll call him Tom. 

Tom used to be in the general financial services arena, selling retirement plans, insurance, that sort of thing. Then he learned of an opportunity to niche down into a specialized area, and decided to give it a try. His funnel starts with direct mail postcards, which invite people to attend free workshops on his topic. At the end of the workshop, he offers a free consultation to people who want more. At that free consultation meeting, he pitches one set of services. If the prospect buys, chances are good that Tom will pitch another set of services later on. 

Tom quickly decided that the niche market was for him, and plunged in with both feet. Here's what he had to say about why he stayed. ​

I was sold on our product after giving my first workshop, which happened to be ‘lousy’ to ‘awful.’ Yet even though the workshop was terrible, at least a dozen people came in for services. I realized then that I was serving a starving market. These people were willing to listen. They’re willing to bring in their tax returns, their financial statements, and everything else on the first meeting, whereas before I was literally having to chase down leads. Compared to the chase game, it was as if I had found the Holy Grail of leads. Don’t get me wrong, I was successful in regular financial services, but it wasn’t fun. THIS service is fun though, because there’s a real market for it. People are willing to come in, open up, and, in a high percentage of cases, you know you can help them. That’s what drives me. It’s not the dollar amount I sell. Or how big the fee is. I feel good when I leave the office knowing I helped people on any given day.”

Here’s what I take away from Tom's story:

  • He discovered that even a poorly presented offer can get people to raise their hands -- if it's the right offer to the right people at the right time.
  • He realized that people were coming in to the free consultant meetings ready to share. They were ready to share because they were in need and ready to buy.
  • He understood that he could help a high percentage of the people who knocked on his door, virtual or otherwise.
  • Helping people is what drives him.
  • Helping is his WHY.
  • To Tom, helping is "fun."

Are you having fun yet? Have you found your WHY?

MORE SALES: The reason why you need a WHY

Here's another reason why finding -- and communicating -- your WHY is so important: If you don't then, you'll be communicating just your WHAT, and maybe your HOW. And you'll be perceived as just another provider, just another person or company who does what you do. 

A small business owner with a WHY is in it to help people. A small business owner without a WHY is in it for the sale. 

A small business owner who has a WHY will consult with prospects. She'll sit back and relax to encourage them to relax, too. She'll ask questions – a lot of questions. A small business owner without a WHY will talk at and sell to prospects. She'll talk more than she listens. She’ll use sales tactics and techniques – the stuff that feels icky and that prospects see through.

A small business owner with a WHY finds that sales come naturally, without struggle, without a chase. Small business owners without a WHY have a hard time getting past the defensive walls most people put up when first speaking with what they perceive to be a "salesperson."

So I'll ask again: What is your WHY?

Your WHY is what’s going to make you inspirational. It’s going to fuel your passion. It’s going to make prospects want what you have, which is an internal fire to overcome their challenges or meet their goals. 

When prospects believe what YOU believe, that's when they'll be ready to buy.​

Why knowing your WHY leads more prospects to buy

Lastly, here's what I think is *the most crucial* reason for knowing and communicating your WHY, from Simon Sinek's TED Talk.

If you look at a cross section of the human brain, looking from the top down, what you see is that the human brain is actually broken into three major components that correlate perfectly with the Golden Circle. Our newest brain – our homosapien brain, our neocortex corresponds with the ‘what’ level. The neocortex is responsible for all of our rational and analytical thought and language.

The middle two sections make up our limbic brains and our limbic brain is responsible for all of our feelings, like trust and loyalty. It’s also responsible for all human behavior and decision making, and it has no capacity for language. In other words, when we communicate from the outside in then yes, people can understand vast amounts of complicated information like features, benefits, facts, and figures, but it just doesn’t drive behavior. When we communicate from the inside out, we are talking directly to the part of the brain that controls behavior and then we allow people to rationalize it with the tangible things we say and do.

This is where gut decisions come from.

You know, sometimes, you can give somebody all the facts and figures and they say, ‘I know what all the facts and details are but it just doesn’t feel right.’ Why do we use that verb? It doesn’t feel right. Because the part of the brain that controls the decision-making, doesn’t control language and the best we can muster up is, ‘I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel right.’

Or sometimes you say you’re leading with your heart or you’re leading with your soul. Well, I hate to break it to you, those aren’t other body parts controlling your behavior, that’s all happening here in your limbic brain. The part of the brain that controls decision-making and not language. But if you don’t know why you do what you do and people respond to why you do what you do, then how will you ever get someone to vote for you, buy something from you, or more importantly be loyal and want to be a part of what it is that you do.

Again, the goal is not just to sell to people who need what you have, the goal is to sell to people who believe what you believe.

If you haven’t seen Simon Sinek's talk, I recommend investing the 18 or so minutes to watch – soon. Now, if you have the time. 

Your business, your prospects, and your bank account will thank you for it.​


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I think we might be soul mates. And I'd love for you to join my tribe.

When you do, I'll alert you to new blog posts, new programs and products, and new ways for you to create excellent, frictionless, online experiences that lead more people to YES! I promise to be relevant and real, and to send only thoughtful content and advice.


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About the Author

Renae Gregoire is a marketing writer, editor, critical thinker, obsessive questioner, and excellent-results deliverer. Although writing is her talent, empathy is her Super Power; she combines both into a potent formula for creating content experiences that lead more people to YES!

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