Simon Sinek’s How Great Leaders Inspire Action TED talk brilliantly articulates that there has to be a ‘Why’, as well as a ‘How and a What’, when it comes to a proposition, whether a leader’s or a company’s.
The ‘why’ is the belief a person stands for or a company for that matter.
It taps into the oldest part of our brain, the limbic system.
The old brain processes and controls our emotions, feelings, trust, loyalty and every decision we make, and it all happens SUB-CONSCIOUSLY, or to use a simpler term, it’s an automatic gut-reaction and we don't think about it.
It’s the part of the brain that kept the earliest humans safe and alive, and if you happen to live in the jungle or a rough urban part of a city, it still has its uses!
An example from Malcolm Gladwell’s book "Blink."
“We form an impression of people within less than a second of meeting them, in some cases. We decide whether they're friendly, hostile or dominant and whether we're going to like them. And clearly, we form that impression with inadequate information, just based on their facial features or movements.”
Another thing about your old brain is it can't stitch any words together - that’s done by another more recently developed part of our brain.
Hence, we find it difficult to express that gut-reaction as more than a feeling. So, we might say, “I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something I just don’t like about them/ it.” Or, we just make something up (post rationalization).
So, having a ‘why’ in your proposition is important. Think of it is the emotional hook that automatically and quickly connects you to your audience. Or not, as the case may be.
With 34,000,000+ views, Simon Sinek’s
"People don’t buy what you do, people buy why you do it." Must be right, right?
But that’s not entirely true, and can quickly lead to the assumption that the only way to get an emotional response is with just an emotional appeal, i.e. the ‘why’.
Is an emotional appeal the key and only way to convince someone to buy?
It may be the case if you’re selling Harley Davidsons or Ferraris.
But I’m not naïve to think this, and many years of selling experience tells me otherwise.
In the world of business to business selling, there needs to be a good dollop of the ‘what and how’ too.
If for no other reason than emotions don’t often appear on spreadsheets, or in business cases. And more often than not seeing a potential solution working through a business scenario specific to your prospects can really ‘move them’.
Here’s an overused sales truism, People buy from people. Right? Wrong!
It’s more like, People buy from people they trust, have confidence in and add value.
Let’s take a minute and map trust, confidence and value to Sinek’s ‘why, how and what’.
Trust – Is ‘how’ you go about things, what you say, how you say things, aka your modus operandi. It’s your reputation - created by the experience, which in turn creates your reputation.
Confidence - Is a feeling we have about someone, and as feelings come automatically, it’s often one of those, “I can’t quite put my finger on it things.” So, it’s the ‘why’. Yes, it can also be because of consistent behaviour over time, but confidence in someone tends to be immediate and happens when first meeting them. Right?
Value – Is the ‘what’. Or, as some might say, the SO WHAT, as what you’re selling must be relevant and specific to your audience.
I work with many clients to help build their value propositions - ones that include a ‘why’, a ‘what’ and a ‘how’. But not forgetting a ‘so what’ too.
To create one, simply answer these 4 questions –
1) Your's, or your company's ‘why?’ - Why does your organization exist? Or. Your purpose? Or. What’s your cause? Or. What’s your belief?
2) Your ‘what?’ – What is it you do? The plainer the English you use, the more effective it is.
3) Your ‘how?’ – This might be how you approach the problem that your solution or product helps solve; your way of delivering a working solution for specific and differing client situations. That kind of thing.
4) The ‘so what?’ – What is the value, the payback, the ROI, the outcome, the result? Ideally, as a #, % or similar, as the arithmocracy* are nearly always involved in rubber-stamping what is bought.
Here are some tips from mistakes I've made and many others too, that answer these questions.
Less is always more. Everyone suffers from verbosity when first answering. A case of why use one word when 27, potentially fancy and en vogue words will do.
No pain, no gain. The REALLY, really difficult questions to answer are 1) and 4). To the point, in some cases, it’s easier to avoid them than actually answer them. Stick at it, as Jane Fonda said, “No pain, no gain.”
Test ride it. Once you’ve written your value proposition, find someone your trust and value the opinion of, outside of your company, but in business, and test it on them.
Sea of sameness. Another is, drop your competitor’s logo in the lower right corner. Does what you’ve written work as well for them? If yes, sorry. It needs rewriting!
The bad news?
The most powerful value propositions are personalized to every buyer or decision maker.
The good news?
With practice, this becomes a lot easier. It’s also hard, so hard in fact that the people you’re selling against will likely not have one, not bother, or have one that is frankly awful.
Well! What are you waiting for? Go answer the 4 questions.