Sell More: Shut Up About the What and How.. First Tell Me About The Why…

Kris Dunn Uncategorized

Here’s one given about becoming an owner instead of an employee – everyone’s got advice for you.  Some of it’s good, some of it’s bad, but you have to listen to all of it.  Unfortunately, you can’t discern bad from good until you actually consume and digest the advice.

I met a guy last week who understood that I was in the middle of a career change.  He understood because I was pitching him, trying to sell.  He listened patiently to my plan, asked me some questions, offered up some thoughts, etc.  Nice exchange.  Then, he slipped me an email to me a day or two later with a TED video and warned me that it’s 18 minutes long.   Here’s a part of the email:


“Thanks for the presentation this week.  I’m always interested in knowing how various companies “sell” their services and/or products, and I’m also interested in knowing why buyers buy.  The following video (which you may have already seen) speaks loudly to me and my experiences in business.  Thought you’d enjoy it, although it is very long by today’s attention span.  Not YOUR attention span, but some of the lesser talented people we all come in contact with daily.”

18 minutes long?  The first thing I did was wait 4 days to watch the video.  So much for his faith in my attention span.  This weekend, I finally carved out the time to watch it, and man.. am I glad I did. If you can spare the time, I highly recommend you watch it, because it spoke volumes to me as someone who’s now looking to do his own thing, and as a part of that, will have to sell on a day-to-day basis.  Watch it, but if not, skip to the notes after the video

The guy in the video is Simon Sinek, and the model he’s talking about is a simple but powerful model (Start with Why?, then move to How and What…) for inspirational leadership all starting with a golden circle and the question “Why?”  His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers — and as a counterpoint, Tivo, which (until a recent court victory that tripled its stock price) appeared to be struggling.

The example that really resonates with me was Apple.  Not because I’m a fanboy of Apple (I’m 50% fanboy, have the iPhone, but gave back my MacBook), but because it was a strong reminder of why people buy.  Rough examples in the computing world from Sinek:

Positioning of Other Computer Makers:  They start with “what”:  We make great computers.  Proceed to “how”: They’re beautifully designed, simple to use.  They then go for the close: “Want to buy one?”

Positioning of Apple: Apple starts with “why”: Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo and thinking differently.  Proceed to “how”: The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed and easy to use.  End with “what”:  One of the products (of many) we create through this process are computers.  Then the close:  “Want to buy one?”

Sinek’s point is that without the why, without the tug to the emotional connection that “why” provides, your product is just another commodity.  It’s hard to be brave and create a why, but after really soaking on this, I think it’s probably the only way to go.

And I wouldn’t have gotten the feedback unless I was willing to pitch.  You never know what gifts people are going to give when you put yourself out there.

Kris Dunn

Kris Dunn is a Partner and CHRO at Kinetix, a national RPO firm for growth companies headquartered in Atlanta. He’s also the founder Fistful of Talent (founded in 2008) and The HR Capitalist (2007) – and has written over 70 feature columns at Workforce Management magazine. Prior to his investment at Kinetix, Kris served in HR leadership roles at DAXKO, Charter and Cingular. In his spare time, KD hits the road as a speaker and gives the world what it needs – pop culture references linked to Human Capital street smarts.