Start With Why: Top 5 Sales Leadership Tips


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A few weeks ago, our team started to read Start With Why by Simon Sinek. We shared one of Sinek’s messages (and the one that is repeated most throughout the entire book) two weeks ago: “People don’t buy WHAT you do. They buy WHY you do it.” If you’ve seen his TED talk from several years ago, you have probably heard his message repeated since then.

When I first read this passage, I thought, “well, of course!”. People aren’t sold on features and benefits. They are sold on a mission, philosophy, or creed. At Sales Engine, when we work with clients, one of the first things we do is establish a “sales trailer” for the organization or group. When someone asks you the question, “what do you do?”, you should have an answer to that question that piques his or her interest and provides just enough information for her to understand where you are coming from. Some companies have sales trailers, others do not. And, of those that have a clear message of what they do and WHY they do it, only a few work in a real, live conversation with a prospect.

We understand the difficulty in finding a clear message that can be distilled and shared many times over. Because of this experience, we agree with the majority of what Sinek articulates in Start With Why. If you want to understand why the WHY of your organization is important and what kind of positive or negative impact it will have on your future success, you need to pick up this book.

We found ourselves highlighting and underlining several passages but we’d like to share our favorites with you.

As you read through these, think about which ones do you agree or disagree with. What experiences have you had that might prove Sinek otherwise? Let us know in the comments below!

Top 5 Sales Leadership Tips from Start With Why:

Communicate clearly and you shall be understood.

In Start With Why, Sinek discusses that the difficulty we have in putting our emotions into words is tied to biology. The limbic system and neocortex perform entirely different functions and it can be difficult to turn the WHAT into a WHY (or allow the WHY to inform the WHAT). Because of this, we use tools like symbols or stories to communicate what we believe. Given that Craig has written a book on stories and how to use them in the sales process, we must say that we can’t agree more with Simon on this one. Telling a story is a great way to communicate why you believe in your work. Whether it be a story of success, failure, fun, or legend, stories are compelling and human. Whether you’re a salesperson or a CEO of a large company, a well-chosen story can help you to communicate your WHY clearly and in a format that is easily shared by others in conversation.

As company grows, the CEO’s job is to personify the WHY.

Sinek discusses several large corporations in the book to demonstrate his points, including Microsoft, Apple, Southwest, and Walmart. The challenge each and every organization has to overcome as it grows is to keep the WHY alive. The leader has to look at every situation and ask, “does this align with WHY the company was created in the first place?”. As a company grows, however, the CEO is often distanced from the WHAT. According to Sinek, every leader needs a layer of management underneath him or her that is full of people that can translate the WHY into HOW. The WHY must inform the HOW. The HOW must inform the WHAT. The employees of Company X that are responsible for the day-to-day operations have to know why they come to work each day and they have to believe that their own WHY aligns with that of Company X. If everyone in the company aligns with the WHY, they are empowered and capable of making decisions that create a successful situation for the entire company.

The WHAT and the WHY should always be parallel.

This idea is another way of communicating the previous one. As “the measurement of WHAT grows, the clarity of the WHY stays closely aligned”. Simply, the more employees you have to lead, the more essential it becomes to ensure that the WHY message stays clear. It’s a matter of inspiration. No one wants to go to work for a company that doesn’t inspire something bigger or greater within them. If the people within your organization don’t know why the work they are doing is important or inspiring, neither will your prospects and customers. Sinek writes, “When people can point to a company and clearly articulate what the company believes and use words unrelated to price, quality, service, and features, that is proof the company has successfully navigated the split” between the WHAT and the WHY.

The role of the leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.

Sinek writes, “It is the people inside the company, those on the front lines, who are best qualified to find new ways of doing things.” This idea is so simple and we agree with it to such an extent that we think it stands on its own. Those individuals that talk with the most customers and prospects can identify problems like inefficiencies, poor messaging, or structural problems much quicker than an employee who only communicates internally. A sales leader or manager should be listening to both the sales and customer service staff because, if they are, they are truly listening to their customers.

People are people and the biology of decision-making is the same no matter whether its a personal decision or a business decision.

There are a lot of sales-dating analogies out there. (We can see why. In many ways, you’re selling yourself in life.) The way we “pitch ourselves” on a first date should mirror the way we pitch our company’s product or service. In a cheeky way, Sinek asks us if we would walk into a first date situation and start rattling off everything that’s great about our personality, our bodies, or our lives. Most of us would answer “no, of course not”. In the same way, should we walk into a business situation with a prospect and start spouting all of these wonderful features and benefits and trinkets and add-ons and discounts on our product? The thought makes us cringe. Customers want to know WHY you do what you do and WHY they should care? Features and benefits can be shared, but only once you share the WHY!

So, what do you think? Have you read Start With Why? If so, are there lessons that you’ve implemented into your work? If not, do you agree or disagree with these 5 sales leadership tips?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jenny Poore
Jenny is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Sales Engine, a sales consulting firm based in Chicago that helps companies build and tune their sales engine. Feel free to connect on Twitter: @salesengine and @salesengineJP.


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