The headline seems simple enough, I bet most a nodding with familiar approval, yet when you watch many sales people in action, you see them focusing much more on the How, not the Why. This is especially fatal early in the process, when they start they prospecting, be that a call, an e-mail, or a social outlet, leading with the How, then wondering why they are not having the traction they seek.
Leading with the how is good if you are approaching users or implementers, they want to know “How it works”, or “How you do that”. The challenge is that many of these people are in a role of responding to projects or initiatives originated by others, line of business managers, heads of departments etc. Since success often depends engaging line of business people, and if there are more than one LOB, then it is likely that you will have to build consensus in order to win the business. In these circumstances, where say marketing and production have to find common ground, the focus, and as a result, the glue that will hold things together, is Why they are embarking on their chosen course to achieve their stated objectives. They are rarely thinking about the How, in their mind that will be delegated to the implementers and the users will learn what they have to make things run.
Now the implementers will have an influence, and they could derail or accelerate things, but that will not happen until the demand trickles down form the people asking for the implementation. As a seller who is looking for the deal to happen, you will need to engage the business side of the house, which means engaging on the basis of Why.
This means leaving the product in the car, and going in and speaking about how you can positively impact the Why; do that well and the How will follow. Start with the How, you’ll put them to sleep and never get your next step.
There two simple (not easy) ways to lead and win with the Why. 1) Know Why your current customers chose you. By this I do not mean the features of your product, not matter how well that is dressed up or disguised marketing babble; but what were they trying to achieve from a business standpoint, and Why they saw that as being important. Was it increasing market share, was it to improve margins, reduce their cost of capital, expand beyond current lines, reduce manual errors, or other business outcomes. Engage with them based on these, and the How will follow. 2) Meet with similar titles/roles in your company; your CFO will understand the drivers for other CFO’s, how to approach them, what they may respond to, and what a complete turn off is.
As sellers we are looking for ways to create urgency, nothing puts a spring the feet of a decision maker than when they see something that will help the achieve their goals, and again without much though about the how. The other benefit is when there is a bake-off at the time the implementers are selecting vendors. The folks whose ass is on the line for making the Why happen will prove to be valuable and powerful friends, even when another product has a better How; just look at DEC and IBM.
Leave your product in the car, leave your marketing phrasebook in the car, and go in and dig around the Why, and the How will follow, figuratively and literally.