DON’T Start With Why!

Over the past eight years there has been a craze hitting business owners globally. To the point that no matter what business conference you go to, or business coach/consultant you talk to; you get to hear about this craze!

The craze?

“Start With Why – People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it!”

Since I first heard this statement, it has never sat well with me, and perhaps for you too?

And because the phrase was given a rhythmic feel to it, it has become a common phrase amongst the populous. A bit like a jingle in an advert. But that’s the point of a jingle. To make it memorable. A bit like Martin Luther King, “I have a Dream” speech.

So much so that now several people have come out with similar models for business. Whether it be concentric circles starting with Why you do it, then How you do it, and finally What you do.

Here’s the thing, a model can be created about anything, and made to fit whatever it is you want to convey.

We could have a circular four-square model representing the four seasons, spring, summer, autumn and winter. We can have a pyramid model like what is used in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Models exist because it is an easy way of representing and understanding a lot of information for people to remember.

What this particular model has done however, is throw business owners into a spin. It has brought them to the point of stagnation let alone despair. Why? (excuse the pun) Because now they feel that in order for them to sell their product or service, they need to have a strong compelling WHY for their business.

No you don’t!

People DON’T buy WHY you do it.

Here’s the truth…

When it comes to selling a product or a service, people don’t buy why you do it.

When was the last time you asked your accountant, your solicitor, shopkeeper or candlestick maker why they do what they do, before you decided to buy whatever it was they were selling?

Make a list of the last ten things you bought – products or services.

Now ask yourself, why did you buy it.

Ask yourself, do you know WHY the person that sold you the product or service, is in business for in the first place.

Take a look at the most successful companies in the world which are listed on the Fortune 500.

Do people buy the products/services from the companies listed on the Fortune 500 because their owners have a compelling WHY?


People don’t buy WHY you do it.

They don’t buy WHAT you do.

They don’t buy HOW you do it.

Here’s what people buy.

People Buy Results

That’s it.

We don’t need a complex model for it. We don’t need a jingle. It’s simple – people buy results.

Whether it be a business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) business, people buy results.

Whether it be a business selling a product, or a business selling a service, people buy results.

They buy the result they are looking for.

Whether it be a feeling, an experience, a saving in time or money, a win, an improvement, an answer … it’s the result that they want to achieve that makes them buy.

They will even queue overnight in their thousands if it means they will be able to buy the result they are looking for.

Whether it be to save money on a large screen tv in a black Friday sale, or whether it is tickets that are sold in seconds for a concert; because people want the result of an amazing experience at a concert of an artist they are passionate about.

They’re not buying because the TV manufacturer, or the artist has a passionate WHY. They’re buying because of the result they are going to get.

If you have children, have you ever queued outside a store from the early hours of the morning so as to be able to get into the store early to buy your child the latest toy craze? I bet you have.

I did … it was the time Tellytubbies hit the market in 1997/98. My kids were 3 and 1 at the time. And there were four tellytubbie toys that could be bought, which were the characters from the TV show.

Was I buying because the company had a compelling WHY?

Absolutely not. I was buying because I wanted to experience the amazing joy and excitement my kids would have in unwrapping their presents and playing with their favourite characters.

People buy results.

When you’re going to your accountant to have your tax return completed, you’re not buying from him because you know he has a compelling reason for being in business in the first place. You’re buying from him because you trust that he will reduce your tax bill.

When you’re buying from a lawyer, your buying because you trust him to deliver on winning your case.

Think of it another way – with all the advances in science, we know WHAT each part and HOW each part of our body functions. Take your foot for example. We know that when we take a step, we know the exact articulation of each bone and muscle in the leg and foot which makes up each stride (well the doctors do!).

But we don’t know WHY it does what it does!

We never ask WHY.

We never ask why it is that our foot moves in the way that it does. Or our heart operates in the way that it does. Or a flower blossoms in the way that it does. It just does. And the result that we get from it, is what we are looking for.

Since trade began before Jesus Christ, and for a long time well into the future, people will always buy results. The method of trade may change. It has gone from bartering, to tokens, to coins, to cheques, to blockchain, to whatever might be next. But the bottom line is, people buy results.

If you’re trying to lead a company, then it is what you believe in which is important. This is where your why comes into play.

People will follow your leadership because of your why, your beliefs, your purpose and what you are trying to achieve. As a leader, this is where your why is important.

But if you want your product or service to sell, then the results you deliver is why people buy. So when it comes to you marketing your product or service, think about the results your customers are looking for and communicate to them in terms of this.

What’s your thoughts?

Feel free to share this article with your colleagues and friends so as to take them out of their misery of running around searching for their why!