By Betsy Westhafer

With over 5.7 million views of Simon Sinek’s iconic YouTube video, “Start with Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” there has become a louder conversation and more emphasis placed on the concept of understanding one’s “why” in the nine years since the video first posted.

Many have personal reasons for diving deep into the question of “What is my why?” oftentimes trying to discover their true personal passion. On a larger scale, progressive technology companies are also exploring this question in an effort to not only discover their own why as an organization, but also the why of their customers.

Understanding why your customers buy from you the first time, but even more importantly, discovering why customers continue to buy from you, is critical for long term success.

Fall in love with your customer, not your product

It’s human nature for leaders in a company to fall in love with their product. After all, they hire brilliant minds to develop these innovative and exciting products; they spend countless hours and dollars to ensure that their products are cutting edge and better than their competitors’ products; and sales teams work tirelessly to ensure that their target audiences are keenly aware of the features and functions of the product that make it distinctive and desirable.

But imagine the benefits of shifting that love from the product to the person who actually  purchases the product.

The Value is in the Why

In a meeting of a Customer Advisory Board I recently facilitated, one particular CIO spoke passionately about his why, and further, why this should matter to the host company.

In his comments, he said he didn’t care so much about the features and functions of the product, but rather, how the team who developed the product can ensure that he can spend the weekend with his family uninterrupted; how this organization he counts on can ensure that he won’t get a frantic call in the middle of the night; how they can help him keep his job.

As Simon Sinek says, “Value is not determined by those who set the price. Value is determined by those who choose to pay it.”

What is the value of uninterrupted time with family or job security?

By confirming rather than assuming you know why your customers buy from you, you have the added advantage of providing the exact kind of value for which the people who purchase your products and services are willing to pay a premium.

In an article published in Inc.com by Katlin Smith, Founder and CEO of Simple Mills, she pointed to the following as reasons customers will buy from her company:

  • Identity – “People make purchases that fit who they are or who they aspire to be (or both).”
  • Value – “Don’t assume that what matters to one, matters to all.”
  • Experience – “It’s easy to forget that stores and products are an experience – one that many consumers enjoy.”
  • Connectivity/Community ­– “This can be very subtle, where purchasing your products simply makes the customer feel part of something larger.
  • Quality – “If making things easier for your customer requires you to chop away at your product, don’t do it.”
  • Need – “Find this in your customer. Make it a priority.”

Nowhere in this list do you see any mention of the features or functions on what Simple Mills sells.

So now you understand the importance of getting to the customer’s true reasons for purchasing the products and/or services you provide. What’s next?

The obvious answer is, you just need to ask your customers, which is 100% correct, but perhaps not as easy as it sounds.

Getting to the real reasons your customers purchase from you requires these four elements:

  1. An insatiable curiosity – getting to the root of what drives your customers rather than taking an answer for face value. This requires the ability to ask thought-provoking and relevant questions.
  2. Time – This is a process that can’t be rushed. It may necessitate multiple conversations. Patience will serve you well.
  3. Trust – There must be a trusting relationship in place before you can expect a customer to open up fully in sharing their true why. (i.e. “Help me not lose my job.”)
  4. A system – In order to fully leverage the power of getting to your customers’ why, you need an approach and a system that will help you consistently accomplish numbers 1 through 3. As noted in the example above, the powerful insights came from a Customer Advisory Board, a proven system for taking time to build trust and ask meaningful questions of the people who purchase what you sell.

The Five Whys

You may be familiar with the methodology known as “5Whys.”

5 Whys is an iterative interrogative technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. The primary goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem by repeating the question “Why?” Each answer forms the basis of the next question. The “5” in the name derives from an anecdotal observation on the number of iterations needed to resolve the problem. (Source: Wikipedia)

I suggest that the same technique could be used for getting to the “root why.”

  • You: Why do you buy from us, Mr. Customer?

Mr. Customer: Well, I guess I just really like your product.

  • You: Why do you like our product?

Mr. Customer: Because it’s stable.

  • You: Why does that stability matter to you?

Mr. Customer: Because if everything’s working, my boss is happy.

  • You: Why does it matter that your boss is happy?

Mr. Customer: Because when she’s happy and everything is working, I get a good review.

  • You: Why does getting a good review matter to you?

Mr. Customer: Because it means I feel secure in keeping my job.

Imagine the power of obtaining this insight and how it might change the direction of the conversations and relationships with your customers.

Betsy Westhafer is the CEO of The Congruity Group, a Customer Advisory Board consultancy based in the US. She is also the author of the #1 Best Seller, “ProphetAbility – The Revealing Story of Why Companies Succeed, Fail, or Bounce Back, available on Amazon.