Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why, famously said, “People don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it.” The “why” behind your organization – your purpose, cause or belief – should ultimately define everything else. WHY does your company exist? And WHY should anyone care?
If you can answer the most important WHY, then it will be easier to articulate your vision, your mission, and to define your strategy. Hence “Why?” is an important strategic question.
On a more tactical level, “Why?” can be used iteratively to distill issues and get to the root cause of a problem or defect. A well-known Lean and Six Sigma technique is called “5 Whys”. The primary goal of this tool is to determine the root cause of an issue by repeating the question “Why?” Each answer forms the basis of the next question.
For example, here’s a commercial problem you may face:
My sales and marketing teams aren’t well aligned.
- Why? They complain about each other and ultimately compete more than collaborate.
- Why? They don’t appreciate the value that each team contributes.
- Why? They don’t communicate on a consistent basis or exchange ideas.
- Why? They don’t spend time together to foster understanding and build a cohesive team.
- Why? They don’t have common goals and success metrics.
This line of questioning does not have to stop at five “Whys?” It can continue to a sixth or seventh or more as needed. The objective is to uncover a process that is not working well or does not exist. In this case, if sales and marketing operating mechanisms and success metrics were shared, they’d be more compelled to work together to address common business challenges. They’d also appreciate each other more and collaboration would grow. More than likely, sales will also increase!
Now that you know the root cause, as a leader, you can put some processes in place to ensure that these two commercial functions have some common goals. Revenue is an obvious one! The size of the sales funnel may be a second. Marketing needs to provide sales with qualified leads, and sales needs to advance those leads through the funnel. Marketing can provide great tools to help with that process. All these efforts increase the funnel and move opportunities toward closure.
Another great way to align sales and marketing teams is to make sure they spend some time together. Ride-alongs or shadowing on a consistent basis is a great way for each team member to begin to appreciate the unique value that other team members contribute.
“Why?” sounds like a simple question. But as you can see, it has both strategic and tactical value as an inquiry tool. It easily leads to actionable plans. Simple question – outstanding results!
If you know of an organization that can benefit from some help in defining or improving processes, please contact us at TopLine Results Corporation (firstname.lastname@example.org or +1-800-880-1960). We’d love to help! Your success is our WHY!
About the Author
Melanie R. Varin specializes in business process consulting for organizations across many industries. With more than 30 years of business expertise, Melanie focuses on providing clients with winning strategies for improving their sales, marketing and overall business processes from assessment to implementation.
Melanie’s certifications include: Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Silver Certified Microsoft partner and Registered Salesforce partner.