The “Why” in B2B Buying Behavior

Billy Mitchell, our president here at MLT Creative, recently sent me a video of a Simon Sinek presentation called “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” Sinek was speaking at the TEDx Puget Sound conference, and though his talk wasn’’t intended exclusively for a B2B audience, it included some very relevant concepts for us all to remember.

Golden Circle

Sinek’s presentation illustrated the importance ““Why”” has in buying behavior, and did so using the concept of The Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is comprised of three parts: the What, the How and the Why. The Why occupies the center of the circle, followed by the How, then the What.

According to Sinek, most organizations work from the outside in, so they start by thinking about What they offer, How it’’s good, and then just expect people to buy it; they often don’’t even touch on the Why; and other times they may not even know how to answer it.

Successful companies, on the other hand, work from the inside out so that the central concept becomes the Why. For example, Apple doesn’t just say, ““We have a product that it is beautifully designed and user-friendly”,” which addresses the What. Instead, they say, ““We believe in constantly challenging the status quo and thinking differently”” (which addresses  Why); “We do this by making a product that is beautifully designed and user-friendly” (which addresses What).

Why Does This Matter?

Sinek claims people don’’t buy what you do,– they buy why you do it. He illustrates this idea through the Law of Diffusion of Innovation. According to the law, the first 2.5% of our population is comprised of innovators; the next 13.5% are early adopters; the next 34% are the early majority; the next 34% are the late majority; and the final 16% are laggers who simply adopt the technology because there is no other alternative left.

You can’’t have mass acceptance (that 68% of the early and late majorities combined) unless you’’ve hit the tipping point between early adopters and the early majority. This is because the early majority won’’t purchase it unless the early adopters have already done so and succeeded.

However, the innovators and early adopters don’’t need that data. They’’re able to make gut decisions without the evidence. They do this because they want to be the first; they believe in the “Why”. And it isn’’t for you, – they’’re buying it for themselves. These are the people you want to target, because these are the people who wait in line six hours to get an iPod, even though the same one will be available the following week without nearly the wait.

Buying Behavior

So again, the lesson is that people don’’t buy what you have,– they buy why you do it.  The “What” supports the “Why”, but it’’s the “Why” that motivates their buying behavior.

So when thinking about your own B2B business, think about the culture you’’ve created. Not what do you offer, but why are you there? Develop your business around the “Why”. Hire people who share your vision – not just people who can do the job. If they can just do the job, then they will just coast along and take your money. But if they believe what you believe, they will help your organization flourish.

The goal is to not do business with everyone who needs what product/service you offer, – it’’s to do business with people who believe in your “Why”. These are the people who would wait six hours in line for you, and these are the people who influence other people’s decision to purchase your product or service.

So in the end, think about why you are doing what you are doing. Then, surround everything you do,– from what you offer, to how you talk about and promote it,– around the “Why”.