TALKING SALES 150: "Start with why"

John Smibert


The brilliant Simon Sinek did a TED talk that I love titled "How great leaders inspire action". The essence of his message was "Start with why". It is one of the most insightful and powerful lessons for leaders and salespeople to learn. If you haven't seen it, watch this shortened version now.

I'm a fan of Simon Sinek and when I recently heard sales leadership guru Tony Hughes state that Simon was only half right I was shocked.

Tony+Hughes+headshot+smiling+square 900 x 900

I thought Tony was brave making such a statement ......maybe a little foolish. So I challenged him to explain why.

"As I listened I formed the view that his response was very sound and he doesn't contradict Simon's message. In fact I think he builds on it in a way that actually enhances the principles for salespeople. This is because everyone in sales or leadership today needs to lead with relevant insights that matter to their audience - not just them

See my full interview with Tony where he provides some wonderful insight for sales leaders and sales professionals.

And please tell me what you think in the comments at the bottom? Do you agree with Tony?

(This article has also been published on LinkedIn)


Tony is a leading author and keynote speaker in the world of B2B sales and sales leadership. He is well known for his strategic selling book "The Joshua Principle" and for the RSVPselling methodology.

See more of the 'TALKING SALES' series here


John: Hello and welcome back, I've got Tony Hughes with me again - welcome back, Tony!

Tony: Hey, John - good to be with you again!

John: Look, you're sometimes controversial, and you said something to me recently which concerns me a little bit. Simon Sinek in a great TED talk that was really popular out there said lead with why, and you're telling me you think he's only half right.

Tony: I do, I do think he's only half right, especially for people in sales, leaders, anybody wanting to influence others. What Simon Sinek basically says in his talk about the golden circle, he talks about the fact that most people lead with what they do than how they do it and then why they think that's important.

John: And I agree that's not the right way to go, so I think Simon is right.

Tony: Well, he's not, because what he talks about is only half of the equation. He talks about 'lead with why you do what you do'. What is it that drives you emotionally, what are you really passionate about? If you look at someone like Elon Musk at Tesla for example, he leads with why, he's trying to change the world, whether it's around sustainability, making electric cars cool, getting the human race to Mars, and people buy into his why. Recently when they launched the Tesla 3, they sold over 12 billion dollars' worth of cars, it was the most successful car launch in the world, just online and people buying those cars or paying deposits with a shopping cart. So people buy into his why he does what he does, but for most salespeople that's not enough; we need to also lead with the other why, which is why is a conversation important to the other person.

John: Okay. So you're really saying it's not just why it's important to me, it's why it's important to our customer.

Tony: Correct. You may be passionate about what you do and how you're trying to change the world...

John: But if the customer couldn't give a damn about that, you're wasting their time and yours.

Tony: That's true, so you need to lead with why it's important to the person we're trying to influence. What I really teach people and talk about is that they need to lead with why the conversation matters, rather than with who they are, what they do and how they do it. So lead with why the conversation should matter to the other person, and then let that feed into Simon Sinek's why, what really motivates us and drives us, and the reason that that's important is because it speaks to intent. What I believe is 'lead with the value for the other person', and then also lead with your intent, which is why you do what you do, and you need both of those whys to be successful, not just one.

John: Okay, so you're saying Simon only had half of that equation...

Tony: Yes.

John: And we, particularly in sales, need both.

Tony: Yes. So any leader, anyone is sales, anyone wanting to truly influence people, lead with both of those whys. But if you try to be commercial, if you're trying to influence people to do business with you, lead with why a conversation matters to that other person, what's the business value that you offer, what's the problem that you solve, and then let that feed into your intent, which is why you do what you do. You need both parts of the equation.

John: Why it's of value to your customer and why your intent matters in relation to that in that context.

Tony: Yes. Simon Sinek is great, but I think he only had half of the equation.

John: What do you think about that, Simon? [laughs] I think it's a good discussion, I'd be interested to see what our audience has got to say about that. I love what Simon says, I loved that TED talk, but you raise a really interesting point, Tony, and I thank you very much - let's have a discussion about it online!

Tony: Thanks, John!


More interviews with Tony Hughes:

More interviews with Tony Hughes:



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