Selling is all about building authentic relationships.  “People don’t buy ‘What’ you do but ‘Why’ you do it,” said Simon Sinek as I was listening to his book Start with Why*.  For freight agents, this means if you’re passionate about providing the best service you can to your shippers, that passion shines through and shippers will want to work with you.  Your passion comes from your “Why”.  Sinek claims that most companies have it backwards and start with “What.” In our industry, this would be providing transportation services, and “How” by identifying outside carriers to go from point A to point B.  All of this is very generic, companies claim they do it better than others, but they typically stick with the “What” and “How”.  In our highly commoditized market, it has always been challenging to stand out in the crowd.  By digging deeper into your “Why” you can identify your point of difference, and why a shipper should choose to work with you over all the others out there.

Here is an easy-to-understand example to fully illustrate the point.  We are all familiar with Apple.  Sinek says if Apple were like everyone else, starting with “What” and “How”, their communications would say:  “We make great computers. They are beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly. Want to buy one?”  But this is how Apple actually communicates:  “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed and simple to use. And we happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”  That is a very different message, and we can see how in their advertising reflects their passion and differentiates Apple from all its competitors.

How can we use this concept in the transportation industry?  I was inspired by this book to dig deeply into the “Why” of One Horn Transportation, to ensure that “What” we do and “How” we do it are aligned for us to run a successful business, and this is what I developed.  If you envision this as what Sinek calls “The Golden Circle”, the “Why” is in the center, the “How” is in the middle, and the “What” is on the outside, like a bull’s-eye:

  • “Why” is your purpose, call or belief.  One Horn’s “Why” is “To Make Your Dream a Reality”.  We created our company so that we could make our dream of working in a friendly, inspirational environment vs. our previous experience with large, cutthroat companies in corporate America and providing for our desired lifestyle a reality.  As we look at our employees and agents, we have done this for them as well.  And for our shippers, their dream is having peace of mind and not having to worry about their loads getting to their customers on time.  Our agents work every day to make this dream a reality for their shippers.  One Horn’s “Why” is very aspirational, because it is who we are.  Think about why you are in this business.  What attracted you to it?  Why do you like it so much?  By articulating your “Why”, you can make sure your actions follow suit.
  • “How” is the infrastructure, systems, and processes you use to realize your “Why.”  For example, at One Horn our proprietary software package helps our agents handle more loads per day efficiently, so they can make more money and make their dreams a reality.  The family-feel of our culture is also a “How”, as it makes agents feel like they really belong or have found a work home.  Our agents, in turn, use the systems to ensure that their shippers have peace of mind and don’t have to worry about their loads.  What kinds of systems and processes do you have or actions do you take to achieve your stated purpose, your “Why?”
  • “What” is everything you do and say to reflect your beliefs. “What” in our example, can be seen in our core values of honesty, reliability, and responsiveness. We always do what is right.  Our agents can count on us to respond to their needs promptly, and their shippers can count on them the same way.   We treat one another this way internally, and we treat our shippers this way externally.  It is the actions we take to provide our service.  This also works for carriers as we treat them well and pay on time, thus making their dream a reality.  What actions do you take that shout out your “Why”?  How do you treat your shippers, carriers, and colleagues?

Sinek’s idea is that when we have identified the three elements of the Golden Circle, and live them, people on a visceral level sense and react to us in a positive way.  This is why Apple has almost a cult following of customers and employees.  Biologically people like to feel like they belong.  They like to associate with people who share their beliefs and values.  By living our “Why,” we have attracted employees and agents who share our beliefs and values, and who in turn, attract quality shippers who identify with similar beliefs and values.  They like our consistency, and they can trust it.  So if you take some time to think about your “Why”, and then identify your “How” and “What,” you, too, will be able to attract a following of shippers and carriers who appreciate your way of doing business.  Then you, too, will prosper.

In my next blog, I will share with you an interesting perspective on relationship selling.

– By Cheryl Biron, President

*Start with Why by Simon Sinek. Click through for full references on books that inspired us: