Winning Starts With WHY: The Critical Role of the "Why Factor" in the Auto Industry

By David Metter

Every business in existence knows what they do – or what product they offer and the associated features and benefits. Every dealership knows what they do best – which is obviously, sell cars. Successful dealerships equip their team with key players that know how to sell cars. But very few know why they sell cars, and the ones that do are empowered with this magical element I like to call the “why factor.”

What is the why factor? The why factor is a set of indestructible beliefs. It is how a business inspires to the point of eternal success. The why factor occurs when a threshold is crossed that transforms a brand into an essential lifestyle component. It is the point at which the brand itself becomes synonymous with the experience it provides.

The why factor is what makes baseball America’s pastime and not just a sport. You don’t have to be a diehard fan to enjoy a baseball game. It’s the atmosphere - the sights, the sounds, the smells, the contests - the experience the ballpark offers that makes it an exciting event for the whole family.

I’ll admit, compared to other pro sports, baseball is relatively slow-paced. But regardless, people love going to baseball games. Why? Because there is something memorable that comes to life within the stadium. The ballpark experience has become a vibrant aspect of our culture.

Apple, like baseball, has also become a part of our culture due to their unique marketing plays. The question becomes, what does Apple have that competing brands lack? I’ll give you a hint. It starts with why and ends with factor. It’s the why factor alone that has made Apple more successful than Dell. Their business model takes the traditional, “outside-in” approach and reverses it from “What-How-Why” to “Why-How-What.”

Leadership guru, author and acclaimed TED Talks speaker, Simon Sinek has created his own diagram that demonstrates the why factor, which he refers to as “The Golden Circle” shown below. Sinek says, “The inspired leaders, the inspired organizations, regardless of their size, regardless of their industry, all think, act, and communicate from the inside out.”

Still with me? Let’s further break down how Apple has mastered the all-powerful “why factor.”

IF (and that’s a big if) Apple communicated like everyone else, they would say what they do, how they do it and why they’re better. Then they would expect the action or behavior of people wanting to purchase their products. This is the “outside in,” commonplace approach. This tactic fails to guarantee longevity or more importantly, loyal customers.                                                 

Sinek demonstrates how Apple’s marketing messaging would sound if they were just like everyone else (outside in)…              

  1. What: “We make great computers.”
  2. How: “They’re beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly.”
  3. “Want to buy one?”

Apple’s Actual Model (inside out):

  1. Why: “Everything we do we believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently.”
  2. How: “The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly.”
  3. What: “We just happen to make great computers, want to buy one?” 

The difference between these two angles of approach is in the values behind the company that define why they exist. Sinek emphasizes, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Such a simple idea, but so incredibly powerful. If you don’t believe me, look at any great car salesperson vs. an average car salesperson and you will see what I mean. 

In order to stand out, you can’t just say you’re different. You have to know exactly why you’re different. The why factor must be overflowing within your inherent system of beliefs. It should dictate why you get out of bed in the morning. It is this factor that conquers competitors and challenges the current way the game is played.

It’s not about if you win or lose. It’s about WHY you play the game. Same thing applies for dealers. Whether you sell the car or not, it’s essential you deliver a ball park-inspired, grand slam experience. People who have negative dealership interactions are more likely to tell their friends about them. Positive experiences equate to satisfied, loyal customers. The article, 9 Ways Your Business is Like Baseball also emphasizes the point, “The experience your customer has with your company can make or break their overall view of you and your products. Filling the seats isn’t enough. You want those seats filled by people who are happy they came.”

For your dealership’s message to resonate, you have to simply reverse the order of the information you deliver from “What-How-Why” to “Why-How-What” – always pushing forward from the inside out – never the other way around. Dealers can go about their day (and their marketing strategy) in one of two ways: they can sell cars, OR they can inspire people. Which will you choose moving forward?