Ask any entrepreneur why they do what they do, and they'll talk your ear off about why they built their company, why the problem they are solving is meaningful, and why their team is uniquely positioned to solve the challenge or problem. And yet, when it comes to actually selling a product, the conversation shifts immediately to language that is, by definition, transactional. Buy this feature, crush the competition, use this software: the why is gone as the spotlight turns entirely to the what. This is bad news for both your company and your customers.

Simon Sinek, a thought leader I admire so much he's coming to INBOUND this September, has a saying that really resonates with me: "people don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it." At the heart of any business transaction is an unmet need for the customer. Uber has built a billion dollar empire on the fact that all of us want to get to work, to dinner, or home on time and as quickly as possible, and that thousands of people worldwide wanted to make extra money driving for their team. Airbnb knew there was no place like home so they opened up a marketplace for travelers to find beautiful places to stay and for homeowners or renters to monetize their properties in a unique way. A compelling why didn't just steal market share; in both cases it redefined a market.

Recently, EMyth purchased HubSpot software, and they were kind enough to share with our sales team a full document outlining why they chose to go with us as their marketing solution. Was it the price? Product details? A specific feature? Nope: they decided to work with us (in their words) because we were "principle-driven" and because "your culture really comes through in all of your communications... and in your product."  For me, it was a critical reminder: you can't do business without the why, in every department of your business.

In sales: One of the biggest mistakes young sales reps make is focusing their outreach on themselves, their product, and their solution. In reality, the sales process should be about solving your customer's most acute pain points, not closing more deals. Take a hard look at your scripts: how often are you talking about yourself? About minor features? Diagnose how you can make your sales process less about yourself and more about your prospect: why converts at significantly higher rates than what.

In marketing: Nobody wakes up in the morning wanting more promotional emails, so the onus is on your marketing team to earn attention instead of renting it. Our most successful emails at HubSpot feature an offer to help in the subject line, not a hard sell or company-centered announcement. To that end, make sure every email you send and every campaign you launch is focused on why your customer buys versus what matters to your business.

In engineering: Steve Jobs understood what most tech companies fundamentally didn't for decades: that user experience is as much about simplicity as it is power. Macs and iPods aren't the only products available in their respective markets (not even close), but they are built for everyone, from grandparents to grade school students. Build products that eliminate headaches, not create them, and that fundamentally deliver on the needs of your audience: don't become so feature focused that you lose sight of the challenge you're solving at the outset.

In support: Let's face it: customers rarely call support to provide praise. They often call when they are stuck, frustrated, or annoyed, and they are used to support calls in which reps pass the buck to other people or try to upsell them relentlessly, neither of which typically have great outcomes. Great companies, from L.L. Bean to Zappos, empower their reps to have unscripted conversations that get quickly to the customer's pain point and do everything possible to address their challenges.

At some point in your business, whether due to scale, timing, or stress, you start just going through the motions. Sales reps default to competitive feature selling, marketers ship emails because it's easy, and your entire team is micro-focused on who is doing what and who is getting what instead of why your customers choose to do business with you. Simply put, whether you're selling widgets or wagons, software or services, you started your business because you believed there was a why for what you're doing. If that why is not baked into everything you do at every customer touchpoint, you're missing valuable opportunities to build your business and your brand.