The Why of Luxury Selling: How Luxury Associates can Inspire Loyal Customers

attactive girl silhouette with whyOn a recent flight back from Boston, I re-watched one of my favorite TED Talks. Simon Sinek’s How Great Leaders Inspire Action.  It’s a great video in which Sinek describes why great companies inspire loyal employees. My thoughts turned to luxury selling and I thought about how great associates can inspire loyal customers.

In the video, Sinek talks about three different types of companies. Those that know what they do (the majority), some that know how they do it, and the few that know why they do what they do. Sinek refers to this as the Golden Circle. Every organization knows what it does – it’s the products or services they sell. Some organizations know how they do it. This usually translates into what differentiates them from other companies that do what they do – in other words, their value proposition. But very few companies know, or can articulate, why they do what they do. The Why isn’t about making money. The Why is about contribution and impact. The Why is about inspiration.


Sinek then talks about how the human brain corresponds to the Golden Circle. The neocortex – our “outside” brain – corresponds to the What. It’s the part of the brain responsible for rational and analytical thought. The middle sections represent the limbic brain that controls our feelings, emotions, human behavior and decision making.

Now let’s consider the luxury buyer. A customer’s decision to purchase a luxury product or service is not made from need, but desire. And desires rise from emotions. Remember, the neocortex does not drive behavior, but the limbic brain does. This is where emotions live. This is where gut decisions are made. This is where things need to “feel right.” Luxury associates can reach the limbic brain by connecting with clients through emotion, story-telling, visualization and personalization.

The neocortex, the thinking part of the brain, is always trying to understand and make sense of the world. This is the reason we think we are rational beings when we are really not. If we were, we would never buy a product or service simply because of how it makes us feel. We would never be loyal; we would always choose the best deal. We would never care about trust or relationships; we would only evaluate the numbers. We know that we don’t do that. We do choose one product, service or company over another because of the way it makes us feel.

– Simon Sinek

According to Sinek, people don’t buy What you do, but Why you do it. He cites Apple as an example. Apple’s “Why” is that “everything we do we believe in doing differently.” This is why consumers will by an MP3 player or a phone from a computer company if that computer company is Apple, but not if that computer company is Dell.

When you consider some of the best known luxury brands, only a few meet the bar when articulating why they do what they do. BMW comes immediately to mind. “We don’t make sports cars. We don’t make S.U.V.’s. We don’t make hybrids, and we don’t make luxury sedans. We only make one thing, the ultimate driving machine.” The Four Seasons delivers customer experiences that are “beyond compare.” To acquire a Patek Philippe timepiece is “to welcome into your own family a possession designed to last and accompany successive generations.” You must know why you do what you do in order for other people to believe what you believe. Great salespeople don’t sell products or services, they sell the Why.

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Luxury brands must find and train associates who can convey the Why with clarity and passion. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do your associates love your brand?  Are your associates simply working for a paycheck or do they believe in what you do?
  • Are your associates passionate brand ambassadors? Does their passion carry through in their interactions with clients? What can you do to fuel this passion?
  • Are associates more concerned with creating personalized customer experiences than they are with how many customers they can serve in an hour?*
  • Do associate’s attitude, dress and language reflect your brand’s Why?
  • Is your brand’s vocabulary consistent with your brand’s Why? Even though the limbic brain does not control language, it responds to the emotions that are triggered by what it hears.

*From a recent Harvard Business Review article: “companies are learning that true sales success isn’t indicated by the number or size of deals closed; it’s measured by getting and keeping the right customers.”

Remember what Maya Angelou said: “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” For the luxury sales associate, that’s the real Why.


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