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End with How

by Hank Barnes  |  January 30, 2018  |  4 Comments

Simon Sinek created a movement with his “Start with Why” approach.    He, correctly in my opinion, promoted starting with a purpose–the why you exist; the why you matter–rather than the what (what you do) or how (how you do it).

But why is not enough.

Source: Genn Carsten-Peters from

Source: Genn Carsten-Peters from

As I work with tech providers, I constantly push them to develop stories that convey why (not always Sinek’s why).   Emphasizing the business outcomes they enable and the problems they solve.   Using the customer situation to frame the story.   It’s always important and has been proven to be effective.

But it is not enough.

In the world of tech, customers have been burned too often in the past for why to be enough.  Or for an approach that emphasizes the outcomes without deep information on how they are accomplished.

Start with Why.  But End with How.

Our research continues to show that buyers, whether they be in technical or business roles, care–and care deeply–about the how.    It’s easy to say that people want a hole (the outcome) and not a shovel (the how), but that is not reality.

Buyers care about features.  They care about implementation approaches.  They care about best practices.

Without the how, they don’t trust you.  Or themselves.   They may believe the outcome (yes it is possible to get a hole), but they question your ability to give them that hole.  And/or they question their ability to create that hole with your help.

The best combination.  Start with why (and consider highlighting some product capabilities that help achieve that why). Then once you have initial interest, connect the why to the how by putting your features and capabilities in the context of how they help you achieve results.    Offer proof points–not just of results, but of how they were achieved.

Connect your why with you how.  Go deep.  Build trust and confidence.

How matters.

Why is not enough. Claimed outcomes are not enough.

How matters.

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Category: go-to-market  

Tags: messaging  storytelling  strategy  why  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on End with How

  1. Hank, your post is spot-on. Most of us who have been in the technology industry, as providers or consultants, have been guilty of not providing the “how”. We are taught to lead with benefits and close with benefits, but the fact is, our prospects want to know that what we offer is practical from an implementation and usage standpoint.

    • Hank Barnes says:

      Thanks. I really advocate not for benefits–because in tech they almost invariably become features in disquise–but focus on the outcomes–the positive business impact that can be delivered. But when I hear people say “they want a hole, they don’t care how they get it,” I cringe. That is not the tech reality.

  2. Michael Fox says:


    Just a short note to say thank you.
    It is so true. Buyers, Sellers and companies need to know it all. Why then What and How. How is the real part of execution. satisfactionof completeness of mission. It ends the story on a high note. Awesome article, keep it up

  3. Hank, right on. We differentiate between a “Buying Vision” (the WHAT) with a “Transition Vision” (the HOW)

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