They Ask, You Answer keeps growing. From its initial roots as a last-ditch effort to save my company, it’s become a book, a philosophy, and a movement.
The book has now been translated into a dozen other languages, and our They Ask, You Answer framework has been implemented by thousands of companies around the world.
What’s been the most fun for me to see is the diverse spectrum of businesses that have found it so helpful. They work in industries like software, retail, food service, manufacturing, home improvement, and healthcare — to name just a few.
In other words, we’ve seen a lot of different kinds of They Ask, You Answer success. But we’ve also seen failure.
From what I and my team have seen first-hand, success with They Ask, You Answer comes down to one big thing: buy-in.
Now, I am not saying that buy-in will automatically guarantee your success — I’m saying that success is almost impossible without buy-in.
So if you’re serious about winning with They Ask, You Answer, your first order of business should be getting everyone on board.
Let me explain.
Why buy-in is so critical
We’ve all been in workplaces where a manager comes back from a conference or finishes a book and tells the team that they’re rolling out a whole new initiative.
Often, these things flame out and fail to gain traction.
Why? They’ve got the backing of a team leader, so why didn’t they work?
In my experience, it’s because everyone on the team needs to catch the vision for something to take hold. You need top-to-bottom buy-in for something to work.
If that leader doesn’t help other people see the vision, if he doesn’t put processes in place to be successful, the whole thing will fail within a month or two — even if the initiative is a sound one.
Buy-in for They Ask, You Answer
They Ask, You Answer is a whole company initiative. To succeed, it needs marketers, salespeople, leaders, and others all working together. If one group is not on board, the whole thing fails.
In a textbook They Ask, You Answer success story, the marketing team creates content, the sales team focuses on buyer education, and the leadership team makes sure everyone is working together.
By contrast, They Ask, You Answer will fail if:
Your SMEs don’t make time to be interviewed by your marketers.
Your salespeople won’t use content in the sales process.
Your marketers aren’t committed to producing trust-building content.
But most of all, it will fail if your leaders don’t hold people accountable
It is up to the leaders to share the vision, provide the resources, and remove obstacles. This is especially critical at first so you can build some momentum.
Being a They Ask, You Answer leader
They Ask, You Answer usually takes root in an organization because of one person. It’s great if that person is the CEO, but it doesn’t have to be. Plenty of marketers and salespeople have been the They Ask, You Answer champions at their business.
But in order for it to move forward, the leaders need to get involved. Leaders have to make employees feel supported, valued, and inspired, but not micromanaged or untrusted.
As an example, check out this They Ask, You Answer success story from Dalinghaus Construction. Notice how involved and supportive the owners are of the whole initiative:
Remember why people resist change in the first place
For leaders to create buy-in, they need to understand why people might be resistant.
If you’re a business leader, remember that change is hard. And people resist change for a number of reasons. Chief among them are these:
They fear a loss of competence. Whenever someone has to change the way they do something, they fear that they’ll be bad at the new way. All of a sudden, they have to learn something fresh. This creates resistance that usually manifests as “We’ve been doing it the old way and it’s worked for us so far”-type emotions.
They’ve got change fatigue. The first one is made even worse if there have been half-hearted changes in the past. If the team had to learn a new software or a new process, just to come to find out that it didn’t work and was getting scrapped, they’re more likely to be skeptical of the next change.
They can’t see the benefit. There might be a glorious future on the other side of the change, but if the leader can’t sell that vision, no one’s going to get on board.
As a leader, you can’t pretend that these feelings are invalid or inconsequential. It’s your job to explain the change, allow time for processing, and then provide equal parts support and accountability.
Help them see the vision. Help them understand what’s expected of them and why.
They Ask, You Answer is about principles, not a program
If you’ve tried to implement various programs in the past that haven’t always stuck, remember this: They Ask, You Answer is really a set of principles, not a program.
What I mean by that is this: at the core of They Ask, You Answer are three simple principles:
Buyer education is the best marketing you can do
Establishing trust is critical to sales/growth
A better sales process leads to happier buyers
How you apply these principles will depend on your company, but the principles are universal — and they’re easy to get behind.
Once you commit to them, they will shape the way you do business, as long as you go all in together.