Sunday, October 31, 2010

What's A WIIFM And Why Is It The Key To Your Success?

A number of years ago, I was attempting to sell my company's services to the CEO of a Fortune 500 Company. He listened to my pitch and, when I was done, he told that I had wasted his time because I hadn't addressed his WIIFM. I looked more than a little confused and he proceeded to give me a lecture that changed my professional career.

What's the WIIFM? (and what does the Marlboro Man have to do with it?)

Marlboro_man First, take a moment and think about how you approach a sale. Now by sale, I mean any interaction that you have where you want to influence another party, the method you use to try to convince another party to want your goods or services. A job interview is an influence as you try to convince a company to hire you. Being a business owner is an influence, so is being a customer service representative, software designer, physician, attorney, insurance agent, artist, chairperson of a charitable committee.....any situation where you try to impact on someones purchasing decisions.

So how do you approach this 'sale'? Do you list the features & benefits of your product/company/service (like I did to that CEO)? Do you use a friendly demeanor? Do you use your position of authority to intimidate? Do you assume that you or your product is so great that it will sell itself? Snob appeal? Sympathy for your cause?

Take a moment and think about it. And be honest.

Rarely will any of this work. Because you haven't addressed what every great salesperson (and we are all salespeople) knows. It ain't about you. It's about 'me'. It's about solving my problem, addressing my needs, my wants and my desires. It's about making me look good. It's about the WIIFM.

WIIFM: What's In It For Me

Sounds elementary but this is the basis of every successful interaction. The big brands know it and use it as the basis of many ad campaigns: Beer companies hire sports greats to pitch their products precisely because sports enthusiasts want to be like (or liked by) their idols. Marlboro tapped into the desire of many men with the image of the strong, independent cowboy. Victoria's Secret & car companies knew to use beautiful women sitting in the passenger seat or images of the perfect family (an oxymoron I know) driving idyllically (and quietly LOL!). You buy insurance from the person who makes you feel as though you are his/her only client and that they care about you. You'll go back to a restaurant where the proprietor remembers you by name and brings your favorite appetizer to the table without being asked. You hire a vendor for your company whose stellar performance makes you look good to your supervisor. Each one of these examples have a common denominator: the 'salesperson' understood what you needed or wanted and tailored their product or service to meet it.

The WIIFM is about listening. Really listening. Listening in person or listening to the needs of your client base. And it is the missing link in most transactions. How often do you get frustrated by companies who don't listen? Or by a professional who 'processes' you instead of of listening to you? Or by a piece of software or hardware that doesn't do what it promised or is so complicated that you want to throw it out the window?

But on the other hand, how often will you return to a store where a salesperson took the time to listen to what you want and then helped you find it. When you are asked for a referral, don't you more times than not, refer to that person/company who went out of their way to help you. When you find a website or a piece of technology that is useful and actually works without hours of training, don't you tell your family and friends? Emily's List, an online referral site, features on its TV ads, a plumber who took the time to walk a dog when the homeowner was late. Not the best nor the cheapest- the most helpful. There are, of course, exceptions where we need the services of an expert in their field, but they are rare.

When we were designing our latest SAAS (software as a service) product for the small to medium business marketplace, we knew we wanted a tool that was intuitive for the non-techie but we didn't have the resources to hire testing companies. So I went out and hired office workers from local temp agencies to sit in front of the computers and surf the web all day. We set up our product on each PC, told the temps they had to use it but gave them no instructions on its use. Watching them maneuver our product taught us what we were doing wrong...and right. And at the end of the day we would sit with them and listen to what they liked, what they didn't and what they wanted. The WIIFM.

The CEO I was pitching made me understand that I was ineffective because I hadn't taken the time to understand what his company's issues were and how my company could solve them. I hadn't listened and hadn't heard because I was too busy talking. And in sales, as is often in life, silence is golden.

How do you use the WIIFM?

PS: After being lectured by the CEO, I went back to my office, somewhat embarrassed but determined to heed the lesson of the WIIFM. A few weeks later, after much research and preparation, I asked for a second meeting. It was granted and I landed the account.