Answer the Only Question That Matters to Prospects

The only question that matters to prospects is “W.I.I.F.M?”  The big “what’s in it for me?” question is the only question that matters when we are dealing with a prospective customer…someone who WE want to talk more to, but who doesn’t yet want to talk to us.

So what is in it for them to spend some of their life to listen to you?

Strip away all the behavioural psychology and best practice advice process…forget sales technique and cunning tactics to trick people into opening their wallets.  If you can pre-empt and answer the W.I.I.F.M. question at the front end of the process then prospects will give you the time you want.

Generally people are motivated to act if the reward is worth the price they have to pay right?  The obverse is just as true: if you don’t answer the W.I.I.F.M. question that is quietly being repeated in their minds then they won’t give you anything, right?

A while ago an adviser challenged me on this line of thinking by saying that this was mere theory, and it couldn’t be applied in the real world of dealing with intangible services when prospecting with strangers.  

So I bet him $100 dollars that I could get a 10 minute appointment with anyone he chose as long as we could get through to them on the phone. I put that qualification on it just in case he came up with something smart like “get me an appointment with the president of the United States”.  What could be more intangible after all: one stranger who has no product or reason to call another stranger has to get that stranger to agree to meet a different stranger. That’s a tough sell, right?.  He agreed – it is a tough sell.

So he picked a number at random from the phone book – we literally had a surname, an address and a phone number.  A good old-fashioned cold call.  We dialled and got lucky…an actual human being answered the phone.  The conversation from there was pretty straightforward:

“Hi, you don’t know me but my friend just bet me $50 dollars that I couldn’t get a stranger to talk to me on the phone, so if you say hello back I’ll get $50….pleeeeeez say hello to me” (I put on my best whiny, pleading and stupid voice)

She laughed, said “hello”, and we chatted for a couple of seconds and then I followed up by laughing and saying:

“the idiot just doubled the bet to $100 if I can talk you into agreeing to a 10 minute appointment to let him bore you about how he can probably get you a better deal on your insurances and stuff.  He’s an insurance broker obviously – sorry about that.  But here’s the thing: I don’t want his money, I just wanted to win the bet.  You can have the $100 if you can put up with him for 10 minutes….you get the $100, but I get to brag for life that I outplayed him – And I’ll make sure he is off the phone in 10 minutes too…..what do you say?  By the way – I am looking at 2 x $50 notes right now – they are for real, and they’re yours if you want them”

She laughed again, agreed, and made the appointment to talk there and then.  I handed the phone over to him, and he proceeded to verbally stumble about and talk about products and process….yawn….and turn it into a no go. She definitely did not want to go over her insurances with him…so I arranged to get the $100 to her and that was that.

The adviser complained that I hadn’t played the game properly because I’d just used his money to achieve the “win”….too bad sucker.   Welcome to life.  You should have thought it through before getting into the game. 

Lesson 1:  if you want to play the game, learn the rules first.  I used the resources I had available to help the prospect get some value and achieve the first objective, which was getting them to engage and give me time.

Lesson 2: having been presented with an opportunity he found that he was unprepared for it….why on earth would you leave opportunity to chance? Prepare for it before it presents itself.

Lesson 3: the adviser talked about what he knew and what he thought was important without ever addressing why it was worth her time to talk further.  

Lesson 4: you need to figure out in advance of the discussion with a prospect what the W.I.I.F.M. is for them.

That should be simple enough:

  1. Figure out what price you are asking people to pay.  (it is usually time)
  2. Then figure out what value you can put on the table that makes that price look ridiculous. (what will make the time worthwhile?)
  3. Then position it so that they can see the value and understand what is in it for them straight away.  They shouldn’t have to analyse a deal to figure out what’s in it for them – they need to be able to get it quickly, if not instinctively. (tell them why the time spent will be worth it!)

The adviser in this little game spent $100 on gaining valuable marketing lessons: if you can give the other person something that they value, which is worth more to them than what you are asking, then they will generally give you what you want. The odds are forever in your favour if you get that right.   It has to be believable of course – if it is outlandish and unrealistic – too good to be true – they won’t go with it.   

It’s simple IF we remember what it is we are selling at any given time. In my case (in the example above) I was trying to sell a stranger on a 10 minute interruption to their day.  I was prepared with the mental maths to point out that this was a better hourly rate than the partners of the biggest law firms in town – 10 minutes at $100 equals a $600/hour rate.  Whoa…where else are you going to get that?  I was prepared in my mind with a string of examples to show how valuable $100 for 10 minutes of time was comparatively.

What I wasn’t trying to do was sell them insurance, or advice, or a promise that I could help them make their dreams come true forever more….or anything else which was outlandish. Just a simple exchange of value in the form of cash for time spent listening to something boring.

I was trying to sell a stranger a 10 minute interruption as being worthwhile.  But before I could sell them on that, I had to sell them on listening to me, and then had to sell them on giving me another 60 seconds of attention on the phone. So there were a series of small sales that had to be made if I was to get the bigger sale (the 10 minute appointment).

Each of these “sales” needed to hit the “W.I.I.F.M.” of the moment.  And each moment has a different W.I.I.F.M.

The first sale here:  what’s in it for her? just a laugh and a bit of fun…

The second sale here: what’s in it for her now? $50…with the promise of doubling it

The third sale here: what’s in it for her? how she can get the $100 cash

Understand at each step – which is each mini-sale in the entire sales process – that the only question which matters in the prospects mind is “what’s in it for me”.  Then figure out what IS in it for them and deal with it straight up front.

Do that, and generally speaking the prospects will give you what you want. 

Related: If You're Converting Only 1 in 10 Prospects You Have a Problem