Winning on a WIIFM

WIIFMThere’s a concept in sales and marketing called the WIFFM (“whiff ‘em”), meaning “what’s in it for me?” Successfully getting someone to purchase your product or service depends on their believing that there’s a valuable benefit for them if they do so. The harder someone has to work to figure out the WIFFM, the less compelling your sales pitch will be.

Skillful marketers are able to figure out the special value proposition of their product and articulate it in a simple, powerful way that is easily communicated. The best marketers do thorough research and rely on cues to tell them what a target’s priorities are, and then tailor the WIFFM accordingly so it’s as relevant as possible.

Recently I’ve been observing people who “sell” enrollment in a free service to existing customers. The service offers a number of benefits, such as making it very easy for customers to find their account information and reducing their need to call customer service by making more transactions available online. Some of the representatives intuitively linked the offer of the service to the benefits: “Oh, did you know you can do that much more easily with our free service? Let me sign you up.” Others just offered the service using pre-scripted language: “Would you be interested in signing up for our free service?” Predictably, the former group, who linked the offer to the WIIFM, had a much higher degree of uptake.

It occurs to me that you could build a motivational model analogous to Fogg’s using WIIFMs in place of triggers. Specifically, the weaker a person’s pre-existing motivation is, and the more effort it will require for them to take action, the better and more compelling the WIIFM must be. Based on what I’ve been observing lately with customer service reps, it also helps if you lead with the WIIFM, setting the value proposition at the outset.

Although the idea of a WIIFM comes from sales, it’s not a bad tactic to use in any persuasive conversation you have. After all, the best way to entice someone to do something is to make them see the benefits for them.