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WIIFM.  A profound acronym for “what’s in it for me”.  It covers many areas of your business, but starting from the source (your customer or prospect) and working its way upstream sometimes (a lot of times) loses its focus quickly.  The easy answer to WIIFM is more sales.  But the ability to make it happen timely is significantly more complex.  This article will focus on your customer’s WIIFM and why your sales WIIFM can only be satisfied by satisfying customer WIIFM.

Sometimes, we can make recommendations that don’t solve our internal WIIFM right away, but doing the right thing for the other party regardless of the solution can pay big dividends in the long run.  However, I am continually amazed by the number of executives who don’t get this.

I recently worked with a client on their growth strategy.  Due to the recession and lack of liquidity, their customers stopped buying the high-priced precision equipment they were selling.  This was not just an internal problem.  Nationally, all of their competitors were in the same situation.  Even in the best of times the company sold twenty or so in a year.

In addition to new equipment sales, they had a reasonable service and parts business that wasn’t experiencing the same downturn, although the company wasn’t paying much attention to this business.  Many of their competitors had similar service and parts businesses and it didn’t appear many of them were marketing very effectively either.

The sales manager for the equipment division knew he needed to do something fast.  New leads were far and few between and his salesmen were cold calling and working their own contacts with little success.

My initial recommendation for him was to leverage the parts and service business to his advantage.  I had made several observations every time I sat in his office.

  • The phones in the customer service area were continuously ringing, for parts inquiries and orders.
  • The Company’s service backlog was healthy and building.  They had several capabilities competitors didn’t have.
  •   The salesmen didn’t have access to information about who ordered parts or services within their territories and what the parts or service were for.

The strategy I had in mind was to use the parts and service business as a way to get his salesmen into more customers’ facilities to establish better relationships and to find out what else they may need in lieu of new equipment.

The WIIFM I was trying to convey was not to try to sell these customers new equipment right now, but to understand what else that customer may need.  Was the equipment they were fixing on a preventative maintenance program?  Could it be upgraded using more company products to provide better utilization or extend its useful life?  What other equipment did the customer have that the salesman might be able to recommend for calibration, service, maintenance or upgrades?

I thought this strategy was a “couldn’t miss” idea.  It was brilliant!  How else to become the customer’s best friend, solve the WIIFM for the customer’s immediate needs and be in the back of their minds when it was time to buy new equipment?  Everyone in the sales force had to be excited, right?  They would be heroes!

Wrong.  The sales manager didn’t think his sales force would be very receptive because his salesmen were not compensated on the parts and service business.  New equipment paid big commissions.  That was their focus.

I suggested he call his salesmen together.  After he laid out this bold new strategy idea and all the wonderful leads it could generate, the first question asked was WIIFM.  They couldn’t see how parts and service could solve their personal WIIFM because it would mean earning lower commissions by selling parts, services and upgrades.  In fact, if they were successful in this strategy, they could save the customer from buying new equipment indefinitely.  Then they would never have a chance for the large commission.

Here are the key big-picture points I found the sales manager and his salesmen were missing by staying within their “box”.  In order to solve your customer’s WIIFM and your own WIIFM successfully, you need to consider several important things:

  • You must understand both what your customer wants now and their future needs.
    • This will allow sales the opportunity to suggest solutions that solve both.
    • You must be able to provide more attention than your competitors.
      • You or your company already has a relationship with this customer.  Your competitor has a cold call.
      • You must monitor how your customers’ needs change.
        • Understanding the direction of change provides the opportunity to offer products and services to satisfy those changing needs.
        • Old paradigms must be broken.   Customer WIIFM must be the company culture.
          • This may entail reinventing your business.

You can’t do any of these things if you can’t establish a relationship with your customers.  By paying attention to them, contacting and following up on purchases and having conversations about their strategic direction will reinforce the long-term relationship with customers.  Trust, confidence and sales will follow, thus satisfying your personal and company’s WIIFM.

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