Sales and Sales Management Blog

October 1, 2009

Guest Article: “Thoughts about the WIIFM,” by Jonathan Farrington

Thoughts about WIIFM
by Jonathan Farrington

When we agree to an idea or proposal, it’s because there’s something in it for us. It’s hard to influence people who can’t see what’s in it for them. Sounds one-sided, but it is true. Call it self-interest, selfishness or whatever. It is only human nature to ask, ‘What am I getting from this?’

People will say yes to your ideas if they meet their needs or match their view of life in the following areas:

• Principles and values
• Beliefs and opinions
• Needs and wants

So Give People What They Want & Need:

People agree to ideas and suggestions that match their needs or views of life. Underpinning all our lives are certain principles and values that we hold to be true. These become guidance for how we conduct our lives. They influence and mould our behaviour. They can differ greatly from person to person and successful influencers always take principles and values into account.

But how?
• Notice what principles and values drive other people
• Ask questions and invite comment and reaction
• Check with those who know them well

Some examples of principles:

Integrity and fairness are an integral part of business dealings.’
‘I think that older people deserve courtesy and consideration.’
‘Moral behaviour is part of the fabric of daily life.

It would be unproductive to spend time attempting to dislodge these deep-seated principles. Instead, harness them to add leverage to your suggestions.

Beliefs & Opinions:

Beliefs and opinions can be transient or short-term. Remember when you used to believe in Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy, giants and witches? Proof can easily dislodge a belief. So too can time.

An early step on the road to influencing others may include having to change lingering beliefs or convictions before you can proceed further.

I think that BubbleClean washing machines break down more often than the Tumblingsystem range.’
‘I think that all politicians are corrupt.’
‘I never make decisions on the 13th.’

Each of these beliefs can be dealt with by logical questioning or providing proof or data.

Needs & Necessities:

These are fundamental requirements – they have to be met if you are to influence others. Typical needs include: reliability, security, achieving a deadline, meeting a budget, keeping up to date.

Because of increasing competition, it is essential that we maintain an image and at the same time keep up to date.’
‘My team members are under great pressure, so it important to maintain their morale.’
‘The system must not only be reliable but secure, as well.’

Having uncovered needs, you may have to mould or reshape your ideas to dovetail with the requirements of others. Often, people have a hierarchy of needs, so it may be important to discover and use this:

Which is most important to you – reliability or security?’

Wants & Wishes:

Wants and wishes are not essentials, just a wish list: ‘Wouldn’t it be lovely … if only’. But their fulfilment can be the cherry on your influencing trifle, placed on top with a flourish, after the other person has agreed to your proposal.

Depends What’s On Offer:

Question: How will your suggestions benefit the other person?

The person or people you are influencing will interpret the benefits of your suggestions in different ways. Some will be interested in the features – the fine details, the nitty gritty of ideas. Others will say ‘How will I benefit?’ Others will seek out the advantages of proposals – how the benefits are different.

Features, Benefits & Advantages:

No doubt you are familiar with the differences between features, benefits and advantages, but it is worth re-iterating.


These are built-in aspects of your idea or suggestion – timing, costs, resources etc. They will remain locked up in your idea whether the other person agrees or not.


These are far more important than the features of your proposal. They translate boring old features into exciting statements which show clearly how others will gain.

This new hardware is made in Germany (feature) which means that we will save time and money on spare parts (benefit).


These are comparative benefits e.g. – increased revenue, greater savings, and faster turn-around.

In Summary: The Benefit Balance Sheet

Most people do not agree whole-heartedly to an idea. There is usually something that niggles, however well you’ve addressed their concerns.

In the end, when we finally say yes to a proposal, it is because the benefits outweigh any disadvantages.

As you plan and prepare your influencing case, list all the benefits and advantages of your suggestions.

Use them to tip the balance in favour of yes.


Jonathan Farrington is a globally recognized business coach, mentor, author and sales strategist, who has guided hundreds of companies and thousands of individuals around the world towards optimum performance levels. He is Chairman of The Sales Corporation, CEO of Top Sales Associates and Senior Partner at The JF Consultancy based in London and Paris and the author of the Jonathan Farrington’s Blog for sales leaders at  Best of all, like most of my guest authors, he’s a good friend of mine with a sharp mind and a great deal of sales and sales management wisdom.



  1. JF, I enjoyed the article. It tickled my brain like all the NLP classes I’ve taken. I have a question about beliefs. Within the past few weeks I heard an interview about beliefs and how entrenched they are. So entrenched that even if people are exposed to opposing data with substantiation, it will be filtered out – they won’t take it in. My take is that it’s a relatively new phenomenon that’s come into being as a result of the one-sided radio/TV shows. No matter what your political poison, there’s someone preaching it to the extreme. Those shows create a belief that all opposing positions are just spin and propaganda. So, I’m hoping you can address this.

    Many thanks!
    Michael Lovas

    Comment by Michael Lovas — October 1, 2009 @ 10:44 am | Reply

    • Michael,

      I suspect Jonathan will be around shortly to answer your question, but I’d like to put my two cents in. I completely disagree with your analysis that it has to do with one-sided shows. The history of mankind is replete with one-sidedness. Most of us are one-sided creatures, whether liberal, conservative, or middle of the road and the beliefs these shows address–our beliefs about culture, politics and religion are deep seated beliefs, dear to our hearts, most of us are not easily swayed and we are passionate about our beliefs–so much so that for thousands of years men have been waging war with other men who have differing beliefs. Our political, cultural and religious differences are being argued quite civilly compared to previous history.

      I also have grave doubts about beliefs being so entrenched that data won’t change them. It may make change more difficult, but I doubt it negates the possibility of change. If that were the case, there’d be no reason to try to argue or educate. It is, however, probably a theory that will sell some books.

      Comment by Paul McCord — October 1, 2009 @ 4:31 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for the comment.

    I do think that all of us have some ingrained beliefs and values, but I do think that we should always have an open mind, otherwise, there is a danger that we can get left behind.

    One example is social media. I for one, am really struggling to find any commercial value in Twitter. I don’t particularly want to know what my followers had for breakfast and I do not have time to update them every day on what I am up to. It has become an obsession for so many people that it is becoming intrusive and addictive. But, I remain open minded, and if someone can demonstrate value, I will willingly change my mind.

    Another example is that I do believe in people and I always try to see good in everyone. Am I disappointed and let down? Of course, occasionally, but I will not allow the few to poison my belief in the majority.

    Religion is another area that stirs debate. Apparently, 50% of Americans believe that the world only began with the birth of Christ? So much for Darwin and his theory then.


    Comment by Jonathan Farrington — October 2, 2009 @ 3:26 am | Reply

  3. This is great! I love a lively conversation. Thanks for jumping in. I think we agree, but we’re talking about different things. Let me explain.

    One of the psychological areas that I specialize in is called “meta programs.” It’s the 60 mental filters that influence/direct our decisions. Every human being has a configuration of mental filters, but that configuration is only valid in a given context or situation. When we change context, the entire mental filter configuration is apt to change. So, when I think about philosophy (for example), I go into a mental filter configuration. However, philosophy is such a huge context – taking in all beliefs, including ethics, religion and politics – that I would find myself in conflict. I’d seem conservative in one statement and then liberal in another. The problem is that the context of philosophy (ethics, religion, politics, etc.) is just too large.

    You might notice that when you take a personality type test, your mind says, “Gee, I’m amiable some of the time and expressive at other time…” That’s because those test typically address you entire life, rather than a specific situation. As you might notice, life is too large a context.

    My wife and I enjoy the Bill Maher show. It falls more in line with our politics and sense of humor. Would we ever tune into any of the conservative shows? No. Because the content is just too much in opposition to our thinking. If I got in a conversation with Glen Beck, I would think his information was wrong. Psychologically, the mechanism at work is my mental filters. I’d simply filter out the points that differed (significantly) from my own. Our mental filters drive this mental activity.

    Purely a subjective observation – I noticed that most people are moderate. With the exception of one or two main concerns, they are open and flexible. For me, my hot issues are veterans issues, health care and gun rights. I know people who could not care less about any of those (Hi mom).

    When I was the Commander of the Patriot Guard here, I made many friends who are die-hard conservatives, even reactionaries who believe there will be a civil war by year’s end. I have other friends who are far to my left and cry, “Why can’t we all just get along?”. And, one of my best friends is a libertarian fanatic ( I could not change their minds on their hot issues any more than I could get them to change gender. But, if I expand the context of a conversation, and make it larger, we can find points on which we actually agree.

    The key to agreement and flexibility is to go to a larger, more expansive context – ethics, religion and politics – rather than a smaller issue (context), such as PTSD resources for Vietnam veterans. And, the key to identifying the hot issues is to go to a smaller context, such as abortion, guns, gay rights, welfare, bank bailouts, etc.

    Sorry to write such a long-winded note. Point is, we agree, we’re simply talking about different contexts.

    — Michael Lovas

    Comment by Michael Lovas — October 2, 2009 @ 11:45 am | Reply

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