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WIIFM – Is It Always The Motivation?

Salespeople like to say everyone’s favorite radio station is WIIFM. In case you don’t know it, WIIFM is an acronym that stands for “What’s In It For Me?” The assumption salespeople make, and most other people for that matter, is humans are always motivated to act in their best self-interest. State Auto’s former Chief Sales Officer Clyde Fitch put it this way, “Self-interest isn’t the only horse in the race but it’s usually the one to bet on.”

In the absence of certain factors people do act in their best self-interest quite often. But the smart persuader knows there are many decades of research from social psychologists and behavioral economists that refute this claim.

This was brought to the forefront of my mind as I reread Robert Cialdini’s new book Pre-suasion. He highlighted a study conducted by Adam Grant and David Hoffman. These two looked at the hand washing behavior of doctors. If anyone knows the importance of hand washing to prevent the spread of germs it would be doctors. Despite their knowledge, doctors wash their hands about half as often as they should. That’s not good for doctors or patients!

In an effort to see if they could motivate more hand washing to prevent the spread of germs and disease Grant and Hoffman tried two different approaches. One appealed to WIIFM and another appealed to why most people chose to become doctors – to help patients.

In the WIIFM scenario doctors saw signs that read, “Hand hygiene protects you from catching diseases.” In the patient focus appeal the sign said, “Hand hygiene protects patients from catching diseases.” So the difference was a single word – “you” vs. “patients.”

The WIIFM approach caused no change in hand washing behavior but the patient focused approach cause a 45% increase in hand washing!

What does this mean for you? It’s easy to default to WIFFM and that leads to typical ways to motivate – salary increases, bonuses, rewards, etc. Make no mistake, those traditional approaches do change people’s behavior but sometimes there are better, less costly ways to motivate a behavior change. Taking time to know why people do what they do then tapping into that can be far more effective.

Most people don’t become doctors to make lots of money or for fame. Those are nice by-products but not the motivation. Usually people get into healthcare because of a personal experience that leads them to want to help others.

Teachers certainly don’t get into that profession for the money. A love of learning and desire to help kids are big reasons people become teachers. Coaches usually choose that profession because of a love of sports and the impact a coach had on them. They want to pass along the love and impact people the way they were impacted.

When you discover someone’s why and craft your persuasive appeal around it you’re tapping into a powerful principle of influence – consistency. When your persuasive appeal reminds them of their why it’s much easier for them to say yes to you.

My encouragement for you this week is to pay attention to those you interact with, see if you can discover their why then make sure your attempt at persuasion incorporates that knowledge. Do so and you’ll be far more successful when it comes to hearing yes.

Quit Trying to be Interesting and Get Interested

Dale Carnegie noticed six easy things any of us can do to get people to like us. Before we dive in, let me start by saying, it’s not so much about us getting others to like us as much as it’s about us coming to like them. For example, if I interact with you, I can do things to try to make you like me and you’ll probably see right through it. You’ll feel as though I’m using a cheesy sales technique. Or I can go into a situation with the mindset that I want to make friends and enjoy the people I interact with. Now I might do the very same things but people see the sincerity of someone who really wants to like them and that makes all the difference.

So the first thing we’ll look at is the advice to become genuinely interested in other people. In other words, quit trying to be interesting and get interested.

A few weeks ago I mentioned everyone’s favorite radio station WIIFM, call letters for “What’s In It For Me.” This is the preoccupation of most people’s thoughts. Reality check – people are more concerned about themselves than they are about you. If you want to come to know them, like them and perhaps have them like you then don’t fight it. Carnegie said we could make more friends in two months than we could in two years by becoming interested in others rather than trying to be interesting.

Sounds easy enough but what’s that look like, being interested in others? First thing I’d say would be give them your full attention. If you’re meeting with them in person that means maintaining eye contact and displaying body language that indicates you’re open to them and what they’re sharing. Don’t sit back, arms folded, legs crossed with a blank expression. All it takes is a smile, head nod to indicate agreement and perhaps a slight lean forward. I bet you can do each of those things.

If you happen to be on the phone stop everything you’re doing…including looking at your computer. Ask yourself, “If the person was sitting in front of me would I be doing what I’m doing right now?” If the answer is no then stop whatever you’re doing so you can pay full attention. Take notes if for no other reason than to focus on the other person and what they’re saying.

How about this; don’t listen to respond, instead, listen to understand. That means you’re not jumping in each time they take a breath so you can share your thoughts
or your stories. The more natural thing would be to ask questions to learn more about them or what they happen to be talking about.

Here’s an idea — you can take the initiative and talk about something you know is important to the other person. Perhaps you’ve heard they are into gardening. If you’re like me that may be something you have no interest in but you can still ask them about it because it’s important to them. How do people feel when they talk about something or someone they love? How do they feel when they talk about causes they’re passionate about? What about fond memories? You’re probably thinking, “Of course they feel good when they recall such things and talk about them.” Bingo!

When people talk about what they love or what they’re passionate about they feel energized and good. Eventually they come to associate those positive feelings with you. Think back to a time when someone said or did something that hurt you. If they did it repeatedly you probably tried to avoid that person. On the flip side, when you had good, positive interactions with people you began to associate good feelings with them and wanted to be around them. It’s the same deal here, only this time you’re making a more strategic decision to engage the other person on their terms in hopes of engaging the liking principle.

This strategic decision is an important one. When I interview people I typically ask for a strength of theirs and most often I hear something like, “I have great relationships with my agents and CSRs.” So people are aware relationships are important but they usually fall flat when I follow up with this question, “Suppose you get this job and you’re going to visit your assigned agents for the first time. What will you do to connect with them as quickly as possible so you can build a strong working relationship quickly?” This is where people stutter and hesitate. It’s easy for them to sense when someone likes them but they’re not always sure why that’s occurred.

Understanding a simple concept like becoming genuinely interested in others and making it a focus of your interaction will help you become a more likable person. Never underestimate the power of liking. Jeffrey Gitomer put it best when he said, “All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. All things not being so equal, people still want to do business with their friends.” Being a good friend will get you the benefit of the doubt every time, whether professionally or personally.

If you’ve had success making friends with a strategy like this, or some other way, leave a comment below to let me know about it.

Brian
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

Arouse an Eager Want

Question: Would you rather do something of your own free will or be forced? I’m going to guess all of you said you’d prefer to exercise your free will. That’s not to say we all can’t stand a good kick in the seat of the pants every now and then. I’m thinking of my old high school football coach as I type that! We can always be pushed to do a little more than we think we’re capable of but that’s not what I’m talking about here. What’s important is this difference; if I’m forced to do something I’ll probably stop doing it the moment the force, or threat, is removed. However, if I do something of my own free will I’m likely to continue in that behavior, especially if I enjoy some benefits.

Dale Carnegie also understood that people want to exercise their right to choose and that’s why he encouraged readers to arouse in the other person an eager want. It’s usually fun and enjoyable to do things when we want to do them but quite often people don’t want to do what’s asked of them. So how do you make someone want to do the thing you’re asking of them? A few thoughts come to mind.

In sales we jokingly say everyone’s favorite radio station is WIIFM. That stands for “What’s In It For Me” and it’s where everyone’s attention is tuned in almost continually. Let’s face it, first and foremost people think about how they will be impacted by things. I once heard a psychologist build on the WIIFM concept by adding everyone’s favorite song to the mix, a derivation of Willy Nelson’s classic, “You were Always on My Mind.” Paula Butterfield, addressing a leadership group at Franklin University several years ago said people’s favorite song was, “I was Always on My Mind.” Every person you meet is thinking, “How will this affect me?” That means you have to think about how to put things in terms that will appeal to them.

Understanding the other person and what they want, hope for, desire – what motivates them – is key. While this seems simple, how many times have you seen people try to motivate others in ways that motivate themselves? It’s not about YOU, it’s about them. If making more money is your thing that’s not necessarily someone else’s carrot. The same could be said for title or position. Not everyone wants to be a VP, company owner, head coach or some other highly visible position. For some people that motivation is easily seen and tapped into but when it comes to others you have to pay close attention. What do people talk about? What do you observe in their office or home? For some people the motivation is a sense of belonging, knowing they’re making a difference, family, hobbies, etc.

Once you know what that motivation is, your next step is to align your request with it somehow. This is the concept of consistency; the principle that says people are likely to act in ways that are consistent with what they’ve said or done in the past. If another person sees how what you’re asking ties into what’s most important to them then they’re likely to tackle it with more enthusiasm and more likely follow through. That’s the principle of consistency at work. For example, many kids don’t enjoy the work that comes along with college but they might have career aspirations. Tying in how coursework or grades might help them realize their dreams will make them a little more eager to do well.

Sometimes making something seem special, something not many people can have, or do, is what does the trick. This taps into scarcity, the principle of influence that tells us people are motivated to action when they fear losing an opportunity. This isn’t new to the human condition. Mark Twain wrote of Tom Sawyer in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, “He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it – namely, in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain.” This came about because Tom didn’t want to paint a fence. He convinced the other kids to do it when he made it seem special. All of a sudden they all wanted to do it.

So we’ve now covered three fundamental techniques for handling people:

  1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
  2. Give honest, sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

In the weeks to come we’ll explore Dale Carnegie’s six ideas to get people to like you. In the meantime, I’ve love to hear your thoughts about arousing an eager want in another person so feel free to leave a comment below.

Brian
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”