I’m feeling magnanimous today, so I’m going to give a free word of advice to fledgling information peddlers and fund raisers. Okay, so it’s not actually a word -- it’s an acronym, and one that everyone should know already, but if my email inbox is any indication, this basic tenet of sales has somehow eluded a surprising number of people. The acronym? WIIFM – pronounced wif-em, standing for What’s In It For Me.
If you want to achieve something and you need someone’s help in order to achieve it, figure out a way in which the other person can benefit from helping you before you ask for their help. Let me give you two examples of what NOT to do: Dear Ms. Smith, I would love it if you donated $100 to my organization; Dear Ms. Smith, It would be great if you’d mention my company on the radio or television.
When Ms. Smith receives a message like this, I can guarantee you the first thought that goes through her mind is What’s in it for me? If that question is not answered in the first few sentences, assume your email will be considered briefly for a WIIFM answer, and if one is not to be found, it will then be deleted.
It doesn’t matter how worthy, interesting, or popular your venture is, when I receive a message from someone I hardly know that begins with “I’d love it,” or “It would be great,” I roll my eyes and flag the message to read later because I’m so annoyed with the sender’s naïveté that I need to take a step back. I’ll read a few other messages, and then return when I’m calm so that I can consider the information that follows such an unsavvy intro.
The reason I react that way – annoyed and offended -- is because all I can think is, duh. Of course you’d love it if I gave you money. You know what? I’d love it if you cleaned my toilet. When in the next week are you willing to commit to cleaning my toilet for me? And it would be great if you’d give me a ride downtown so I don’t have to find a parking spot. Why? Because I asked and I would love it if you said yes. Isn’t that enough for you?