Prospecting: Answer the ‘What’s in it for me?’ question up front
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Prospecting: Answer the ‘What’s in it for me?’ question up front

When you strip away the fancy talk and jargon around selling something, the real question we have to address for any prospect or customer is “What’s in it for me?” (They’re all listening to Radio Station WII-FM, eh?)

Way too many salespeople don’t really know the answer before they call to make an appointment. They may call blind from a list, without researching the company or individual, without knowing if the prospects are “in the market,” and launch into a product or solution pitch.

Others may have an opening gambit crafted around results other customers have achieved. It goes something like this: “We’ve helped Monolith Industries with Problem X to achieve Result Y.”

This approach represents a step up — and will probably engage the prospect, who is thinking, “Well, if it worked for Monolith Industries it might help us, too.” However, it still leaves the prospect having to figure things out for themselves, because there’s no explicit “for me” in it.

But what if you could actually tailor this message specifically to the prospect in the very first meeting? In other words, instead of talking about other customers, talk about what you will do for them?

Typically, salespeople don’t have that conversation until later. First they ask the prospect to describe their situation and problems. Then they start proposing solutions. But how much more impact will you have if you demonstrate knowledge of their business up front?

Bringing unique insight that’s specific to the prospect transforms the first meeting and the degree of customer engagement dramatically. Without waiting for the prospect to pose the (often unspoken) WII-FM question, you’ve answered it in a way that is directly relevant to the prospect’s business situation.

Know the numbers
This approach starts with developing a deep understanding of the problems you solve and the value you create — based on actual results produced for other customers. Maybe you can increase inventory turns by a factor of 2.5 or cut manufacturing scrap 12 percent. Could be your software cuts data entry errors 45 percent. Whatever. Specific and validated numbers are what matter here. Make sure they hold up across a range of customers, not just one.

The next step is to personalize the message by applying your results to the key performance indicators (KPIs) that matter to the prospect’s business. Generally, financial KPIs are best and easiest to get access to, because they’re in the financial statements (balance sheet, income statement, etc.). There are a lot of productivity KPIs as well, such as revenue per employee.

You may have problems estimating the specific financial impact of something like scrap reduction, because it’s not something reported in financial statements. But you can make an educated guess, perhaps using trade association averages or results from comparable customers.

A transformation takes place
The prospect is likely going to challenge you: “How did you come up with that?” Bingo! The customer is engaged and you are having a conversation about their business and an issue that’s critical to them. Your response should be something like “We made these assumptions about your business….” And follow up with: “Are they on target? How would you change them?”

At that point you are talking specifically about what you can do for them, refining things, moving the sale forward and guiding them through the sales process. It’s become collaborative, not at all adversarial.

Source: Adapted from a post by Dave Brock. To learn more visit

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