Professional Skipper – Jan/Feb 2004 issue     back to articles menu

“Getting what you want”

Ever had trouble convincing other people that they should ‘follow your lead’, to get them to do what you want them to do? Most of us Humans like to be liked, we like to please, but whether consciously or unconsciously, we have an internal drive to satisfy our own needs and concerns too. ‘What’s in it for me’ – otherwise known as a ‘WIFM’, will form part of my decision to support you or not.

WIFM’s. Powerful things, WIFM’s. They’re the reason I get out of bed in the morning, bother to answer the phone, react to Customer demands, write articles for Journals like this one, try to keep to the speed limit, and attempt to lose weight. There’s Something In It For Me. Sounds selfish, but look in a mirror and ask the questions of yourself – ‘why do I do things?’, and at the base of it all is one or more WIFM’s. 

So, if you’re trying – and maybe failing – to get other people to see your point of view, to take up your idea, or simply carry out your instructions without you having to ‘ride shotgun’ over them, perhaps this article will help. Yes, you CAN try this at home folks. It works for Humans everywhere. Kids too.

Grab a sheet of paper, and identify clearly what you want, writing it in common language. Then consider each person, creating a list of WIFM’s, for each Individual. Then do another list of WIFM’s for the Team, and for the whole Organisation. You will need those sorted out – they’re your ‘ammo’ in this War of the Wills.

 Here’s a Model I want you to try using (Dale Carnegie published this way back in the 70’s – I have no idea where he got it from).

1. Attention & Interest:

Usually rolled together, but they are separate elements since you can get my attention with a flash-bang, but after my ears have stopped ringing and my eyes are working again, you’d better say or do something really interesting – to me, I mean – otherwise you’ll lose me to some other thing of interest. Like murdering the idiot who threw the flash-bang. Some of the WIFMs (What’s In It For Me) get used here – at least one or two powerful ones.

 2. Conviction:

OK, so you’ve got my attention and my interest, now you’ve got to ‘hold me in there’ by talking about why I should listen, why I should care, where are your facts, give me some evidence, reassure me that what you are saying is true, that what you are promising will happen, will actually happen or is likely to.

 3. Desire:

Less about facts, more about emotion – inspire me, make me want to support you – more WIFM’s get chucked in here, and some WIFM’s for the Organisation, along with how personal WIFM’s are linked to the Team & Organisation’s WIFM’s.

 4. Close: Simply an attempt to get commitment – a response, one way or another – and comes in three forms:

 a: Assumptive Close:

Gives them some choice, as in ‘Shall we start now or leave it until Friday?’ ‘Should Blue team head it or Green team?’.  ‘Should we do it on Hire Purchase or Lease it?’ If they make a choice then and there, you’ve got your commitment. If an argument ensues, you’ve still got commitment – they’ve decided it will happen, they’re now just arguing over which is the best way.

 b: If/Then close:

Used for dealing with Objections. Take the Objection, turn it into a question, then propose a deal: ‘If I can sort this out to your satisfaction, then can we go ahead?”


“We don’t have funding for that” answer = “If I can show you how we can fund it from somewhere else, then can we go ahead?”

“I don’t have time for that” answer = “If I work with you to see how we could restructure your workload so you will have time, then can we go ahead?”

c: Impending event close:

Gently (or maybe not) used to threaten some kind of loss or threat or missed opportunity. Here are two examples:

“As we sit here talking, money is being wasted and jobs put at risk – if we act now and make these changes, we will be more competitive and our jobs a bit more secure.”

“We need to get moving on this – before someone else does and we lose the initiative.”

 I usually start with the Assumptive close. It’s laid back, no pressure, and works in 50% of cases. If that hasn’t worked, I escalate to the If/Then close. You need more WIFM’s, and good listening skills so you can turn the objections into the questions they really are. For example, the question: ‘Why do we have to learn this new system’ might really be ‘Can I learn this new system and what happens to me if I can’t’.

 For the really stubborn, the Impending event is your last shot. If it doesn’t work, there’s nothing left, which is why I leave it to the last. Here are a couple of real Impending Event examples I use:

 “As you sit here looking at me, one of your workers has just been crushed in a compacting machine. He’s on his way to Hospital, but will die on the way. The Dept of Labour will investigate, and find you to be the person primarily responsible since you transferred that worker but didn’t provide training on the new equipment. The Employment Court agreed and has found you -not the Company, you personally- guilty, awarding a $300,000.00 fine and 6 months in jail. You have to sell your house to pay the fine. You’ve lost your job as well. Where will your Family go?  Now, if I’ve got your attention and interest – can we go on to talking about Hazard Identification?”. Here’s another one:

 “Oh, OK, you don’t see the need to learn about Disciplinary & Termination?. Well, here’s a fact – two-thirds of Grievance claims go against the Employer – that’s you, the managers – and of all of those successful claims, two-thirds of them are caused by procedural error. Because a Manager, just like you, took short cuts or plain didn’t know or care about correct procedures.  And the result? The bad employee you thought you’d got rid of, is back at work, driving the new car he bought with the $20,000 your company had to pay him. Imagine how good that’s gonna look on your CV. Imagine what it does to your career prospects. Imagine what the rest of the staff think of you now… So, shall I carry on?”

Rough stuff, which is why I leave it as a last resort when the first two have failed. The threat has got to be real, or believable. But it works.

Happy Persuading,

Carpe Diem

Steve Punter ANZIM, Dip Bus (PMER), FHRINZ, GNZATD
Staff Training Associates Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand.
© Steve Punter 2003 All rights reserved by the author.

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