Most of us are familiar with the term WIIFM—What’s In It for Me. Great marketing is often built on this premise. Marketing communication is designed to show how a product or service addresses a client’s felt pain or pleasure.
But, suppose you and your prospective partner are in the midst of negotiation. Both of you have the perspective of seeking to address the other’s WIIFM. You enter into a negotiation either assuming or knowing the other’s pain point and address it. You think you’re doing an excellent job of addressing one another’s WIIFM. Suppose your partner is, likewise, doing the same thing and you both feel an underlying disconnect. If you are both operating with the high-minded goal of addressing the other’s WIIFM, what went wrong?
Each of you is attempting to come to an agreement without completing a vital preceding step.
The Missing Step
On last Thursday, I learned that the important step is to ask WIIFWe. Jeanette Nyden, author of Getting to We, described that at a recent Icosa event. Nyden has negotiated scores of agreements between large corporations. The principles she uses to guide them through the process applies to two people or to medium firms attempting to find common ground; each assumes that it has the corner on a solution. We often come to negotiations with an implicit adversarial bent.
Attorneys are trained to optimize client benefits in the hottest hot spots of such adversarial environments. They are trained to anticipate anything that could go wrong and develop contracts designed to mitigate potential damage. They typically negotiate contracts first on behalf of clients and then leave it up to the clients to make those contracts work: contract first.
Nyden turns this implicit worldview on its head and asks, “What if we were to reverse the order and put the relationship first and create a contract built upon that relationship?”
While it sounds too time consuming and impractical, much research, in fact, validates the power of putting relationship first. Dell Computers and GENCO ATC had an extremely adversarial relationship. They were in negotiations that nearly collapsed when a GENCO ATC president Tom Perry said,
I had an epiphany. If you can’t get past the absence of trust, you can’t ever make it work. I can’t say enough about how that’s changed everything.” The parties took the leap of faith of trust to get to We. Perry went on to say, “There was a recognition for the importance of the relationship and most important for the power of trust…Today the atmosphere in our meetings is 180 degrees different from the past.” Within six months of signing the agreement, the two parties achieved record-setting results including reducing scrap by 62 percent.
As one of my 3to5 Club colleagues says, “Slow is fast and fast is slow.”
Nyden outlines a five step process she takes clients through to live out this approach.
Getting ready for WIIFWe
Jointly agreeing on a shared vision for partnership
Collaboratively negotiating the guiding principles for the partnership
- Loyalty to the vision
- Proportionality vs. power plays
Negotiate as We: Contracting
Live as We
- Utilizing shared vision and guiding principles to keep We healthy.
Let’s focus on the first part of the first step: “Getting ready for we.” Let’s repaint the opening scenario I described by taking that preceding step.
Suppose you and your prospective partner are laying the groundwork for an agreement. Rather than beginning by defending your own WIIFM, both of you have a common goal of discovering if WIIFWe is possible. Of course, we have to start by bringing our own WIIFM to the table. Before you have a meeting, each of you do the following:
i. What is my WIIFM?
ii. What do I think my partner’s WIIFM is?
iii. Ask yourself, what do I think trustworthy behavior is? Am I living up to my own standard?
iv. Ask yourself, is my partner acting in a trustworthy manner? How do I know that?
When you meet with your partner have each of you ask one another these questions:
What’s your WIIFM to get to We?
What’s my WIIFM to get to We?
How do you define trustworthy behaviors?
How am I doing meeting your definition?
How do I define trustworthy behaviors?
How do you think you’re doing in meeting my definition?
You now have a mutual understanding of the starting points of your WIIFM. You are discovering the degree to which you’re now addressing one another’s WIIFM and how to build trust. You now have an explicit goal you’re headed toward: you’re both operating toward the same high-minded goal of getting to WIIFWe.
In order to get ready for imagining a “we,” we have to build trust. While trust is ultimately built upon actions that reflect agreements, you can start now by doing some of the following. Some basic actions that can build, diminish or increase trust are
- Showing up
- Showing up on time
- Doing what you say you’re going to do
- Closing the loop to see if your partner believes you done what you say you’re going to do.
Try one action from this week’s toolkit and let me know how it works for you.
You can start TODAY by asking yourself, “On a scale of 1 to 10, in relation to a prospective partner or client, how trustworthy am I? If I’m not a 10, what can I do TODAY to get better?” Consider taking just one action to improve and ask yourself the same question in a week.
If you are part of a business advisory group like a 3to5 Club, take this simple 3-step process to increase trust within your club or individually between club members.
a. Ask yourself, what do I think trustworthy behavior is? Am I living up to my own standard?
b. Ask yourself, is my partner acting in a trustworthy manner? How do I know that?
c. Meet with your partner and each of you ask one another these questions:
i. How do you define trustworthy behaviors?
ii. How am I doing meeting your definition?
iii. How do I define trustworthy behaviors?
iv. How do you think you’re doing in meeting my definition?
1 Jeanette Nyden‘s Getting to We, pp. 28-29.