What Every Small Business Owner Needs to Know to Succeed at Selling


If a potential client were to ask, “What’s in it for me?” during a critical point in a purchasing conversation, how would you respond? Discover the answer to that question and watch your sales grow.

WIIFM, an acronym for “what’s in it for me”, is used in sales and marketing to gain an understanding of what influences the buying decisions of your consumer.

What Your Small Business Sells

 Think of your own buying experience. Was your most recent purchase decision made because of a pretty color or because of a weekly meeting with a strategic business coach? (Sorry. I couldn’t resist.) It’s highly unlikely these were the top influencers of your decision.

Items such as the color of a product or weekly coaching appointments are referred to as features. Features are aspects of your product or service that are tangible, factual, and identifiable. Features can include pricing, location, product construction, or services offered. They are of greater importance to you — the seller.

What Your Client Buys

When it comes to buying, clients buy products and services for their reasons, not ours. Clients purchase the benefits of the features of your product or service. (Is that clear as mud?)

For instance, a weekly meeting with a strategic business coach gives a small business owner confidence knowing they’re not alone. It intensifies the focus on critical initiatives that move their business forward more quickly. Ultimately, they accomplish their business goals more quickly with less stress.

Benefits answer the WIIFM for your client. They create emotion, incite passion, solve problems, and enhance results. Your clients are looking to buy benefits from you. Following their purchase, they then justify their decision with the features of your product or service.

The Feature-Benefit Distinction

Understanding the difference between features and benefits spells the difference between acquiring a client or not. It influences — or should influence — how we speak to our clients.

The feature—benefit distinction perplexes the brightest of small business owners as demonstrated by this email exchange.

I’m glad you asked about the difference between features and benefits.

Example #1: I have a coffee cup that is yellow/gold. That’s a feature. It describes the cup. Do I really care about the color of the cup? Not really. But what does the cup do for me? It generates a sense of comfort. I start my day with a yummy cup of coffee that lifts my spirits and starts my day out on the right note. Also, I bought the cup during an extended stay in Guam. The cup also reminds me of a time filled with fun, laughter, and joy.

Example #2: You have a precious baby that you want to make sure remains safe and secure at all times. You’re shopping for the perfect car seat. You’re not looking for one that’s tested by the latest organizations as the safest on the market. Well, you are but you’re shopping for a feature (safety tested/recommended) because it gives you peace of mind knowing you’re doing all you can to keep your baby safe. Keeping the baby safe is a benefit. We buy benefits first.

Example #3: Does a client care about the finished tax return? I would argue they don’t. But, they do care that the finished tax return keeps their tax liabilities to a minimum to help them save money. You create value for an intangible by speaking to the end result the client wants — XXX keeps your tax liabilities to a minimum and saves money because they take the time to prepare the tax return properly identifying all possibilities (i.e., exploiting loopholes?), etc., etc. Essentially, the client isn’t buying a tax return; s/he is buying what s/he wants the finished product to achieve. 

That’s the million dollar-marketing question — knowing what it is, understanding it, and speaking it.

Your turn. If I’m buying your product or service, WIIFM?

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Brooke Billingsley

Vice President
Perception Strategies

Synnovatia is a strategic coaching firm that is detailed and knowledgeable about business. i have a small business that grew from $150K to $750K because of the goal setting and resources that Synnovatia provided. It saves me years of learning on my own.

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