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What's in it for me? Or What's in it for you? That is the Question

Updated: Jul 11, 2022

In life and in business, it's always important to understand what's important, but the question is do you ask what's in it for me, or what's in it for you?

Clearly, both questions are important as in any successful relationship, or partnership, the happier all parties are with the outcomes, then the more likely you are to last the course.

Think about your buying experience of a home, a car, or a vacation. What about at work when you're working with a client on the sales side, trying to help them solve a particular challenge and provide them with solutions. What about in any relationship, at home, in business, or at leisure.

"What makes you feel most comfortable? When you're talking about what's in it for you, or when they're talking about what's in it for them?"

Or, even better, how do you feel when the conversation is about:

"What's in it for us, and how do we succeed together?"

Misguidedly, many people and organizations believe that the sales process (whatever you're selling) is an adversarial, transactional encounter - they have something they have to sell, and you have the money to buy (sometimes regardless of whether you need it or not!)

For me, there is a phrase that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end - "I can sell sand in a desert," or "Ice in Antarctica"! Anyone who thinks that way probably shouldn't be in a sales role unless maybe they're selling "hook a duck" at the annual summer fair!

Empathy and understanding are essential in any relationship, and you can't establish those two things without first listening and learning. These are the foundations of understanding, and then being able to apply empathy, that in turn allows you to build solutions, and solve challenges.

To what extent do you have trust when you meet someone and all they do is talk about themselves? When a "sales rep" tells you that if you close the deal by the end of their sales month they'll give you a great deal. "Well, why can't you give me a great deal anyway?" is my question.

When a business partner harps on about how they need to earn more money out of your relationship without even asking, "how are things going for you in our relationship."

I remember a story from an old mentor of mine. The story is the antithesis of a strategic growth leader:

Dorothy, an old lady in her 80s with $250,000 in cash in a bag walks onto a car sales lot. She explains to Tom, the salesperson that she needs a small car to drive her to the local shops twice a week, a mile from her home, and that she doesn't particularly like driving, or driving fast, fuel economy is important to her, but she does like the color red.

An hour later after they'd signed all the paperwork, transaction completed, Dorothy $249,999 lighter, she sat in her new bright red Ferrari on her way to the shops then home - she couldnt find the handbrake, she couldnt get the thing into gear, and even when she thought she had, the Ferrari jolted foward and stalled.

Tom was still at the lot, his next sale, a farmer with $200,000 in a bag. He just focused on his next victim and let the old lady figure it out on her own.

Tom made a big commission that month but that was shortlived. His reputation spread quickly, and he certainly didnt get any repeat custom.

I also recall a client who was moderately satisfied with the performance of one of his key vendors. Quarterly Business Review after review, the vendor just kept coming back asking for more money for the mediocre services they were experiencing. The multiple reports and the decks presented were all about them and had nothing to do with aligning the service outcomes with the client's needs.

Needless to say, the client eventually lost patience and changed contractor to one that paid them more attention to their needs.

So, in summary, if in life or in business, buying or selling, you're focused on "what's in it for me" as opposed to exploring "what's in it for you" maybe you're doing yourself a disservice - try the following 6-questions as a starting off point, and then creating win-win solutions that are focused on mutually beneficial outcomes:

- What do you like? (about your job, life, relationship)
- What are you the most proud of?
- What would you like to do more of? Less of?
- Where would you like to be in 12 months? 2 years? 5 years?
- How do you see yourself getting there? and who with?
- What does success look like for you?

Clearly, there are many more questions you can ask and probably will need to ask - the better understanding you have, then the more likely you are to come up with a winning solution.

Just like any relationship, the foundations of trust are built from empathy and understanding, and without listening and learning, then you'll be just guessing in the dark.


TRUE NORTH© is 4xi's proprietary Strategic Partnerships Learning Academy built from years of experience in business. Refreshingly, TRUE NORTH© is focused on changing and embedding behaviors, not administrative processes, helping organizations win better, and retain better business.


Simon Elliot is Managing Partner and Co-founder at the boutique advisory firm, 4xi Global Consulting & Solutions. 4xi is built on the foundations of a people-first approach to transforming the Human Experience (HX) as the cornerstone to success, no matter what business.

Long-term strategic partnerships are built on trust, reliability, and credibility, and underpinned by shared purpose, vision, mission, and values.

For more information about 4xi, visit our website at or contact Simon directly at


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4xi Global Consulting & Solutions is a team of talented leaders from both the client-side and service provider side creating an impact on the Human Experience (HX) for people at work, in education, rest, and at leisure.

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