Creating an I WE U

There’s a couple of different approaches, depending on whether you’re opening a meeting or making contact by phone. The technique is also appropriate by the way for emails, for example, to get an appointment.

Let’s cover meetings first. Now whilst an I WE U is delivered in that sequence, that is first the I, then the We and finally the U, you prepare it in the opposite order. That’s because the outcome, the result you want to achieve should be the purpose of having the meeting. If you have no outcome in mind, then why plan an interaction?

Prepare an Outline: Outcome first

The outcome is always a result for the buyer. It represents the value you want them to receive in return for them spending that time with you. There’s no need to wordsmith the statement at this stage, just write one or more bullet points. For example: to identify new ways to reduce costs, increase profit, reduce waste, increase production, reduce downtime or whatever. It could also be more personal in nature, for example, to reduce the buyer’s workload, free up time.

Once you have an outcome, you then move on to the WE, which describes the process or agenda that will achieve the outcome. Typically, that’s a series of steps. For example, the buyer explains his current situation, problems, challenges, objectives and then you respond with thoughts, ideas, queries.

Make sure your WE is a sequence that should reasonably achieve the outcome (U). A common failing when you’re new to I WE U’s is to come up with a WE that doesn’t quite relate to the U. It may be a series of steps, but they don’t make sense as a sequence to arrive at the outcome. For example, the U is to do with increasing sales. yet the WE sounds more like it’s to do with exploring costs.

Finally, the I, which is simply a statement of purpose that typically goes along the lines of ‘I’m here because….’

Note, always speak of ‘I’ (you personally) in an I WE U, don’t use ‘We’ (meaning your organization). In fact, that is true of your entire conversation. Always speak in terms of ‘I’. Never use ‘We’.

Wordsmith your I WE U

Once you have an outline, you can wordsmith your I WE U. For example, a U could be:

My hope is that by the end of the meeting you’ll have some new thoughts and ideas that will be of real value in helping you to reduce wastage’.

Then the WE. As I mentioned earlier, it should describe a logical process to achieve the defined outcome. You don’t want the buyer to be left wondering ‘how will us doing that achieve the outcome?’ S/he needs to feel that yes, that seems a good way to go about achieving the result, as does this example:

I thought the best way we could use this time is for you to give me an insight into your waste management operation, what you’re keen to accomplish and what you see as the challenges in achieving that. I’d hope that given that perspective, I’d have some useful insights of my own to share. How does that sound?

Now this and the U before it are just examples. Feel free to adapt the language of any part of an I WE U to suit how you usually express yourself. However, don’t alter the format. Don’t omit a step

And finally, the I. You may often refer here to a previous conversation e.g. when you made the appointment, so it’s a confirmation of why you’re there, rather than an announcement.

Thank you for meeting with me today Mary. As we discussed on the ‘phone, I’m here to see if I can be of value to you in helping you reduce raw material wastage.

Now once you’ve prepared your I WE U, practice it and refine the wording if it doesn’t sound right. Then try it with a colleague for example. Rehearse in front of a mirror. The time taken to prepare an I WE U is a very wise investment. I have before now invested more than an hour on my own or helping others to craft an I WE U. However, the payback was enormous in creating impact and setting the scene for a very productive call or meeting.

The technique is invaluable when you need to have a difficult conversation, for example to deal with a complaint or some other sensitive or contentious issue. In fact, to not use an I WE U in those situations is in my opinion to set yourself up for failure. Can you really afford that risk?

An I We U shows that you appreciate the buyer is granting you his valuable time and that you’re keen for him to get something in return.

Here’s some tips:

  • The stated outcome (the U) is normally conservative (easy for the buyer to agree to) and is expressed as a hope – there is no guarantee. Shared knowledge or ideas are the most commonly expressed results.
  • I WE U’s are reusable. You’ll likely only need 3 or 4 that you can adapt to different situations.
  • An I We U is about demonstrating intent, i.e., communicating that ‘I am here to be of value to you, not to push you into doing something you may not want to do’.

OK so that was meetings. Let’s look now at email I WE U’s.

Email and Phone I WE U’s

I WE U’s are a great way to gain an appointment. The principals are the same as for a meeting I WE U, except that in this case, you reverse the delivery sequence to state the U up front, then the WE and lastly the I.

That might seem counterintuitive, however when you’re live with a buyer you have a captive audience and she’s unlikely to opt out when you’re halfway through your delivery. An email on the other hand is unaccompanied and the buyer can readily stop reading, so your priority is to grab and hold their attention. The way to do that of course, is for them to receive immediate value, which is what the U is about. Here’s an example

Mary, I’ve just come across some new work practices that reduce raw material wastage in environments like yours. I think you’d find them of value (the U) and I’d like to take you through them (the We).

How about I come and see you next week?’ (the I).

Short and sweet and very impactful. If Mary has that problem can you see her not granting you an appointment?

The last situation I want to cover is telephone I WE U’s. In this case we use a hybrid of the Meeting and Email I WE U. As buyers can easily opt out of a call by simply cutting you off, you want them to have an early win as you do with an email. However, you can’t lead with that alone as it would be rude to not at least introduce yourself. So that’s the difference here, simply provide a brief introduction. For example:

HI Mary, this is Patrick Boucousis. I’m calling as I’ve just come across some new work practices that reduce raw material wastage in environments like yours. I think you’d find them of value (the U) and I’d like to take you through them (the We).

How about I come and see you next week?’ (the I).

Now I’d like you to practice your own I WE U’s. Pick some real-life situation(s) e.g. meetings you plan to have, and prepare one or more I WE U’s. I’d then like you to share those with me by posting in the Forum, as I will be providing feedback and it would help for you to learn from each other’s work. I do that in live courses where we post I WE U’s on flip chart paper. I understand though if you’d prefer to not do that, in which case please share your I WE U’s with me privately.

Examples of I WE U’s

Appointment Setting by ‘phone (easily adapted for email)

‘Mary, I’ve just come across some new work practices that reduce consumable use in environments such as yours that I think you’d find of value (the U). I’d like to take you through them (the We). How about I come and see you next week?’ (the I).

Variation 2

‘Hi Mary, I was at ABC Corp the other day and learned about some innovative techniques that saved them 10% in their consumable spend last year. I think what they’re doing could be relevant to you. Would you be interested in exploring that? (the U)

OK, well how about I take you through the processes they’re using, which will only take 30 minutes. (the We)

I can do that early next week. Do you have a date/time that suits? (the I)

Making a Call with a Colleague

Thank you for meeting with me this morning John. Please meet Jill Henley, a process control specialist, who I believe can be of value in helping you solve that metering problem you were describing to me.

(WE) I thought the way we could do this is for us to gain an understanding of your process and in particular the nature of that metering issue. I’m sure that with that insight, Jill and I can come with some ideas.

(U) You’d then be in a position to judge whether or not our capability is something you’d like to take advantage of. How does that sound?

The buyer called your company and asked for a Representative to come and see her. Your assistant arranged an appointment for you. You have no idea of the buyer’s agenda

Hi Mary, I understand you asked me here to discuss Personal Protection Equipment. (I)

So we make best use of your time, can you please explain your application and what will be of value to you in addressing your needs. With that insight I can then let you know whether I might be able to meet your expectations. (We)

I’d like by the end of this meeting for you to have a good idea of whether I might be of value to you. (U) How does that sound?

Scenario: You’re not sure how you’re perceived by the buyer.

I wanted to meet with you today Jason to ensure I’m doing everything I can to meet your expectations of value, as I’m not convinced I am. (the I)

I thought the way to approach this would be for me to properly understand your Objectives by having you explain those to me and giving me some insight into what is and isn’t currently working for you. Given that background I’d then like us to explore some approaches that will help you to achieve the outcomes you’re after. How does that sound? (the We)

Good, my hope is that by the end of the meeting you’ll have confidence that I understand and can deliver the value you need from me. (the U)

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