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People are self-centered. Use it to your advantage.

Belgium, 2001. The diamond exchange in Antwerp. The fancy room of an international shipping tycoon. I am trying to convince him to invest in a company that developed a non-invasive medical device that can save lives. He doesn’t seem interested in data and figures. Politely, I ask his finger, and demonstrate the operation principle of the device on his thick finger. His eyes shine. He checks concernedly the results, ensuring that they are in the normal range and that he is ok. Suddenly the topic is personally relevant. He tells me deliberately about someone in his family who could have been saved if there was a mean to detect his internal bleeding status on time… He decides to invest.

When investigating social behavior, especially in the context of decision-making and more specifically in marketing and selling related actions (actions we do all day, all the time – even without tagging it as such), we learn important facts. Understanding the factors that influence decision-making process is important to understanding what may impact the outcomes. In recent years, neuromarketing has been defined as the science that applies the principles of neuroscience to marketing research and practice


More on neuromarketing in future posts but this time I’d like to concentrate on a principle that I consider as the key element:

human decision-making focuses on the potential personal consequences of the decision.

There are many factors influencing decision-making, including past experience, cognitive biases, age, individual differences, belief in personal relevance, physiological and emotional state, etc. However most of these factors ends up with simple questions that humans are asking themselves when making a decision:

  • Positively motivating questions such as what am I gaining? position, promotion, status, money, influence, peace of mind, health, remedy?

  • Negatively motivating questions such as what am I risking? position, promotion, status, money, influence, peace of mind, stress, reputation?

Your campaign, presentation or short sales-pitch may be beautifully designed showing facts and figures, breaking- through technology, sophisticated drawings, the history of your company and the remarkable biography of the founders…. But if a selling or fundraising attempt is not focused on the questions that the listener REALLY needs to hear, you are just wasting everybody’s time.

Therefore, always keep in mind that the person in front of you is thinking: "What’s in it for me?”

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