June 13, 2011

WHAT CUSTOMERS WANT: How to Use the Laws of Human Nature to Attract New Customers and Keep the Old Ones Happy

By Patrick Mahan

The basic formula for success in any business is simple…
1)       Attract new customers,
2)       Keep the old ones happy.

But what may sound simple in theory is not always easy in practice.  Why?  Because humans are illogical and irrational beings.  As a result, any attempt to persuade or influence them using logic and reason will generally yield poor results. 

So what’s the solution? 

Unfortunately, there may not be a definitive answer – certainly not one that holds true across the board with all people in all situations – but the good news is this:  Humans may be illogical and irrational, but they are NOT completely unpredictable.

In fact, boat loads of evidence now suggests that people are basically hardwired the same way.  In other words, we show up in this world “pre-packaged” with certain instincts and behaviors that we exhibit unconsciously in response to certain stimuli.  And to a large extent, these “hard-wired” responses are automatic and thus predictable.

As a result, marketers, advertising agencies, sales people, and those who study human behavior have created models based on these patterns.  Using these patterns, they are able to focus their marketing and sales strategies to gain a competitive advantage.  Today, these models have become the foundation for the Science of Influence and Persuasion.

How does it work?

Here’s an example:  If I give you a gift, I know you will feel a sense of obligation to give me a gift in return.  And I know this feeling of obligation will cause you to be uncomfortable until you have cancelled out your debt by repaying me in kind with a gift of equal or greater value.  This is what we call the Law of Reciprocity and it is one of the many elements of human nature that is both reliable and predictable.

Now – if you’re like most people reading this – you’ve reached the point where you’re asking yourself, “Alright, what’s in it for me?”

The point is this:  Human behavior is more predictable than most people realize.  And the ability to predict and influence behavior gives you an incredible advantage.

In the case of Reciprocity, the awareness of this Law will allow you to construct a powerful approach to growing your business.  Armed with the knowledge that a person feels obligated to return favors, consider the strategy of giving your customers something for free.  Something that is personal, significant, and expected.  This will activate the Law of Reciprocity and increase the chances of the customer giving you something back in return.  Hopefully, more business.

Now, I’m not talking about cold-hearted manipulation tactics.  Those types of dirty tricks will inevitably backfire in your face.  I’m talking about giving your customers something of real value in hopes that the customer will respond in kind.  In most cases, it works.  And more often than not they will respond as predicted in accordance to the Law.

Reciprocity is just one example of one Law of Human Behavior.  There are many more that have proved effective in numerous sociological and psychological experiments over the years.  And we will discover those in just a few moments.  But for now, realize that the person who can skillfully predict and influence behavior will always be ahead of the person who cannot.

Now, imagine the benefits in both your personal and professional life when you choose to invest just a fraction of your time into studying these simple, yet powerfully effective techniques. 

As you read this entire report, you’ll begin to develop an appreciation for these principles.  Furthermore, you will begin to discover specific ways in which you can apply these principles to your own situation and soon you will clearly see how effective they are in practice.


Contrary to what we may want to believe, we do not typically act based on reason or logic.  Rarely do we weigh all the consequences of a decision and rarely do we calculate our behaviors. 

For the most part, we are a reactive rather than proactive species.  For most of us, something happens and we respond.  And our response is often subconscious, habitual, and powered by emotion.

So when dealing with people, remember this: humans are emotional creatures.  Our behaviors and decisions are primarily influenced by:
1)       How we feel in a given moment (our emotional state),
2)       Our beliefs about how the outcome will make us feel (the emotional effect).

Therefore, in order to effectively influence and persuade someone, you must make a connection with your target by pulling their subconscious, emotional triggers.

Here is a list of useful emotional triggers...

Almost all of these are engrained deep inside our subconscious and woven into our human nature.   This will give you some insight into basic human needs and desires.  Most importantly, it will provide you with valuable tools in your quest to influence and persuade.  As you read through this list, consider how you might be able to apply each point to your specific situation.

These are Some of the Secret Tools Jealously Guarded by Politicians, Master Salespeople, Ad Agencies, and the World’s Best Marketers:

-          People want to move toward pleasure and away from pain (The emotions of Pain and Pleasure are the two primary drivers of human behavior).

-          People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

-          People want to be happy more than anything else. “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence” – Aristotle.

-          People want to associate with and do business with those the LIKE, TRUST, and BELIEVE.

-          People want things to be FAST, EASY, CONVENIENT, and SIMPLE.

-          Perhaps more than anything else, people desperately want to feel IMPORTANT & APPRECIATED (significant, powerful, respected, and recognized). “The deepest urge in human nature is the desire to feel important." – Prof. John Dewey, American philosopher.  “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” – William James

-          People want a sense of SECURITY and want to be REASSURED.

-          People want SYMPATHY.  Bill Clinton scored a lot of public perception points when he said, “I feel your pain.”

-          People want to feel SMART and COMPETENT.

-          People have a CURIOSITY about processes and how things work [Take time to walk your customer through the whole process.  They will appreciate your time and effort.  It shows them that you care.  Research shows that doctors who take extra time to walk their patients through the entire process significantly decrease their chances of getting sued for malpractice.] 

-          People want to associate with someone who will VALIDATE their OPINIONS and BELIEFS.

-          People want to take the PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE.  We move towards things that require the least amount of effort.

-          People want to feel COMFORTABLE.

-          People want to be seen as CONSISTENT.  Once we have made a decision or taken a stand we feel internal and external pressure to conform our behaviors.  In other words, it’s tough for a person to say one thing and do another.  Once you get someone to COMMIT they are pressured to follow through to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of inconsistency.

-          People are naturally influenced and persuaded by people they feel are SUPERIOR to them. 
-          To influence and persuade someone, establish your AUTHORITY, CREDIBILITY and EXPERTISE.  For example, people tend to believe doctors because of their AUTHORITY, experience and education.

-          People who exude SELF-CONFIDENCE, CHARM and CHARISM are naturally more successful in their efforts to influence and persuade.

-          People like FAMILIARITY.  We tend to resist change until it becomes absolutely necessary. For example: Brand X is kind of like your favorite pair of shoes: comfortable, familiar, reliable… and they always get you where you want to go.

-          People like to be told their job is big and/or difficult. Example: “That’s a big job for one person!”  This makes the person feel as if you understand and appreciate their hard work.  In turn, rapport is strengthened.  We like people who show an understanding for what we're going through.

-          People want to know, perhaps more than anything else, “What’s in it for me?”

-          People want FOOD and everyone loves to EAT.

-          People want their CHILDREN to be recognized and taken care of.

-          VIRTUAL OWNERSHIP:  If you create a clear mental image in the mind of your prospect, then they will feel as if they have taken ownership of the product or service you are selling.  Once they take “mental ownership” then you are much more likely to close the deal.  They feel a “sense of loss” if they walk away without your product or service.  Remember the First Rule of Persuasion: Get your prospect to imagine doing whatever it is you want them to do.  Get them to visualize ownership.

-          People like people who are similar to themselves (SIMILIARITY).

-          People like to be COMPLIMENTED.  The average person receives only 12 compliments per year.

-          People like to associate with someone who will ENCOURAGE their dreams, hopes and desires.  Everyone needs a cheerleader.

-          People like to associate with someone who will JUSTIFY their mistakes.  We all screw up from time to time and like someone who will help us find an excuse.

-          Establish a COMMON ENEMY.  You tend to like a person more once you discover that you share a common enemy. [This is the great secret of politicians, religious figures and even cult leaders.]

-          People love surprises, gifts and favors.  Do things for people that are PERSONAL, SIGNIFICANT, and UNEXPECTED.

-          Ease their fears.  People desperately want to hear that everything’s going to be okay.  Offer them HOPE, SUPPORT and REASSURANCE and they will flock to you.

-          People want to feel in CONTROL of their lives and their situations (of their life, finances, relationships, business dealings, etc).  Overall, your level of Happiness will rise and fall in proportion to the extent in which you feel in control.

-          People want PEACE OF MIND

-          People want to look SMART and look good in the eyes of others.

-          Many people can be persuaded into action if there is a chance at FAME or a chance to be RECOGNIZED.

-          People want to save TIME and MONEY.

-          People will take risk and comply with your request if they see the possibility of winning A BIG PRIZE (lotteries, casinos, raffles).

-          People want PRIVILEDGED information.  They want to feel as if they have the “inside track”, “insiders information,” “secret information,” “behind the scenes look,” “VIP Access,” "exclusive clubs," and "skip-the-line opportunities".  If you can give them these “privileges” then you are more likely to gain compliance.

-          People want an IDENTITY.  An identity defines who you are.  It gives your life meaning and a sense of purpose.  Your identity determines your sense of self-worth.  A person isn’t happy until he becomes reasonably satisfied that he has found his identity.  Examples: “I am a lawyer,” “I am a father,” “I am a Christian,” “I am a family man,” “I am a millionaire.”  Once you establish an identity, almost all of your decisions and behaviors are directed by your need to validate your identity.  Unfortunately, this behavior can be detrimental.  For example, if your life and self-worth is based on the identity that first and foremost “I am a doctor” then your role in other areas of life (husband, father, friend, etc.) will be diminished.  This is why balance is so important.  You can’t allow yourself to base your entire identity on one role, or one facet of your life.  And what happens, if for some reason you can no longer be “a doctor”?  Your entire sense of self-worth is turned upside down.  When I was younger, my identity was “a baseball player.”  That’s how I saw myself.  My entire identity was based on “being a baseball player.”  After college, I no longer had the opportunity to play baseball.  My career was over and it wasn’t by choice.  My identity was taken away from me and it took a long time for me to accept that.  When you base your life around one identity, and it’s taken away from you, it’s very difficult to find a new identity and it’s an emotional struggle until you find something new to latch on to.  So don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  Strive to balance your life-roles and allow your sense of self-worth to come from various sources.  Furthermore, many people unconsciously adopt negative identities such as “I am an alcoholic.”  The subconscious mind desperately wants to latch on to something.  It needs an identity.  And if you don’t choose a positive, empowering identity, then it will choose one for you.  In the case of an alcoholic, it’s difficult to give up alcohol because if you do, you feel that you are “giving up your identity.” Being “an alcoholic” is self-defeating, but it satisfies your deep-seated psychological need to “be something.”  Don’t allow yourself to fall into that trap.  Make a conscious choice to establish a well-balanced identity that will empower and serve you as well as others.

How can you incorporate these basic Laws of Human Psychology into your sales process? 

Remember, the more you know about what makes your customers tick, the more likely you are to fulfill their needs and thus create win-win situations.

Originally written: May 7th, 2008

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