The 5 Psychological Factors Behind Customer Decisions

Five, 5

… emotions drive future decisions due to “behavioral consistency” and “false consensus.” Behavioral consistency tells us that initial decisions set a precedent that we’re often inclined to follow. For example, getting someone’s agreement on one issue will increase the likelihood of getting their agreement on another issue. False consensus also drives consistency because people often believe “that others would probably behave like them when facing a similar scenario.” These findings should remind IT professionals that emotions carry enormous weight in the decision-making process. Working through this dynamic means:

  • Helping customers overcome misconceptions.
  • Building alignment among stakeholders.
  • Building rapport to gain access to buyer-side conversations.

3. ‘Sudden-death aversion’ slows the sale. Across different customers and solutions, one selling challenge dominates: the status quo. For a customer, the easiest option is to remain as is without making a change. Researchers at Cornell University and the University of Chicago wanted to know why the status quo keeps so many would-be customers anchored. They discovered a phenomenon they call “sudden-death aversion.” The name is fitting because it derives from their review of data from professional sports teams.

The researchers examined instances in which a team could either kick an extra point to put the game into overtime or choose “sudden death” and try to get the ball into the end zone from two yards away. Their data showed that people overwhelmingly prefer the “slow option that avoids the short-term risk at the cost of lesser odds of success.” That is, people will often decide to evade a short-term risk even when doing so sets them up for long-term failure. This is why we so often avoid purchasing a solution; we become distracted with the near-term risks without fully considering the downstream benefits. IT professionals can help customers overcome this common problem by:

  • Underscoring the risks presented by the status quo.
  • Appealing to the customer’s logic and emotion.
  • Asking the customer to make a small decision first.

4. Defaults influence customer decisions. Can something as simple as a cup of coffee influence someone’s international travel plans? A group of psychologists at Princeton and Columbia learned that the answer is yes. They performed a meta-analysis and discovered that “on average, defaults exert a considerable influence on decisions.” Moreover, the power of defaults is so strong that it often goes unnoticed as it guides our decisions.

A default is a preselected option. To better understand how defaults influence decisions, Dan Ariely, a Duke University psychology and behavioral economics professor, explains giving someone the choice of a free trip to Rome or a free trip to Paris. If you want to urge more people to choose Rome, you only need to add a third option: a free trip to Rome in which coffee is not included. You must pay for it out of your own pocket.

This third option makes Rome with coffee look better than Rome without coffee. More importantly, the research shows that it even makes Rome with coffee look better than Paris. This study shows that defaults guide decisions because they provide a specific context. IT professionals can create an influential context by …

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