Are your customers ‘playing to win’ or ‘trying not to lose’

Do you ever find it difficult to motivate yourself?

I know that sometimes on a Monday morning I can laze in bed for an extra couple of hours telling myself that within one hour I can be showered, dressed and ready to go.

Or worse, I play a game on my iPad for a few minutes that turns into 60 or a shocking 90 minutes.

Does this ever happen to you? And if it does, do you ever wonder why you do it? Why fritter away precious hours when time is so valuable and you could be doing something far more productive that would help your business grow?

These questions take us close to the heart of ideas about motivation and why we do what we do. Motivation, however, works in many different ways and by scrutinising your own behaviour you can also gain a better understanding of what might make your clients buy more of your services or products.

Just think about it for a second.

How helpful would it be if you knew for sure what motivates you and what motivates your clients? Wouldn’t they be just the kind of insights that could help your business grow? And if you also understand what your own and your clients’ weaknesses are, then imagine how that information could help you compensate for them.

Do you play to win or not to lose?

I was reading a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article recently titled ‘Do you play to win or not to lose?’ by Heidi Grant Halvorson, a prominent social psychologist, and E Tory Higgins, Professor of Psychology and Management at Columbia University.

They suggest that there are two types of motivation (a) promotional focus and (b) prevention focus.

Promotional motivation focuses on pleasure derived from making progress in business and in life.  It’s about advancing; you achieve pleasure when you accomplish things. The pain is when you fail to progress and stay where you are.

Prevention motivation is based on concern for safety and security. If this is your dominant position then you want to maintain a satisfactory state and are focused primarily on maintaining the status quo. Pleasure is derived by maintaining safety and security. Pain is experienced as discomfort when you lose that satisfactory state.

So, which camp do you fall into?

Halvorson and Higgins in their HBR article suggest that identifying your dominant focus is easy, see the table below:

Promotion focused people Prevention focused people
Work quickly Work slowly and deliberately
Are open to new opportunities Stick to tried and true ways of doing things
Consider lots of alternatives and are great at brainstorming Are stressed by short deadlines
Plan only for best case scenarios Are prepared for the worst

However, what is clear is that any one of us can probably fit into both camps at some point. For example, you may be promotion focused in a business context but when it comes to paying the bills and looking after your family you find yourself firmly in the prevention focused camp.

As you aim to understand motivation, it’s vital to identify the different states you or your clients might be in at a given moment.

How do you encourage your clients to buy from you?

A great way to motivate your clients, who are promotional focused, is to provide bonuses to your service offering. For example if you are offering a mentoring or an online programme include a number of bonuses to help your clients further develop their skills and knowledge. Promotional focussed people want their business to grow so if they believe that the ‘bonuses’ will advance their business they are more inclined to buy.

However, a bonus scenario will not work, or is much less likely to work, with prevention focused people. Here you need to switch your mindset and highlight the potential dangers of not working with you or adopting a certain approach. Your aim should be to advise your ideal client that they need to do something different in order to improve safety and security.

But which approach should you use when talking to an audience?

Naturally, when presenting to an audience either face-to-face or via a webinar or video, it’s very important to use language and to present your proposition in such a way that it tells the same story from both a promotional and prevention angle.

Story telling is a great way to get your message across because people are moved by emotion and the best way to connect is to start with ‘Once upon a time…’ Promotional focussed people like stories about the inspirational entrepreneur, whereas prevention focussed people prefer a cautionary account which demonstrates what not to do. If you can combine both these elements into the story of your business you will connect with both groups of people and give yourself a great chance of success.

Speaking more generally, it’s always useful to work towards a better understanding of what your clients want and how they perceive the potential opportunities and operational threats they’re faced with. In short, the best way to be persuasive as a business and a service provider is to offer clarity as to precisely what is in it for your clients at any given moment. Explaining exactly how you can help lets you make the most of motivations that are already well-established and could well mean more custom for your business.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

* You can see more of Carole’s great posts here

Carole Bozkurt

Hi there, I'm Carole Bozkurt, founder of The Blueprint Practice. I’m a Visibility Strategist and I help female business owners to stand out in a crowded market and get noticed by their ideal client. Once the right connections have been made I help my clients to turn those contacts into paying clients. If you are interested in growing your business, increasing your client base and claiming your expert status then please email me directly at Alternatively, you can contact me via my website here.

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