Apr 072011

The Fear/Greed Continuum

The Fear/Greed Continuum

My old boss from a prior job used to say that every buyer (perhaps every human in general) could be placed at any point in time somewhere on the “fear/greed continuum” of motivation, meaning that you could win him or her over by appealing to the appropriate mix of those two driving forces if you could only figure out where the person sat on the spectrum.  I’ve found this to be true in life, more in selling situations than anything else, but probably in any negotiation.

Think about some examples:

  • Is your product an ROI sale (you’re appealing to greed), or do all your prospect’s larger competitors use you (fear they’ll get fired if they don’t adopt)?
  • Does the prospective employee really need the new job (e.g., she is motivated by fear), or is she happy where she is but able to be lured away (more motivated by greed) and therefore likely to be swayed by a comp package?
  • You’re selling your company – is the buyer excited about accretive financial synergies (greed) or is he motivated because he has a hole in his product line (fear)?

As I read over this post, I guess this is another way of saying “offense vs. defense,” (related to another post I wrote last year) but somehow I find this language more concrete in selling situations.  I don’t think it’s ever the case that any point on the spectrum is more lucrative than any other point (though I suppose extreme fear OR extreme greed might be more lucrative than equal doses of the two) – the point is to use questions and conversation to discover where your target or prospect sits on the spectrum, then tailor your approach accordingly.