What’s Your Prospect’s Focus?

From sales pitches to marriage proposals, much of life depends on persuading people to act.

Researchers at Columbia Business School’s Motivation Science Center say people decide based on their primary focus. People they dub prevention-focused mainly want to preserve what they have. The other type—promotion-focused people—are risk-takers who seek new possibilities.

In their book Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing the World for Success and Influence, Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., and E. Tory Higgins, Ph.D., of the Columbia center, give examples of both types of people. They suggest improving your persuasiveness by adapting your message to appeal to the type of person hearing it, or to include points that will resonate with both types of people.


● Respond to pitches emphasizing benefits

● Interested in the big picture

● Want to know the “why” related to their decision, such as the purpose of a new product and its innovativeness


● Want assurance they won’t make a mistake by buying in

● Interested in the nitty-gritty details

● Want to know the product is reliable, how it works and its specifications


Betsy Simnacher is a freelance writer who has been published in numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. She lives in the suburbs of Dallas.

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