Heuristics: Using Mental Shortcuts to Predict Prospect and Client Behavior


Heuristics: Using Mental Shortcuts to Predict Prospect and Client Behavior

How many decisions will you make today? Most likely, you have already made more decisions than you think. On average, an adult makes 35,000 conscious decisions each day. It is impossible to weigh the pros and cons of 35,000 decisions. So, what is the secret to making solid choices and forming accurate judgments, particularly when it concerns clients and prospects? Heuristics.

Heuristics are often described as mental shortcuts. In decision-making, heuristics serve as a filter, helping you focus on a few points of a complex problem while ignoring inconsequential aspects. Doing so allows you to make a decision in a reasonable timeframe and ignore unnecessary information. Heuristics are the innate, subconscious rules that streamline the decision-making process.

Heuristics is more than just something described in psychology. Heuristics can also be used to help you understand your client’s or prospect’s behavior and how they make decisions, which can provide you insight and, ultimately, help you stand out from the competition. Consider the following types of heuristics during your next prospect or client interaction.

Affect Heuristic
Emotions are powerful and often influence decision-making. The affect heuristic appeals to our emotions and involves how we feel, think, and respond to words and content. When the affect heuristic comes into play, we over exaggerate the way we feel towards something. If we like something, we perceive the benefits to heavily outweigh the risks and costs. We view decisions and make judgments from an emotionally charged position versus being neutral and unbiased.

We know emotions can be a powerful force, so take them into consideration when forming your marketing strategy and planning your prospect and client communications. Ensure your firm radiates positivity. Prospects and clients will assign a positive or negative connotation to words and images that will impact their decision-making. Two people can be presented with the same marketing or advertising campaign and interpret it in completely different ways depending on their mood. Utilize this heuristic to make prospects and clients think positively about your firm. Start a meeting or call by telling a compelling story, offering good news, or even bringing donuts. This improves their mood at that very moment, which carries over into a positive feeling towards your firm. It happens very quickly, so ensure the very first interaction is a good one.

Anchoring and Adjustment Heuristic
In times of uncertainty, the human brain relies on the anchoring and adjustment heuristic. This heuristic uses relative thinking. We base our negotiations and decisions off an initial reference point, number or value. The anchor is a point or position familiar to us. When we encounter new information, it is compared to the base point and we adjust the new information until we feel an acceptable negotiation or decision has been reached.

For example, take advantage of this heuristic when prospects compare your firm to the competition. They will rely heavily upon an anchor and ignoring that reference point would be a misstep. All aspects of your service will be compared to a prospect’s previous experience and the information they have “stored” as a result of that experience. Understanding your prospect’s reference point – this stored information – allows you to leverage efforts and position yourself as the firm of choice.

Availability Heuristic
Have you ever jumped to conclusions about someone? We all have. And, when you did, you were utilizing the availability heuristic. We are influenced by premade assumptions, whether we admit it or not. The human brain leads us to make decisions based on information most readily available and easily accessible. We are more likely to remember the latest thing we see or hear. In the decision-making process we compare ideas, images and content to the most relevant and immediate example that comes to mind.

How do prospects and clients view your firm? Constantly highlight and remind clients, prospects and talent about why you are the firm for them. Position yourself as an industry leader and expert. Remind your target audience of recent successes. This implies you will have success in the future. Reinforce your innovative or unique approach to be the “available” solution. Continuously reinforcing a strong market positioning helps maintain top-of-mind awareness.

Although we like to think we carefully control and weigh every decision we make, it is basically a science. The secret is learning how to predict prospect and client behavior by considering heuristics when building marketing messages and strategy, as well as prospect and client interactions.

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