Understanding the consumer

Studies show techniques to attract the attention of potential customers

Good salespeople have their techniques and their strategies for attending customers. Often their actions are based on intuition and experience gained in dealing with the public.

This is very positive, but it can be supplemented with psychology and marketing knowledge. There are several studies that show how to understand customers, how to attract their attention and what is the best way to approach them to close a deal.

A 2015 study by Sebrae (Brazilian Service of Support for Micro and Small Enterprises) brings very useful information about how consumers relate to products, services and brands. It also explains how they make their choices and evaluate services.

The first thing you should keep in mind is that consumer behavior involves rational and emotional activities that occur when selecting, purchasing and using products or services.

This means that they don’t act only with their head, carefully analyzing what they will do. What happens is exactly the opposite: the majority of consumer decisions are based on emotional components. So, good advertising seeks, more than just highlighting features, but also to link the product to an experience as well as the senses (hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch), creating a story that intensifies emotions and creates an environment conducive to a favorable assessment of the product.

It’s essential, therefore, to understand what the key factors are that influence the consumer’s decision and how they will behave. The Sebrae study divides them into four categories:

  • Cultural;
  • Social;
  • Personal;
  • Psychological.

We’ll detail each of them, remembering that all of them influence the consumer at the same time.

Cultural factors involve values, perceptions and preferences that all people have, which interfere with their present and future consumption habits. It’s possible to identify common threads among them, such as the geographic regions where they were born and where they live, the religion they follow, the social class to which they belong. People who have similar cultural characteristics generally have similar interests and behaviors.

In turn, social factors, according to Sebrae, are those that involve:

  • Reference groups, also known as opinion makers. These are groups of people who influence the feelings and thoughts of each individual. They include friends, neighbors and co-workers, as well as religious, trade union and political leaders.
  • Family: this is the group with the greatest influence. Parents, spouses and children carry a great weight in decisions.
  • Social roles and positions: over a lifetime, individuals are changing their role and status in society. Their product choices also change, being associated with their position at the time of purchase.

Personal factors refer to the specific characteristics of each one, which have an impact on their needs and desires, as well as their consumption pattern. Age, profession, economic status, image (as he is seen and how he wants to be seen) and personality are examples of such characteristics.

Finally, we have the psychological factors that can influence consumer choices:

  • The consumer’s motivation so that the action meets their specific needs and desires.
  • The perception of the information received, which involves understanding it or associating it to current needs.
  • The knowledge acquired by the consumer with their experiences.
  • Their beliefs and attitudes.

There is therefore a lot of information to consider. To understand how each customer reacts to different approaches, it’s necessary to learn how these factors manifest themselves. Information should be gathered about the customer, observing him and looking for answers to questions like:

  • What is he thinking and feeling?
  • How does he see the world?
  • How does he act in different situations?
  • What are his true desires and needs?

“Assessing in detail all the factors that can influence a customer’s behavior will provide the ideal basis to develop business and marketing strategies”, assert Sebrae’s specialists. But this strategy should not be the only one. It’s necessary to have variations according to the customer profile, the goals one wants to achieve and the products to be prioritized.

It’s not advisable to establish a single mode of action and use it with all people: the ideal is to have several alternatives already thought out beforehand and assessed which one is the best in each situation. Use your sensitivity to understand the customer and your intelligence to decide on the best approach!

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Developed in the 1930s by the North American Alan H. Monroe, the Motivated Sequence is a good example of how to structure the customer approach using the psychology of persuasion. There are five steps, which he originally developed for public speeches, but that fit perfectly for use in any contact where you may want to get the attention of another person to obtain a certain result (a sale, for example).

See below what these five steps are and how to use them:

Attention: tell your customer something that arouses interest – a short story, an out of the ordinary case, a little known statistic. The question you should ask is: how can I get his attention?

Need: think about why the customer will need what you offer. Show how the topic you addressed in the previous step applies to him. He needs to be convinced that there is a need: this is what will motivate him to act.

Satisfaction: it’s the time to offer a solution to the customer’s need. Show what you have to offer and how this is a benefit.

Visualization: now is the moment to make the customer see the benefits. Explain to him the benefits that he will have by taking that product and what he loses if he decides not to buy it at this time.

Action: it’s the moment to close the deal. For this, have a plan already defined, by studying answers to the possible negative arguments from him and knowing what you can offer in terms of benefits (discounts, deadlines, giveaways, etc.).


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