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Stop thinking like Spock and start acting like Kirk

I have a secret for you. People make decisions for entirely emotional reasons. They rationalize it later, but the reality is that we are often not driven by logic.

Newbie freelance programmers are often annoyed by this. Programmers tend to be logical creatures, and they expect that others will make decisions based on cool rationality and not emotions. It can be quite a shock to realize that our appeals to the reasoning parts of of our customers’ brains are going unheeded.

The good news is that once you understand this, you can use it to your advantage.

For example, consider your target customer. Don't think about the entire company, think about the person making the buying decision. What are they afraid of? What are they attracted to?

Let me give you an example.

Let's say your customers are small business owners. They understand the benefits of technology. They care about their businesses are relatively small, but they want to feel like they are able to make good use of technology with their businesses. It helps them to feel entrepreneurial and smart. They like software, in some cases because they used to write software.

For them, they care less about how end-users feel about the software. The may also care less about the long-term maintainability of the software. What is really important to them is the perceived value they receive from their software. How does it help them run their business? Does it appear to help them do more with less? Does it help them compete with larger organizations?

For these customers, many of our discussions around new development focuses on how the software will help them compete. We won’t talk about how improved usability will make it easier for end-users to use the software. We also won’t focus on maintainability or performance.Those items just aren’t emotional triggers for them.

As a freelance programmer, you need to understand what is driving your target customer. If you sell mainly to IT directors, they will probably have different goals and emotional triggers. They might be focused on protecting their job. They are more afraid of looking stupid than a business owner might be - business owners aren't worried about looking stupid because they tend to be more self confident. Or it may be important to them that you integrate well with the rest of the team.

Understanding how your target customer makes decisions will make you more effective in your sales and marketing efforts. .

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