Some people like to make decisions on their own. Others tend to follow the group. Both have their benefits, and both have their drawbacks.
Some of the greatest minds in history have always gone against the crowd. But they were also considered lunatics by some of their contemporaries.
On the other hand, sticking with the crowd can keep you safe, happy, and popular. Until the group decides to plunge headlong over a cliff. Then the party’s over.
In the language of NLP’s “Meta Programs,” this is referred to “self referencing” or “other referencing.”
People tend to lean more heavily on themselves, or an external group (or figure of authority) for most of their decisions. Neither is right or wrong.
However, if you’re intending to persuade somebody, it’s crucial to know which one of these categories your targets fit into.
If somebody sees themself as an independent thinker, trying to persuade them by showing tons of social proof might backfire.
On the other hand, if the person you’re selling to is more of a group oriented person, then trying to get them to make the decision on their own, without having an external group to reference, can also backfire.
How do you know? If you’re selling face to face, you can simply ask. It’s important to not make either of these categories sound more “moral” or “better” than the other.
You can ask covertly, by seeing how they made the decision to buy the last similar product. Then listen for clues.
When selling online, you’ll have to do some research and testing. This is one thing you can split test if you’ve got a website. One test you can emphasize plenty of social proof, and another website you can emphasize independent thinkers. Just go with whatever works best.
If you’ve got a big enough profit margin, you can run some testing via questionarres. Get a few hundred respondents to take five to ten minutes to give details about their purchasing decisions. Then go through the results, and figure out if your customers are “group thinkers” or “independent thinkers.”
You may find you’ve been leaving a lot of money on the table.