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Motivational selling – finding the pleasure and pain

Sigmund Freud coined the term “The Pleasure-Pain Principal” which is as simple as it sounds.  We are biologically programmed to seek pleasure and avoid pain.  We are internally motivated and drawn toward that anticipated pleasure and repelled by anticipated pain (unless you are a masochist, but that’s a different blog entirely).

Some of us are more drawn to pleasure, even at the risk of pain, and some of us are move averse to pain, even if we miss out on the pleasure. Understanding your client’s TRUE motivation will help you tremendously to provide an exceptionally satisfying real estate experience.

A few Examples of The Pleasure Principal In Real Estate (seeking the GOOD)

  • The home will make me look good to my friends
  • The home will make me feel safe
  • The home will be a good investment
  • The home will make me feel good about myself
  • Selling my home will allow me to move on to X chapter in my life
  • Selling my home will give me $ in my pocket
  • Living in the home will be a beautiful experience

A few Examples of The Pain Principal In Real Estate (seeking the BAD)

  • If I don’t buy this home, I might miss out on a good deal
  • When I buy a home, my family will no longer be crowded in too small of a home
  • If I buy this home, I won’t worry about the safety of my children while they play
  • If I buy this home, I won’t worry about the quality of my children’s education
  • If I sell my home, I won’t have creditors breathing down my neck
  • If I sell my home, I won’t be burdened with this huge financial commitment
  • If I buy now, are prices still going to drop? Meaning I’ve over-paid?
  • What if the roof leaks?

The challenge is that most people are not always conscious of their true motivation.  They might tell you (and believe) they are buying a home based on a logical review of the market, stats, etc. but subconsciously, they really think the home is cute.  You have to play detective to best determine if they seek pleasure or if they avoid pain.

Pleasure Seeker Signs

  • They drive a fancy car
  • They want to buy the most they can afford
  • They focus on how the house looks, furniture placement, etc.

Pain Fleer Signs

  • They are obsessed with the market and where it might be in six months
  • They are very analytical about data, stats and information
  • They are very interested in insurance and tax rates

By observing and analyzing your clients, you might be able to best understand their true motivation.  Then you can speak the language that will resonate best with them.  If they are more motivated by pleasure, focusing more on pain avoidance is not going to matter to them.  If they really are more motivated by mitigating pain or the risk of pain, furniture placement is not going to be on the top of their list.  Play the detective and look for clues.  I bet you will be able to better get to the base issues with your clients, even if they don’t know what they are, by determining what most motivates them.  Once done, you can “cut to the chase” quicker in finding their dream home and resolving issues.  Unleash your Freud!


Unrelated Geo-Bonus: uses Foursquare data to see what location is trending, very cool app!

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Written By

Janie has been in the development, construction and real estate industries for over 20 years. She began her career in commerical construction and has slowly worked into all of the related industries and added residential properties to her resume 7 years ago. She is currently the co-owner of sister companies, Papillon Real Estate and Papillon ReDevelopment (a construction and project management firm). Janie blogs for The Coral Gables Story. In her "free" time, she is a graduate student of Atlantic History with a focus on the history of business and technology. She is a lover of geo-anything. She loves the story.



  1. Ken Montville

    August 11, 2010 at 8:51 am

    It’s always tough deciphering the “code” buyers and sellers use. I like to be able to take what they say at face value but experience has taught me that I can’t.

    One of my all time favorites is when a potential seller calls to ask a Realtor to come over to “Tell me what I need to do to fix up the house because I’m thinking of maybe selling in a couple of months or so.” Translation: “I’m ready to put this bad boy on the market and you better come over with all the charts and graphs and valuations. If you come over with a decorating plan, you’re not getting the job.”

    • Janie Coffey

      August 11, 2010 at 8:57 am

      Yes, Ken, we want to take them at face value, but often cannot. Emotion (normally pleasure) often overrules logic, but no one wants to admit that. Buying a Porche is a prime example. When you really try to clue in to not just what people are saying, but how they are reacting, where they are focusing, etc. you might be able to better deduce the true “hotpoint”

  2. Mark Jacobs

    August 11, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Great Post Loved the information

    • Janie Coffey

      August 11, 2010 at 2:06 pm

      hi Mark, I’m glad you liked it and hopefully we all pay a little closer attention to the signs from our clients…

  3. Ken Brand

    August 11, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Nice reminder, there are cues, and clues, for those with eyes, ears, and conscious awareness. Thanks for the nudge.


    • Janie Coffey

      August 11, 2010 at 2:06 pm

      thanks Ken! PS where is your smiling face?

  4. Liz Benitez

    August 11, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Excellent advice. I work a lot with rentals right now and find that this is the case with them as well.

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