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Matching preferences

This section introduces you to a number of ideas that can influence how clients like to receive information and be motivated. We call these preferences. They tend to determine where someone puts their focus. If you can identify and match what the client likes, they will be more receptive to the information or idea you are presenting. It will not be possible for you to remember all the ideas so we recommend you experiment by working on one or two to start.

In this section:


Use this preferences grid to plot the preferences of important clients and then plan your influencing tactics by matching as many of the client’s preferences as possible.

How people like to be motivated

Some people take action to avoid problems or unpleasant consequences. Others are motivated by the prospect of gaining something desirable.

How much detail people like

Some people like a lot of detail, while others are more interested in the big picture. You’ll get your message across much better if you always give the level of detail your client prefers.

How people make decisions and judgements

Some people make judgements and decisions inside their body. They get a feeling or just know what is right, whereas others like external feedback and to canvas the opinion of others. This is the prime focus for judging, evaluating, and deciding responses.

Whether people like to reflect or to act

This preference determines whether a person prefers to act immediately or to reflect before acting. This preference is most noticeable over time as you work with someone.

Whether people notice what is the same or what is different

Some people notice what is similar. They like to link new information to things they already know. They notice what is the same, whereas others look for what is different. They notice how things have changed. Knowing how your client reacts to new information will help you present it in a way that is more comfortable for the client.

Whether people like choice or a defined course

Some people get excited about opportunities or possibilities to do different things. They like to have more than one course of action open to them. Others feel most comfortable following a set way. Once they have a procedure they will follow it. They are more interested in how to do things, not in why. This preference tends to be clearly expressed in what people do and say every day.

How people use words

Great writers engage their audience by using words that appeal to all the senses – visual, feeling and auditory. People typically use one type of words more than others. This is related to the way they store memories. To recognise their preference, listen to the client’s language and watch their breathing and posture.

Influence channel

Everyone has a specific means by which they become convinced (are influenced or persuaded) to an idea, course of action or approach. Part of what influences a person is the channel through which they like to receive information.


There are differences within these broad categories in how frequently people need to receive information. Some people need to be told a number of times or have a number of examples. Others need to be convinced over a period of time.