Is Fear The Best Motivator?

Is Fear The Best Motivator?

In the selling process is fear a better motivator than pleasure? What if you sell insurance and protect people financially from the incidents they fear most? Are people more likely to buy when they fear loss or gain pleasure or peace of mind? Let’s explore what the experts say.

Psychologists who have studied our brains in depth understand this phenomenon. Fear is deep rooted in the “reptilian brain”. It is our basic need for survival. Even though our brains have evolved with other layers the limbic primitive brain is still activated. We feel the need to act instinctively to immediate and aggressively to protect ourselves from danger whether real or imagined. The fear of loss, be it loss of money, loss of life or loss of property is very real in our minds.

The positive or pleasure region of the brain is much younger in our evolution. This is known as the service portion of our brains. This is where we store knowledge, support, material and emotional assets. This area can only be activated when we have met the criteria of survival. In other words, we have to be OK and feel OK to use the service area of our brains. The lower the threat of fear the higher level of sharing or service will be realized.

When selling insurance for example, if the client feels fear, the need to survive will be greater than the need for service or pleasure. What is the best way to create fear when talking to a client? It is using the art of storytelling or story selling. By emotionally telling a story of loss, the client begins to feel the emotion of fear of loss. This will trump any emotions of pleasure because of the basic survival mode. The best insurance agents I have had the pleasure to work with are masters of this skill. The best agents tell a story and the client doesn’t realize why the feeling of fear exists, they just want to be protected by buying your product or service. So, to answer the question, fear is a better motivator than pleasure, at least from a scientific point of view.

Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real”—Unknown


Tim Wilhoit is owner/principal of Your Friend 4 Life Insurance Agency in Nashville, TN. He is a family man, father of 3, entrepreneur, insurance agent, life insurance broker, salesman, sales trainer, recruiter, public speaker, blogger and team leader with over 25 years of experience in sales and marketing in the insurance and beverage industries.

5 Responses to Is Fear The Best Motivator?

  • I agree. Fear, as well as accomplishment, are, indeed, great motivators.

  • Stephen, I didn’t really put the two together, but you are correct accomplishment is also a great motivator. Thank you for sharing that.

  • No, thank you for your post Tim. I really enjoyed reading it.

  • Fear, hands-down. Pleasure only comes to play after the majority of significant Fears have been allayed. This is why FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) is always a winning trifecta for many (most?) sales organizations.

    Even resorts run their (non-fear) advertisements with a Pleasure focus with leads like, “Leave your fears/concerns behind…”

    Fear gets you up and moving. Lack of fear, complacency for instance, just encourages you to stay in an ‘at-rest’ condition.

  • JT, thank you for sharing. We are obviously cut from the same cloth. I really liked your example. Much continued success my friend.

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