Who do you think is happier – Californians or Mid-Westerners?

And why the answer makes it easier for you to sell to corporations.

Nobel Prize Winner Daniel Kahneman asked this question in a study in 1998:

Who is happier: Californians or Mid-westerners?

The assumption was Californians must be happier: They have the sunshine, the beach, and the laid-back life, it’s gotta be them, right? 

The reality, however, is that there is no real difference between the residents of either location – their own happiness ratings are approximately the same.

The participants forgot about other factors that make people happier such as e.g. low crime rates (they are higher in California than in the Midwest) or low risks of natural disasters (again, California has a much higher rate of those than the Midwest)

What is the focusing effect (and why does it matter)?

The participants in the study had fallen for the focusing effect. This is a cognitive bias, a mental shortcut our brains use, where we focus on just a few aspects of a situation and ignore the rest. 

This means we place a lot of importance on a few factors of whatever we are presented with, be that a situation, an event, or a decision that we have to make and that we don’t consider the bigger picture. 

Real Life examples of the focusing effect

Choosing a new house based on size alone, not considering the location or neighborhood.

Choosing a restaurant because of the rave reviews, not considering if you like the type of food they serve

(you might like to think this doesn’t apply to you, but unless you are Mr. Spock, you probably do fall for the focusing effect)

Examples in corporate organizations:

  • Focus on the immediate: it is very common in organizations to dedicate time every few years to their corporate strategy. Much time and effort is usually spent on this, often resulting in fancy PowerPoint presentations to the wider business, some speeches and maybe even roadshow events
  • Yet day-to-day, many leaders complain that their people spend too much time on focusing on immediate issues, often overlooking the wider strategy, which ends up moving further and further away from being achieved
  • Even in daily interactions, the effect of the focusing bias shows; yes, the manager knows that it’s better to have direct conversations with their teams and delegate to get things done, but in the heat of a deadline, they resort to emails and micromanaging – thus only focusing on the immediate performance, not the longer-term goal of building effective teams

How to use the Focusing Effect when selling to corporates:


First of all: keep your marketing and messaging simple. That means no long lists of all the things you can help your clients achieve and all the problems you can solve. 

Instead, focus their attention on a few well-chosen factors is much more effective. 

Prospects are looking for solutions that they believe will make their lives better in some way and want to learn about how you can do that. 


1) Understand the main challenge your prospect has and their “angle” 

2) Focus on a few key components of what you do, present the most distinctive features of how you help them, 

3) Help them connect the dots on how this will solve the issues they are facing. 

Example: what a wellbeing coach might say:

  • Reducing stress when working from home to reduce the risk of illness 
  • Ensure a healthy work/life balance to avoid resentment to work
  • Prevent burnout while staff is balancing multiple responsibilities of work, taking on new responsibilities, caring for others, and other challenges.

There are many other things the coach could mention;

For example, the physical health impact of stress, other areas of mental health, performance impact, likely poor quality of work done by stressed employees, impact on employer branding and much more. 

But too many factors dilute the message, instead, make sure it is targeted to the main concerns the prospect has – thus using the focusing effect bias to your advantage.

Tomorrow we talk about why you should tell them your most expensive offer, first.

Want to know if you can sell to corporate clients? Email me at miriam@impactfulnesslab.com or book a complimentary “can-I-sell-to-corporate-clients” diagnostic call here: https://bit.ly/LCCdiagnosticscall

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Miriam Gilbert, founder of Impactfulness Lab, smiling

About Me

With more than 20years experience as a corporate decision-maker and CFO, 8+years running my own 6-figure consultancy I KNOW exactly what goes on in corporate mindsets – and how to sneak into their brain, charm their mind and get them to throw their budget at you.

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