March of 2020 is a very far from normal for residents of the United States. Over the last 18 days we’ve been seeing an escalation of how seriously people are reacting to the COVAD 19 Corona Virus situation. I’m a student of human behavior science, and in the midst of all of this, I’ve noticed how differently people are reacting. Everyone seems to have a different “tripwire”. What I mean by tripwire is that point when a small thing causes a massive reaction, like an explosive booby trap. Think of those movies where a bunch of commandos are on a mission, and one of them hits a trip wire. A small action (tripping on the wire) causes a huge reaction (an explosion and a massive behavior change).

Corona Virus has been on the radar since late 2019. Most people ignored the situation until very recently, but over the course of the last 3 weeks, I’ve witnessed many people go from being unconcerned to really concerned and changing their behavior completely (myself included). For me, the tripwire was Wednesday of last week when the President announced a 30 day ban on European travel. It wasn’t the first travel ban, the one on China having been put in place weeks before. I had gone to a large conference the week before, with little real concern. Yet when that travel ban announcement hit, I went from monitoring the situation to acting almost instantly. I made sure I was stocked up on food and water. I pulled my son from school. I cancelled on a weekend seminar I was scheduled for. I minimized my trips out of the house, and I stopped going to the Jiu Jitsu classes I usually attend (something I really enjoy).

Maybe because I am an immigrant from Europe, but something in that announcement hit my tripwire. Believe what you want to believe as to my reaction being justified or irrationally fear driven, there was a very distinct change in my behavior and beliefs when that tripwire was hit. Change is hard. No one likes change. Yet when our tripwires are hit, we change very quickly and with very little hesitancy.

With time to reflect on my own actions, I observed others. Some had not reacted as I did, but did react a few days later when the stock market dropped severely. Some had reacted a week or two before me, based on knowing someone who had contracted the Corona Virus. Some of my neighbors have still not really reacted, aside from being annoyed that schools are now closed for a month, and their kids are at home. This made me realize that we all have different tripwires, even on something as common ground as a pandemic flu.

The sales learning I take from all this is the realization that when I am selling, I am very often assuming I know what the “action tripwire” is from my clients. I focus on discussing the pain that I think will get my clients to change their current behavior and buy. Here’s the problem though, my focus is actually on the pain that would get ME to buy. Again, people have different tripwires. My plan to leverage this (once things return to a more normal environment) is to start paying attention, and tracking (logging) what the tripwire to buy was for every sale. What I’m likely to find are some trends that will further educate me on where to look for the tripwires.

As I already mentioned, I am a student of human behavior, and extreme environments are an excellent place to study.

Be safe. Be smart. Make sure that your reaction to all of this is deliberate, and informed.