401-423-2400 Kristin@Zhivago.com

RU a Protector or Predator? Your customers know for sure

Before you read this, check out this heart-warming video, which shows an amazing French horse trainer, Francois Pignon. Listen as he explains to Martin Clunes that horses are constantly “scanning” human beings to see if those human beings are predators or protectors.

Our customers do the same thing. They’re scanning constantly – deciding who the predators are and who the protectors are. They keep track of companies and take note of how companies treat their customers. They notice, when they are searching for a product or service, how easy you make it for them. Every tiny step in their buying process, from search to research to purchase to use, is a test.

Your customers are constantly asking themselves: Protector? Or predator? 

When you look at the world this way – not just the business world – you realize that just about every source of discord and unhappiness comes from one human being attempting to control another human being. Predators control, abuse, and hurt; protectors protect, nurture, and love.

We trust protective companies, the ones who are watching out for our best interests and behaving in a way that proves that they care. We hate predatory companies.

We also hate predatory salespeople. Most salespeople are focused on one thing: Closing the sale. Customers do not want the sale to be closed until they are sure they want to buy. From the beginning of the interaction, the goals of predatory salesperson and the customer are diametrically opposed. This is why customers do whatever they can to learn what they need to know about a product or service without involving a salesperson.

Thanks to the explosion of customer communities, it’s easier than ever to avoid salespeople. Now buyers have very effective tools – the same social media tools that marketers think of as “their” marketing tools. Buyers use these tools to efficiently and quickly find others with similar interests, people they trust to tell them the truth about their experiences with products and services. People who are not predators and who have no agenda.

This is a MASSIVE shift – one of the biggest shifts in the history of commerce. And I don’t mean just within “e” commerce. I mean in the history of human beings buying and selling.

All power is now in the hands of buyers, who don’t need marketers and salespeople anymore to make a buying decision. They can find the answers they need, amongst themselves.

Meanwhile, marketers and salespeople are in pure denial, pretending that they still hold all the power, that customers can be “persuaded,” and “converted.” 

They are ignoring the elephant in the room: If you have treated your current customers in a predatory way, your future customers are going to find out. They won’t trust you, and they won’t buy from you.

Predatory or protective behavior starts at the top. I think Amazon, Apple, and Zappos are examples of companies that are seen as trustworthy/protective; I think almost all of the phone companies (certainly ATT and Verizon) are seen as predatory.

Where is your company on the protective/predatory scale? Is your company looking out for the interests of customers and employees? Does management encourage protective or predatory behavior?

No one wants to be prey. Everyone wants to be protected. Now that customers have a choice, they are flocking to the protectors and avoiding the predators like the plague.


P.S. This video led me to the conclusion that there are four types of people / animals / plants (and institutions) in the world: Protectors, Predators, Prey, and Parasites. Of course there are a lot of predators who act like protectors – politics is full of those types. How can we know the difference? Interesting question for our age.


  1. Hello Kristin

    I acknowledge you for making a powerful point delightfully. I thank you for bringing this video (and what it opens up) into my life – thoroughly enjoy watching it.

    Martin Buber called attention to fundamental modes of being in relationship: I-It and I- Thou. What I see in the video is the embodiment of the I-Thou orientation between Pignon and the horses.

    Your point on customers is perfect. I always check out people, products, companies via the Internet before I make a decision to associate or not, buy or not.

    Even my wife does this, and she is not the most Internet-literate person. The great thing about smartphones is that we can do this protector/prey evaluation wherever we are. And that does tilt the table in favour of the customer.

    I thank you for contributing to my life through writing this post.

    I wish you well.


  2. Hi, Maz.

    Always nice to hear from you.

    What is so interesting to me is that marketers know full well that this is how we all buy now, because this is how THEY buy now. But when all of us put on our marketing hats, everything changes. If we don’t know what our customers really want, we guess – which leads to the all-too-common and all-too-predictable unsatisfying result, both for the seller and the buyer.

    Anyway, thanks for commenting. I have seen this video dozens of times and never tire of it.


  3. Hello Kristin

    I call this the magical thinking module and it is rampant in human beings. Take smoking. People know that smoking causes cancer, yet the ones who smoke continue to smoke. Why? Somehow, they discount this perhaps by thinking they are an exception, they can get around cancer. . . .

    My POV is that marketers exist within systems (the organisation, the marketing sphere) and their roles are dictated by these bigger systems. Marketers are supposed to be the ‘magicians’ who can influence/seduce/manipulate customers to buy the company products through their magical insights into what seduces consumers…. Even marketers believe that.

    The whole of the advertising and marketing services ‘world’ believes/acts this way – marketers are special beings with the magical potions to move consumers to try out the product and buy…..

    Remember Ignaz Semmelweis, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignaz_Semmelweis. He spoke the truth and some even suspected it was the truth and yet practice did not change.

    Another prophet was a lady researcher in UK who figured out that x-raying pregnant mums was the cause behind many child cancers. She shared he results. Yet the medical community, being in love with X-rays (latest technology) and having invested fortune in X-ray equipment, continued doing what it was doing for some 30 years, stopping in 1981.

    The British had access to tanks, the generals refused them as being ‘ungentlemanly’. Only after the disaster of the first WWII and ‘retirement’ of many at the top, did the British adopt tanks…… The list is endless.

    We, human beings, are remarkable for our ability and our skilfulness in ignoring anything that discomforts us and threatens our sense of well-being if it does not come in the shape of primal terror like a lion, cheetah, or snake standing right in front of us. I suspect marketers are simply being human.

    Not stupid, not foolish, not anything, just human.


  4. That video is remarkable Kristin. I love how you used it to show how animals can give us insight on customers in sales. Something I learned in sales is that clients are not only buying a product but they are buying (testing) you. Most people are potential repeat customers, in the process of finding an ongoing source for their products or services. They are looking for a salesperson they can trust and relate to, and your total performance can cement or impede the relationship. Remember, you may make that first or second sale to a customer but end up losing them as a “customer for life.” Use all available techniques to make a solid first impression, impress them throughout the transaction and then maintain the appropriate follow-up.


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