Quite a while ago, the Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion Research established the motives that lead a person to make a purchase. These rules still hold today. According to the institute, people buy a product because
- it raises personal prestige,
- it is cost effective,
- it contributes to one’s comfort,
- it represents cutting edge technology,
- it satisfies a social need,
- it is good for the environment or for personal health, or
- it fulfils the need for security or safety.
Understanding the customer's buying motives
For most consumers, it isn’t just one of these factors that is decisive; it is several, and in some cases, all of them play a role. But in most cases, it is one or two of them that stand out and determine the customer’s decision to act on the purchase or not.
Let’s take an example. A man in his mid-thirties strolls into a car dealer’s lot and stops in front of a minivan. The salesperson can already tell a few things from this: The man is probably not a student looking for a small, cheap car. He is also not a developer seeking a prestigious convertible for weekends on the golf course. He is most likely a family man interested in this type of car to ferry his family around in a secure, comfortable, and effective manner to shops, school, weekend tournaments, grandpa’s and grandma’s house, or holiday resorts.
Nevertheless, the average salesperson will likely focus on the technical innovations as compared to yesteryear’s model: the powerful engine, the torque, and the bragging rights awaiting any buyer who pulls this car into his driveway. And this very salesperson will fail to sell the customer a single car on this occasion.
Focusing the sales pitch on these individual motives
The top sales professional, on the other hand, is bearing the most important buying motives in mind and can already begin to eliminate and prioritise. She already knows that cost effectiveness, comfort, and safety are decisive for concluding the sale. Prestige and technology will count less. She will have to find out which of the following factors are most important to the customer: the number of airbags, the variability of the seats, the storage space, the safe entry and exit of children, or the engine’s consumption value. That is why she has her questions ready and proceeds to inquire first, instead of talking the customer’s ear off. In short, she begins her approach with the motives of the customer, and therein lies her potential sale.
What salespeople and midwives have in common
A good salesperson is like a midwife. Sometimes the baby is born of its own accord, almost sliding out into her waiting hands. Other times it is more difficult, and the midwife has to resort to forceps or a ventouse. At times the procedure feels interminable, without visible progress. Perhaps the baby is born by caesarean section. But regardless of how easy or difficult, how quickly or how long it takes, in the end all parties involved should be happy that the baby has seen the light of day.
The midwife doesn’t need to have studied medicine, but she does need a thorough knowledge of human anatomy, in particular of the woman’s reproductive organs. You as a salesperson do not need a degree in psychology, but knowledge of certain key elements of the human psyche are indispensable. Among these are the motives underlying your customer’s purchase.
Once you understand your customer's motives, you will be able to deliver exactly the arguments that this individual customer needs to hear, which will make your sales pitch truly effective.
By Martin Limbeck is an international sales authority and sought-after keynote speaker, dubbed 'The Porsche of Sales' by the press. With his best-in-class German Sales Engineering approach, he helps sales professionals seal more deals. Martin has trained and inspired audiences in twenty-one countries for more than twenty years. The Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) has been honoured as Top Speaker of the Year 2014, International Speaker of the Year 2012, and Trainer of the Year 2011 and 2008. He teaches at Reutlingen European School of Business, Steinbeis University Berlin, and St. Gallen University, and is the author of several bestsellers, including NO Is Short for Next Opportunity: How Top Sales Professionals Think and Why Nobody Wants You to Get to the Top...: ...and How I Made It Anyway.