Serving Your Ideal Client Starts with Understanding Their Buying Motives

Serving Your Ideal Client Starts with Understanding Their Buying Motives

People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy. It is an undeniable rule that on the surface seems relatively simplistic, but when you dig deeper, you’ll find the complexity lies in uncovering the motive of why people buy.

Uncovering buying motives goes against the strategy of selling. Selling implies informing the prospect of who you are, how great you are, what your product is, what your product does, and a myriad of features and benefits that most buyers are completely aware of or could find out in about 1.5 seconds by Googling.

Uncovering buying motives (the real key to the sale) is harder to do and requires a lot more work on the part of the salesperson, but if done properly, will both double your sales and eliminate your competitors.

Why “Why” is So Important

The fundamental principle is uncovering the prospects why. Why do they want this? Why do they need this? Why is it important that they buy it now? And assorted other emotional questions that creates what is known as buyer urgency. Once you, as a salesperson, understand why a customer wants to buy, all you have to do is match those motives with value, believability, and trust.

Why do people buy? Their history, their experiences, their expertise, their wisdom, their need, their want, their desire to solve or resolve, their desire to recover, their desire to change, their desire to change, their desire to own, their desire to win, their passion (their desire to own + win = their passion), their fear, their greed, their vanity, their desire to impress, their peace of mind, and their desired outcome.

People buy for their reasons, not your reasons. If you understand that, then their urgency to buy is your reality.

The Element That Loses the Sale

There’s one more element that trumps all the other elements. That is the element of risk. Regardless of the prospect’s desire and motive to buy, if they perceive you as too big of a risk, they will not do business with you.

Your job as a salesperson is to uncover the motive and eliminate the risk. Once you have accomplished this, the customer will buy from you.

More sales are lost by “selling” than any other form of sales error.

Your selling skills are not one one-hundredth as powerful as the customer’s reasons for buying. Your reasons for selling are useless if they don’t match the customer’s reasons for buying.

This reasoning is as powerful as it is overlooked.

Ask yourself this: Why did my last 10 customers buy from me? My bet is that you don’t know. I mean the real motive, not the surface one like price or friendship. If uncovering these motives is at the heart of your future success in sales, maybe you should take a deeper look at what caused the purchase.

The Beef Is in the Buying Motives

What are buying motives? They are the real reason or reasons for making a purchase.

Many times the salesperson (not you, of course) is fooled into believing that the surface issue is the real reason for purchase. When a potential customer asks for bids, the salesperson thinks that low price is the motive to buy, and nothing could be further from the truth.

Think about the way you buy. First, there’s a reason, then you go shopping. It’s the same with your customers. Price is simply a barrier to owning what you want or need.

If you can get deeper into the buying motive, you can get higher in the decision-making chain (i.e., above purchasing and procurement). Cool, huh?

OK, so let’s get down to the reasons: the motives to buy. Look at these and you’ll see that your discovery process needs to go deeper in order to make the issue of price less of a barrier. And, there may be several motives for the same purchase.

Let me give you some motives as food for thought. To make it easier, I have broken them down by motive category:

Purchase-oriented motives:

  • Out of stock
  • Need for production
  • Need for manufacture
  • Need for business operation
  • Previous experience

Emotional-oriented motives:

  • High desire
  • Value of purchase
  • Desire to gain
  • In a panic: timing
  • Vanity or greed: ego gratification
  • Low risk or no risk

Experience-oriented motives:

  • Preconceived notion
  • Previous experience
  • Certain of performance
  • Confidence in quality
  • Confidence in service
  • Brand loyalty
  • Supplier loyalty
  • Salesperson loyalty

Profit- or money-oriented motives:

  • Fear of loss: losing ground to competition
  • Fear of loss: losing customers
  • Fear of loss: losing revenue
  • Better productivity or performance
  • Work reduction or efficiency
  • Increase profits
  • Have the money or budget
  • Best choice
  • Best price
  • Cheapest price

Result-oriented motives:

  • Increase customer loyalty
  • Enhance brand value
  • Better market image
  • Improve the present product
  • Gain a competitive advantage

Which of these motives fit your customers?

  • Answer: Lots of them.
  • Answer: More than you know.
  • Answer: Uncovering them is the key to your sales.
  • Answer: Often it’s a combination of motives

Are some motives more powerful than others? Of course. Fear of loss is greater than the desire to gain. You determine the value by the number of sales that result from each you uncover.

Uncovering Motives

How do you expose these all-important motives from your customers? Start with the past. Past successes and present loyal customers. Existing customers will help you understand why they buy from you. Explore their history. Get their experience. You can learn a lot by asking three or four consecutive “why’s” when you get to the hidden motives. Ask them why that was important? Get their story of the long-term use of your product or service, even if it was not only purchased from you. Motive after motive will come forth.

Then go into the dark side. The real truth will come from lost customers. Why did they leave you? Why they left was tied to their unmet motive to buy. You may even regain clients and relationships.

Here’s a way to perceive this process. Don’t think of it as “motive.” Think of it as “money.” Finding the motive means finding the money. Or at least the path that will lead you there.

Show me the motive and I’ll show you the sale.

It’s not the pitch that makes the sale. 

Once, my team was at a conference making a big sale. This lesson will not be a be-all-end-all solution, but it will be an insight into the mind of the buyer, the decision-maker and how he or she takes your sales information and converts it to a purchasing decision.

We started our meeting with the traditional questioning. I try to uncover areas of opportunity by assessing present situations, past failings, existing game plans, current strategies, and immediate goals. If a buyer has a need, there are specific reasons for it. And my job is not to just uncover them. My job is to create ideas and solutions that the prospective customer will feel comfortable with. Comfortable enough to buy. Same with you.

Buyers will almost never reveal their deep feelings or motives. The motive is the reason behind the situation that will cause them to buy or pass.

I also try to get them to ask questions without prompting. The more they ask, the more I believe they are interested.

We had long since reached the point of being friendly in the conversation, so I felt at ease to ask anything without fear of losing the sale.

About halfway through my presentation, I noticed one of the buying group (there were three of them and two of us) writing furiously on a yellow pad. “Taking copious notes?” I inquired casually. “Yes, I have developed a method of determining whether we should make a purchase. I always use it when the deal is sizable.”

“Will you share it with me?” I asked innocently.

“Sure, if we decide to purchase from you.” He said with a smile.

Two hours later, they agreed in substance to purchase. Needing only a budget addition, and a CEO blessing, our new customer was ready and willing to share his formula for making a buying decision. I was all ears and laptop.

What followed was the most open and informative dialog I have ever had with a customer. What I recommend is that you take a close look at his purchasing criteria and apply it to whatever it is that you sell.

The customer started out by saying that he had a list of “purchase-criteria” questions that when answered, made the decision to buy evident. But before he put down any answers, he outlined existing situations to make sure that all the information he had was relevant.

Here are the questions:

  • What do you offer?
  • What do you offer that no one else has?
  • What do you offer of value?
  • Does it really fill my need?
  • Is it real world?
  • Will it work?
  • Will it work in our environment?
  • How will it impact our people?
  • How could it impact our success?
  • Will senior or executive management buy-in?
  • Will my people use it?
  • How will we produce as a result of the purchase?
  • How will we profit as a result of the purchase?
  • Do I trust the people I’m buying from both as people, and their ability to deliver what they promise?
  • How will it come together and how do we buy it?
  • Do I have the comfort to sign off now?

Now the question is, how do you apply this gold to your sales? And the answer is simple: Make certain you incorporate the answers to these questions in your sales presentation.

Simple: yes. Easy: no. This is a complex process that must be studied, practiced, implemented, and refined. Hard work will pay off.

This article was published in October 2009 and has been updated. Photo by @kiwitanya/Twenty20

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