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Understanding buyer motivation

Understanding Buyer Motivation

All meaningful actions are performed for some reason or purpose. This is commonly called “motivation”. Success in selling requires understanding these basics of motivation:

-Your motivation both as a person and as a salesperson

-The other person’s motivation both as a person and as a buyer

The most important fact to remember in influencing the behaviour and decisions of others is that “People do things for their reasons, not ours.”

Every successful sale, then, is made not so much because of the excellence of your product or of your sales pitch, but because, consciously or unconsciously, you have found the human reason why your prospect should buy. You have found the door to their motivation and have opened it. The more you understand the function of human motivation, the more successfully you will sell.

In its simplest form, motivation emerges as a cycle. It starts with a want or need, expressed or hidden. Inherent in this is a problem, a problem that must be overcome in order to satisfy the want, that must be solved. Once solved, the want can be satisfied and the cycle is completed.

In terms of personal development there are several levels of needs. You will no doubt be familiar with Maslow’s pyramid of need:

These needs are basic to everyone you sell to, live with, or encounter.

At the bottom of the pyramid are The Physiological Needs. These include food, shelter, warmth, sex and sleep. They are instinctive needs common to all living creatures. Until these needs are satisfied, the higher needs are purely academic.

Then comes Safety which is almost as basic. Security is another word for this need: security in one’s job, in one’s place in society…safety from unknown dangers…freedom from pain.

Love is a more sophisticated but no less essential need. Every human being wants others to care about them, to receive affection. They want to have the approval of others…to be understood…accepted…respected…to belong. And equally important, they have a need to be involved…to care about and give affection to others. The two are inseparable.

Self-esteem is equally essential. Every human being needs to feel that they are important in some sphere of life…that their presence on earth has meaning and significance. The mature person knows that this begins with self-respect. This need provides a tremendous motivational force.

Self-actualization is the highest need: for personal growth and achievement, for self-fulfilment, the best use of one’s capabilities, the fullest possible realisation of potential, within an honest understanding both of the limitations and scope of that potential.

People of course, are different. Their needs will vary in degree, in shape, and in the nature of their answers. But they are common to all. As you are alert to them, as you understand them, so will your success with others be measured.

How do people seek to satisfy their needs? Thorndike’s Law Of Effect supplies the answer:

People tend to behave in a way to gain rewards and avoid punishment.”

Again, this varies with different people. Generally, people can be classified into three dominant types:

The Achiever

The Seeker of Social Recognition

The Security-Minded

(But no one is likely to be a “pure” type)

The Achiever is most likely to be oriented toward gaining rewards.

The Security-Minded is likely to be dominated by the desire to avoid punishment.

The Social Type stands somewhere between the two.

These are the dominating factors. But in varying degrees, each has a little of the other two in them.

In terms of selling, whatever the dominant drive of your prospect, they are above all, buying benefits. Benefits are best defined, in this context, as the results of the product, which enable them to gain rewards and/or avoid punishment.

In making their decision, the buyer uses the “Minimax” principle: To minimise their losses; to maximise their gains. This is true whatever the personality orientation. The emphasis depends again on their individual motivational drive.

The Law of Effect, then depending on specific motivation relates directly to the Pyramid of Human Needs, and expands in this manner:

The benefits you have to offer are both negative and positive. The right emphasis, directed in the right way, offering both to determine preference is your shortest way to your objective.

In summary, according to Russell: “The essence of motivation is finding meaning in what we are doing. Motivation is an inner control of the individual.” Only you can motivate yourself.

All these concepts apply to you in all phases of your life, and your work, as well as they apply to others. Finding the right meaning in what you do will be the great motivator for a more effective you.

Understanding the nature of what motivates each person you deal with will enable you to help them make a decision favourable to both of you.

Copyright © 2006 Jonathan Farrington. All rights reserved

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