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Know Your Customers: What Motivates Buying Decisions

Making the Sale

May 2, 2019

How important is the question — Why do customers buy? — to the sales professional? How often can a salesperson articulate the reason their customer purchased from them? I can tell you, after working with hundreds of sales professionals, more often than not the reason a customer decides to buy is unknown. The problem with this is that it becomes difficult to repeat the sale. Do you know why your customers buy from you? Read on to find out about intellect and emotion as motivators, and how you can harness them to complete the sale!



The first motivator is intellect. Most salespeople understand how to engage the intellectual portion of their prospect’s psyche. The product/service features, benefits and pricing that the salesperson knows so well appeals to our prospect’s intellect. We know this to be true because prospects are easily intrigued by bells, whistles and new ideas to do things better. They typically engage in the sales conversation by asking questions, offering up buying signals and asking for proposals. All too often this results in a flurry of time-consuming activity that does not result in a sale. While the intellect of the prospect is important, it does not contribute the lion share of motivational energy behind the buying decision. Yet, most salespeople engage prospects at the intellectual level only and as a result do a lot of work that does not generate revenue.


The second motivator is emotion. All you have to do is examine your own buying process and you will see that buying decisions, to a great extent, are emotionally driven. To simplify the discussion, the emotions in play can be grouped into two categories: pleasure and pain. A vast majority of buying decisions, in the B2B landscape, are made to remove or prevent pain. Therefore, a salesperson’s primary objective to finding a sale should be finding if and where the prospect hurts. This is much easier said than done because even if the prospect reveals some hurt (poor service, reliability issues, inefficiency, etc.), it is offered up intellectually. Most salespeople, when they hear of an issue, they will jump right into sales mode and begin advocating features and benefits that appeal only to the intellect. You see, the issues your prospect gives you are rarely the real issues. A smart salesperson will drill deeper at any indication of pain. If the salesperson can be patient, listen intently and ask the right questions, the prospect will leave the intellectual conversation in favor of an emotional one. If the salesperson’s solution fits, the prospect will now be more likely to buy.

What does this mean for you and your sales?

If a sales professional can successfully appeal to the prospect’s emotional reasons to buy during the sales call, he/she will have more than a two-to-one advantage over the salesperson that appeals only to the prospect’s intellect, regardless of price. This is why high-performance salespeople win at higher percentages while capturing higher margins than their competitors.

Here’s a great exercise you can do right now with your own customers. Ask you current customers why they buy from you. They may give you an intellectual answer first, but I am certain that underneath the intellect is strong emotional justification to purchase your solution. Some examples might be stress reduction resulting in a better night’s sleep, time savings resulting in the owner spending more time with family, improved profitability which removed the need for laying off employees or improved quality output resulting in saving the manager’s job.

So, why do your customers buy from you?

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Karl Schaphorst

Karl Schaphorst is the president and owner of Sandler Sales and Management Training in Omaha and Des Moines, serving the people of Nebraska and Iowa.