What motivates customers to buy?

sales-10-20As a young sales guy on the road I sold chemical additives into the manufacturing industries.

I was of the opinion that everyone wanted to buy something to improve manufacturing performance. All my sales calls were based on the same premise – demonstrate how my product or service improves efficiency, reduces cost, and increases productivity and I would be successful.

For me selling was about achieving better results for my customers. In general this style of selling had been hugely successful.  All I had to do was explain how our product would improve efficiency, reduce costs, increase productivity and more often than not the customer closed for me. I usually came out with the order and the customer went on to tell everyone else what he or she had achieved by using this new wonder product. I seemed to have found the recipe to sales success.

A few months into the job I was asked to take on a new territory – one in which we already had a high market share. I had to deal with Arthur who was the key decision maker. No purchase decisions could be made without Arthur’s approval. He was not overly friendly but always agreed to meet with me. Our meetings were always businesslike. He always had the last word. He appeared interested in my sales pitch but was non committal saying he would give it some thought and that I should talk to him later. He would thank me for my time and suggest we meet again when I am back in the area.

For some reason all my best efforts seemed to fall on deaf ears. I tried all the sales techniques I knew. I went though qualification,  identifying needs, explaining the benefits of the product and even tried closing techniques much to no avail. He had even started to give some business to the competition!

After several months of getting absolutely nowhere I spoke to Richard the former territory manager who knew Arthur well. I told him the problems I had been facing.

After a few seconds he smiled at me and said you are making a fundamental mistake. Arthur is not interested in achievement. He is an influencer. He wants to be seen to be in charge. Show some interest in what he is doing and what he is saying and you will have more luck.

So over the next few weeks I put some time aside to go and see Arthur make a presentation about some new technology to a learned crowd – technology that he had an influence in developing. At our next meeting I simply talked about how interesting his presentation was and that it had made me realise the impact his developments and ideas were having on the industry. I added that I would be very interested in hearing what he has to say at the next group meeting.

At this point something strange happened. Arthur said “We are in the process of approving capital spend for a new unit which will dwarf all the other plants in the area. I want you to be involved in the commissioning phase with your products. Come and see me next week and I will tell you more”

From that moment on we had 100% market share in the area. This was a valuable lesson. I learnt that I needed to take into account the individual motivations of the person I was dealing with. I only wish I had realised this earlier.

So how do you recognise the two types?

  • Achievers

Talk facts and figures, Sets targets, competitive, keeps to time, can be abrupt, does not like close supervision, enjoys challenges.

  • Influencers

Firm/Assertive, Politically active, Likes debates, Likes to hold positions of authority,  Likes to be in control, Usually has the last word.

How do we handle the two types?

  • Achiever

Be factual, Show how he/she can be number one, be punctual, avoid time wasting activities, get to the point, focus on task not relationship, meet your obligations

  • Influencer

Recognise their authority, let them believe it is their idea, offer options they like to be seen to make the decision, ask for advice (they love this), Enter into debate but do not let them lose face.

There are many other reasons why customers buy which I hope to cover later. In the meantime watch out for the achiever and influencer. Make sure you handle them accordingly or you might risk losing the order.