Understand The Buyer
The biggest mistake that people make when starting out in business is to rely on their own belief in their product or service. Bar giving you confidence, it makes absolutely no difference how amazing you think what you do is. It is what potential buyers think – or more importantly feel – that is going to make you fail or succeed.
People buy for one of only two reasons. They buy to make themselves feel good or to stop themselves feeling bad. It is of absolutely zero interest to them how hard you have worked to develop your offering, how much you have trained. They are spending their hard earned cash and their one and only interest in coming out of that is an emotional gain for them.
Those categories (feel better or stop feeling worse) can of course be sub-divided. People may buy for basic needs to feel good, food or shelter or heat. They may buy to replace something that is broken or no longer works that is causing them stress, or to repair an essential such as a blocked drain. There are other, seemingly everyday factors that influence the sale by making the buyer feel good. Convenience of buying can affect how the buyer feels, saving them time and effort. Special offers can work when it makes people feel good that they have saved money.
At the opposite end of the scale, buying luxury items is associated with making the buyer feel spoilt, feel great. People also buy luxuries to increase their wealth (by investment into collections), or branded and exclusive items that are the latest fads and fashions, to enable them to feel “cool” or increase their confidence and self-worth. They may simply want to feel that they are keeping up with the neighbours.
For many, their self-esteem needs re-enforcing and to achieve that, they buy indulgences, hence the huge success of a certain advertising campaign based on the concept “because you are worth it”. Instantly, people buying it feel good about themselves.
Increasingly, there are the ethical buyers. The millennial generation is known for its admirable passion for improving the world and aligning with brands that show dedication to doing the same. Looking more closely, this is still an emotional purchase choice to make them feel good. It is more and more important that anyone selling understands the emotional weight that these ethics now carry.
There are then the purchases people make to stop themselves feeling bad. At the most basic level, these are for protection from our fears; fire alarms, a gun, a warranty, a breakdown membership. There are more subtle varieties too. There is the substitute, cheer-up purchase for something you can’t have –chocolate or a holiday at the end of a relationship syndrome. There is the guilty purchase, to make up for some bad behaviour. There is the conformity purchase, buying something to make us feel the same as our peers, rather than an uncomfortable outsider. Increasingly as the western world spends less time on basic survival, buyers are looking to fill voids and give their life a meaning. They may look for love, riches, emotional nurturing through consumerism.
The same rules apply if you are selling B2B. People will still buy to make themselves feel good or to stop them feeling bad. The causes that might trigger these emotions are different. The buyer may want to be seen as successful at their job, or to save money, or to increase profits or make the company or themselves gain and progress in terms of profit or reputation. But overall, any of those things will result in that individual buyer feeling good.
When you are selling, one of the challenges is that the real thing that your prospect so desperately wants is often carefully camouflaged. When someone first decides to buy something, it is routed in a simple emotion of “I want”. And that “want”, will be a purely emotional thing. But we humans are adept at manipulation, never more so when justifying our own behaviour. So the moment we have had the urge of “I want” our brains go into top gear and come up with a long list of rationalizations as to why what we want is such a good idea. Sometimes this is a conscious process, sometimes unconscious. Rationales can be anything from “someone is going to hurt themselves soon if we don’t get that fixed”, to “we are going to collapse if we don’t have a holiday soon”, to “we need a bigger car for when the children grow”. It stops us feeling guilty about indulging an emotional desire.
As this process continues, the emotion, the original gut-burning craving, gets buried safely in some back corner of our minds, and we expand the justifications, draw up a literal tick list of logical and judicious needs to rationalise the purchase. So, for example, the holiday will include peace and relaxation or the car will have better safety features than their existing one. You have probably used this mechanism yourself and set out to buy with a list of things that a particular purchase must have.
You may have also encountered this syndrome in a prospective buyer. They would appear the perfect gift of a prospect, able to specify to great levels of efficiency exactly what they want on colour, size, timing and all other detail. And miraculously, you are able to offer them just that. What could possibly go wrong? What could go wrong is you failing to unearth the emotional need behind the decision, the real reason that has made this prospect go hunting. It is a match to that emotional desire that will decide if you get the sale or not.
If someone dreams of a holiday away from everything on some desert island, by the time it has got rationalised, they may have had to take their partner on holiday, work to a budget, go nearer home due to the short time allowed, and the actual pining need for them to get completely away has not been matched. Choosing the holiday has started feeling like a chore that is adding to their stress and exhaustion. The really clever sales person will catch on to this need by questioning. They will quickly tick the boxes of the cold needs, the partner, the budget, and then stress all the things to match the emotional need. For example, that might mean going somewhere where the partner can disappear off to their favourite sport and leave the person some time alone, or plenty of remote places to visit nearby and it will be only by painting that picture of deserted peace that the emotions will be stirred. And that peace and quiet is going to make them feel good.
It can be a slow process moving through the literal check list and digging out the emotional need till you have matched it. But the good news is that when you have tapped into the emotional desire behind the decision, not only will they buy from you, they will also be far, far less concerned about price. People pay money to have their emotional needs met. Because they place value on their emotional needs.
So to sum up: buying decisions are always made on an emotional desire, and that desire will be based on wanting to feel better or to stop feeling worse. Match that desire and the sale will be easy.
This article Understand The Buyer by Jan Cavelle was first published in Issue 57 of the Business Rocks Magazine.
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