Articles providing practical, field-tested advice to sales professionals.

Location: Houston, Texas, United States

Monday, March 21, 2005


By Carl G. Stevens

Motivational Selling
From cultural and personal preferences in satisfying both the biological and acquired motives come the drive and energy behind human activity. Motivational selling takes account of these powerful motives and directs the selling appeal to the satisfaction of these motives

In motivational selling the salesperson’s appeal is directed toward such acquired motives as the desire for more money, for more security, for enhanced prestige, or the desire to better provide for one’s family. Such motives are called “hidden” buying urges. The one most important to the prospect is called the “hidden dominant buying urge.” The salesperson using motivational selling will, by asking a pre-selected set of questions, determine the dominant buying urge which directs and determines much of the prospect’s thinking and actions. Then the salesperson will show the prospect how buying the salesperson’s product will help the prospect satisfy his dominant buying urge.

Thus, motivational selling is directed toward the satisfaction of the basic human needs. Motivational selling also recognizes the basic sources of human motivation. The selling approach is directed toward showing the prospective customer that buying the seller’s product will lead to the gratification of the customer’s basic motives. Superficially it might seem that such aspects of selling as product knowledge are downgraded in this approach, but such is not the case. The salesperson needs much knowledge of his product – but, in addition, he needs the skills to enable him to relate his product knowledge to the satisfaction of his customer’s basic motives – be they money, prestige, security, or whatever.

Let’s take a look at how this approach can work for you. Let’s see how you can arouse a desire in the mind of your prospect to want what you are selling.

Building Wants
Many ambitious salespeople have said: “If I could only make my prospect want what I am selling as well as I know how to tell him what I’m selling, then I’d have it made!” Attempts to discover a successful method for arousing this want have usually been most confusing. For example, one author wrote: “Arouse your prospect’s desire with a few well-chosen words.”

What “well-chosen” words?

Nobody can tell you in advance what those words should be. By definition, they have to be “well-chosen” – in relation to what it is that you perceive your prospect will respond to. You have to look. You have to find what motivates your prospect. You have to detect the hidden motives. Remember: Up until now, you’ve been dealing almost exclusively with the “rational” human. You’ve been giving him facts; you’ve dealt with measurable, definable, and debatable issues. Now, the emotional human is your paramount concern. Your prospect’s real interests are involved.

To “motivate” your prospect, you must detect his or her “hidden” dominant buying urge an dthen find a way to answer or serve or satisfy that urge.

These buying urges are the real reasons that the prospect wants what you are offering. The real reason is the reason that has psychological significance. For example, the prospect doesn’t just want to save money; he or she wants to save money for a reason – or for one or more specific reasons. He or she may want to save to buy a larger home to please his or her family, to buy that car for his wife (or her husband), or perhaps to win the approval of friends and neighbors.

We can borrow a page from the psychiatrist to help determine “the cause” – the real reason that our prospect needs or wants the product or service. The psychiatrist asks related questions and listens. (Have you attended a class in listening?)

We must listen if we are to find our prospect’s dominant buying urge – which is the primary inner drive, impulse, or motive that causes him to buy. Our prospect is like us. Everything we have done since we were babies is because we wanted or needed something. We must listen and try to determine what it is that our prospect really wants, and then show how we can help get it.

Mental Imagery
Down through the ages men have pondered and wondered why people act as they do. What governs or controls our behavior? Sometimes it seems that our behavior is beyond the control of our logical minds. And this is true, because our behavior often is controlled by emotion, not logic. We do what we want to do or we do things to satisfy or fulfill a need, want, or desire. It may not be sensible, logical, or right. In fact, many times it is silly, harmful, or even morally wrong, but we do it just the same. Why? Because we want to.

We have reviewed the basic motivating instincts that make us want to desire things. Some of these instincts were self-preservation, greed, love (of something), fear, (of something), sexual gratification, and desire for recognition. These instincts are stronger than we are. We don’t control them; they control us. It’s been said that every act that we have committed since we came into this world was because we wanted something.

In selling, we as salespeople must understand and recognize which instinct (or buying urge) is activating our prospect, then show or tell him how our product or service can fulfill his want or need. If we know his specific buying urge, we have the power or force of the prospect’s basic instincts helping us influence him to take action or buy.

We in selling often make the grave error of assuming that people should do or want the same things we do, or buy a product because it’s good. Then we get irritated and upset because they refuse to buy or take the action that we suggest. To be successful in motivating or influencing people, we must appeal to their buying motives or instincts.

Motivation is that within the individual which incites, impels, stimulates, or prompts to an action.

The key to this definition is the word “within”. Motivation always comes from within – and it is controlled by emotion. Our minds control our reasoning power and opinions, but our emotions control our actions. So if we are to use the prospect’s behavior or actions to our benefit, we must know how to arouse the emotions that motivate him to act.

How do you arouse emotion? First, consider personal experience. For example, imagine that you are driving down the highway. The car ahead stops suddenly, you skid off the highway, and you fishtail down the shoulder of the road. As you finally stop, no one has to tell you how scared you are. The incident itself has aroused the emotion of fear. The reaction sets in – cold seat, trembling, nausea, racing pulse, even fainting. Now the point to remember is this; every time you mentally recall this incident, it arouses the same emotions. You can still see the mental image of that scene in complete detail.

A bad dream or nightmare does the same thing. It is a completely mental experience or mental image, yet it arouses the same emotions and physical reactions that you would have if you were actually experiencing the incident. This leads us to the conclusion that a mental image that appeals to the basic instincts of the prospect will just as effectively arouse emotion as an actual experience.

What does this have to do with selling? In selling, the benefits or end results of our product or service (especially an “intangible”) always happen in the future. They have to – because how can the prospect physically enjoy the benefits of your product or service unless he or she buys it. You, the salesperson, cannot control the future actual experience that will arouse the emotions of joy or satisfaction, fear or anxiety, as a result of your product or service, but you can control, produce, or create the mental image in the prospect’s mind that will arouse similar emotions. You mentally transport him into the future, and let him enjoy the end results of your product or service before he buys it. In fact, you learn to direct the powerful influence of the prospect’s own emotions and basic instincts that will motivate him to take action and buy from you.

Salespeople who know little or nothing about motivational selling have never tried the technique of creating mental images. In order to use this technique effectively, there are many factors involved. These include our old friend, empathy, as well as creative imagination, picture language, and enthusiasm. The following definitions and explanations will help clarify these terms.

Some Definitions
Empathy is the ability to appreciate the other person’s situation without becoming so emotionally involved that your judgment is affected. It is the most important characteristic that a salesperson has. In fact, your success as a salesperson is in direct proportion to the amount of empathy that you possess. Actually, empathy is the ability to mentally put yourself in the other person’s place – to look at his situation through his eyes. This helps you develop a “feel” for the situation, an understanding that the prospect will sense and trust. It will put you, the salesperson, in the right attitude. This is an ideal selling climate.

Creative Imagination is the ability to create mental images, or pictures of things not yet in existence. The benefits or end results of a sale always happen in the future. This is especially true of an intangible product. In order for you to mentally transport the prospect into the future, you must first be able to picture his mental and physical reaction in your own mind. Only then are you ready to transfer this mental image from your mind to his mind.

Picture Language is language containing words that impart the sense of sound, motion, action, and sensations of smell, taste and touch. This language describes a mental image so vividly and dramatically that the prospect actually “lives” it with you – and that is exactly what you want. Remember – this is the medium that you use to transmit the mental image from your mind to his mind, in such a manner as to arouse his emotions to action… now!

Enthusiasm comes from the Greek words “en theos” and means “God within us”. The modern connotation is “fervor, zeal, intensity of expression”. Many people confuse “enthusiasm” with noise or animation. Animation is bodily movement, and can be done without enthusiasm. You can have animation without enthusiasm, but you can’t have enthusiasm without animation. When you get enthusiastic, you become excited and this excitement usually results in bodily action or animation. If you are sincerely interested in your prospect and excited about the value and benefits of your product, you will show enthusiasm. However, the key to this is sincerity. If you are insincere and your excitement is false, you will appear ridiculous.

Remember how we borrowed a page from the psychiatrist? We listened to determine the “cause” or real reason that our prospect needs or wants the product or service we offer. The salesperson like the psychiatrist must ask related questions and listen.

We must listen to determine our prospect’s dominant buying urge, which is the primary inner drive, impulses, or motive that causes him to buy. We must listen and try to determine what it is that our prospect really wants; then show him how we can help him get it.

Remember: Emotions arouse, sustain and direct human behavior.

At this point in the sales process you cease your appeal to the prospect’s reasoning power or intelligence. You now move from the rational to the emotional. But you must clear his mind and check his attitude toward two things:

1. That he does have a definite specific need or want;
2. That he understands, agrees, and believes that your product or service will fulfill that want or need. After you get his agreement on these two points you are then ready to verbally create the mental image in his mind.

The Motivation Step in Action

One way that has been found useful to program or formulate the motivation step in the sales presentation is the “PAPPY” formula. Here’s the way it goes:

Problem review
Answer to my prospect’s problem
Project my prospect as a satisfied customer
Paint a mental image of the prospect using my product/service
Y… Why don’t we go ahead and get started?


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