What’s the motive?

A Sales Initiative post by international sales authority Martin Limbeck recently posed the question, ‘What makes people buy (from you?)’. In this piece, Limbeck begins to answer this question by revisiting the findings of the Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion Research, which established the seven buyers’ motives that provide the impulse to make a purchase, adding “These rules still hold today.”

According to the institute, people buy a product because:

  • It raises personal prestige
  • It is cost effective
  • It contributes to one’s comfort
  • It represents cutting edge technology
  • It satisfies a social need
  • It is good for the environment or for personal health, or
  • It fulfils the need for security or safety

The crux of Limbeck’s article is that, “Once you understand your customer’s motives, you will be able to deliver the arguments that this individual customer needs to hear, which will make your sales pitch truly effective.”

We have already discussed, in a previous blog, the importance today of prioritising people over proxies, and building a more ‘human’ connection, so perhaps it is timely that we revisit the thinking behind ‘buyer motives’ to better understand customers’ or clients’ wants and needs, in order to sell our products and services more effectively.

At least one of the seven motives apply to every sale, although often more than one is involved – motives often overlap. Customers often make purchases based on a number of different motives, including brand recognition, social status, and appearance, but typically a dominant buying motive drives a particular purchase.

In a 1998 journal by sales experts Max Sacks International’s Roy Chitwood, the author asserts: “It is extremely important that you uncover these underlying buying motives because the prospect in all likelihood will not come out and tell you. They are sometimes only vaguely aware of their motives themselves.”

The reason behind this, management consultant Vikram Khanna explained in 2011, is that “Buying motives are psychological, not logical. People react more psychologically than logically. To recognise this psychological attitude of customers, the salesman requires self-knowledge and empathy.”

Entrepreneur trainers MBA Research advise: “Techniques for determining buying motives include observing, listening, showing interest, and asking questions. Using these techniques effectively benefits customers, salespeople, and the businesses involved.”

Successful salespeople and marketers know how to determine a customer’s buying motives, but they also know how to fit their products into the customer’s buying motives. By being more aware of these buying motives in your prospective clients, you may help reinforce how your products and services meet your target market’s needs.


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