Published: June 14,2004
I have been focusing on buying motives. Reason? They’re a million times more powerful than selling skills. Make that a zillion. And here’s the best part — your competition is still “selling.”
The big question is: How do you uncover buying motives? At the heart of understanding and capturing buying motives is a strategy that’s so powerful it’s almost always overlooked.
The big answer is: Ask previous customers. Ask them why they bought. Yes, it’s just that simple. Well, it will help if a few things are in place. First, you have to have a relationship with the customer you want to ask. Second, you should have a reason to visit other than “taking.” The meeting will be much more communicative if you are offering something of value in exchange for his or her candor.
How do you find the real motive to buy? The answer is not only simple, it’s been in front of your face since you began your sales or business career. The answer lies with your customer. If you go back and find their buying motive inside your last 10 sales to them, it’s likely that you will not only have the 11th (sale), but you will have hundreds, maybe thousands more sales.
The answer (as always) lies in the question. When you begin to interview your present customers as to why they place an order with you, there is a set of questions for you to ask. You must master them. The dilemma is that you can only master them as you use them. They will entail extracting stories and nuances. They deeply question the customer’s understanding of his own or her own thought process.
Yes, it’s delicate, that’s why it’s powerful. The first thing you want to ask is the simple question, “Why did you buy?” Followed with “tell me the history of your dealings with our company and tell me your history of the product whether it’s from us or not.” A story. Stories will reveal subtle reasons. Service, reliability, exceptional performance. If they remember the story, they will reveal the motives as they re-tell it.
The next questions are a whole lot deeper and go into the real understanding of what made them choose you. What were the thoughts that went into their decision making process? How big a part did the salesman play in the decision? How much did the buyer rely on his or her own gut instinct?
The real motive or motives may be two or three questions deep. Going deep (with questions) will reveal a wealth of knowledge and motive information.
Here are some samplings of questions that may uncover or help you uncover their motives:
How big of a role did the salesperson play in consideration?
How much consideration was given to profit when you selected us?
How much consideration was given to productivity when you selected us?
How much consideration was given to morale when you selected us?
How much consideration was given to your customers when you selected us?
Questions can also include words or thoughts about: needs, desires, previous experiences, delivery, quality. Obviously some motives are more prime than others. As you interview more customers, common motives will begin to surface. Repeated motives are probably “prime.”
“Jeffrey, their motive to buy is PRICE, you fool!” you rant. Not so fast, sales genius. Price may not be the motive to buy. They will state it as the “reason,” but it may not be the “motive.” If the customer says he bought for price, you ask: Was price the only reason? And follow up as deep as you dare. Questions like: What were the other considerations? Was __________ worth more money? Or, would __________ have been worth a few more dollars? Or, what would have been a good justification for spending a few more dollars?
MAJOR CLUE: Purchasing departments want cheapest price; CEOs want value, productivity and profit.
A WORD OF CAUTION: The “buying motive” process is similar to riding a bicycle. The first few times you ride a bike you fall off and skin your knee. You may even run home to your mother. Then after a few weeks you’re riding without hands. All from practice.
Jeffrey Gitomer, author of “The Sales Bible,” and “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless,” is president of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer. He gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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