Reprinted from November 1993
Money, recognition, adventure, security – these are the four basic drives that turn your customers on, and every prospect who comes into your store is obsessed by one of them.
Hand in hand, a young couple approaches an elaborate downtown jewelry store. They pause at an outside display window and he tenderly slides his arm around her shoulders. Together they gaze at the sparkling wedding sets, exchanging warm glances.
A passerby might note their average dress and obvious inexperience and think to himself: “Gee, those kids are out of their class. They’re just dreaming if they think they can afford to buy a ring from that prestigious store!”
Very soon, however, the couple will enter the store and purchase a set of rings that they really can’t afford, but they will do so happily. Perhaps they postpone buying that new car so they can finish making the payments on the note he signed in order to purchase “just what my wife wanted.”
Now, at the very same moment, on the far side of town, a wealthy, aging dowager enters another store, this one displaying “Huge Discounts” banners in the show window. The lady must elbow her way past several ruffians on the sidewalk just to get inside, but this doesn’t seem to bother her at all. She adjusts her lace shawl and prepares to wait her turn to be served. The employees are busy with other customers, so despite her wealth and “name,” she will receive no special attention.
This lady will very shortly make a sizeable purchase – if she can find what she is looking for at a price she is willing to pay! She can easily afford to write a personal check for anything she wants, but this lady wants a bargain.
What mysterious force prompts the young couple to visit the finest uptown jewelry store and pay a price out of their reach, while the wealthy dowager drives many miles to shop at a discount store? The answer is simple – it was their motivations that caused them to act as they did.
For the young couple, the desire to tell other that their rings were purchased from a prestigious store was more important than the price they might have to pay for that recognition.
For the dowager, the desire to save a dollar was the most important thing in her world. Going out of her way to an unsavory neighborhood in order to save money far outweighed any desire for recognition or fear of losing face should she be seen there by one of her society friends. So strong was her desire for a bargain that she laid aside all thought for her own safety – even her desire for security.
But what is this thing called motivation, anyway? Well, let’s try to imagine that inside each of us there is a bottomless vessel that causes us to ache unless it is kept full with satisfied desires. Naturally, it can never be filled completely, but each of us feels compelled (or perhaps obsessed is a better word) to keep the container as full as we possibly can.
Many experts in the study of motivation divide the basic human motivations into four categories: adventure, money, recognition and security. Others add sub-headings such as love of family, greed, revenge, religion, romance, self-preservation, etc.
The tags hung on these different motivations for identification purposes are not important as long as we see clearly the difference between them. Each of us has all of these motivations in some form or another, but there will always be one or two that will be distinguished in our personalities above all the others.
For example, a jewelry store owner facing the pistol of an armed robber might display a great deal of “self-preservation” at the moment in order to protect his life, but in normal situations that same jeweler might be a money/bargain motivated individual who never spends a cent for medication or doctors visits to help preserve his own health. At the particular moment when is looking down the barrel of a gun, however, self-preservation is a dominant motivation but not necessarily his main one.
Another storeowner in the same situation might be one who is constantly seeking recognition, doing almost anything to achieve satisfaction. That same hold-up man may challenge that jeweler’s desire for recognition to the extent that the jeweler might foolishly be tempted to try to disarm the man to gain praise and recognition from other people.
Do you recall the plot of the last TV or movie espionage thriller you watched? Probably there were some high-ranking government officials, and one fellow who is bribed into giving out top-secret information. The bribe may have been some type of recognition he would have received if he complied, or there may have been a tantalizing blonde, luring him in with the promise of romance if he revealed the desired information. He may have been offered a huge sum of money or other material goods, or someone may have simply been threatening to blow his head off if he didn’t fork over what he knew.
Whatever leverage was used to acquire the secrets was the result of an appeal to that individual’s personal motivation. This goes to prove that every man has his price, which is another way of saying every man has his motivation. Generally speaking, there are no exceptions to this rule.
How many times have you heard someone ask, “I wonder what makes that fellow tick?” Be assured that one of the four motivations makes him tick: adventure, money, recognition or security. These four motivations cause each and every one of us to make every decision of our lives. Whether we are selling jewelry goods or getting married, we will react because of the influences of these motivations. Arouse the proper motivation in any individual and you will jolt him into action.
It must be the proper motivation, however, because appealing to the wrong motivation will have no effect on the person at all. As retail merchants, it is important that we learn to recognize the difference in each customer’s motivation and thus find what makes him tick.
Recognizing a customer’s motivation
A frilly, little wisp of a girls leans over a showcase displaying popular, “cartoon character fashion” watches. The prices are clearly marked, and suddenly she spots one she likes and begins to bubble over with enthusiasm.
“Oh just look at that cool watch! Isn’t it great?”
Now the clerk steps over and removes the watch and places it in her hands. So far, so good.
“This watch is shock proof,” the clerk explains. “That means you won’t be bringing it in every week for repairs.”
“Uh-huh. Oh it’s so pretty!” the girl claims rapturously. But she hesitates now and asks, “But is it really for a girl my age?”
The sales clerk nods and piles on some more sales pitch. “The case is 14 karat gold filled. It won’t be turning on your wrist.”
“Do you think it’s too young for me?” the girl asks as she places the watch on her petite wrist.
The sales clerk replies matter-of-factly, “I have sold them to all ages.”
The young customer continues to admire the watch for a few more minutes. She ponders the decision, then thrusts out her lower lip. “No, I don’t think so.”
Where did the sales clerk go wrong? The very first word the girl spoke were clues to her motivation. She sought to achieve recognition by wearing a stylish wristwatch. She wanted approval from the sales clerk that her friends would admire her good judgment and excellent taste.
She didn’t care about “shock proof” or “14k gold filled.” She was afraid she would appear too juvenile by wearing such a watch.
What’s more, she actually told the clerk her fears, but she was promptly ignored. Most of all, however, she wanted to wear something which would bring her recognition and approval, something modern and chic. The salesman was selling his own motivation, and failed to satisfy the customer.
A little later in the day, a middle age lady enters the same store. She appears to be the no-nonsense type, wearing sturdy, “practical” white lace-up shoes. She has on a cloth coat and is carrying a large purse. She pauses at the high-priced, exotic watches, and then moves on to the ladies sweep-second models. Her eyes linger on one particular mid-priced model.
The sales clerk extracts the timepiece from the case and places it in the customer’s hands. “Isn’t this a beautiful watch?’ she asks.
The lady ignores the question and poses one of her own. “Is this watch shock resistant?”
“I think so,” the clerk replies, then hastens on with, “Just look at the band. Isn’t it fabulous?”
“I suppose so,” the customer says with a shrug. She holds the watch for a few moments more, inspecting every angle and the price tag.
The sales clerk, as if searching for conversation to fill the awkward gap, says, “I’d sure like to have a nice watch like that for myself, with a stylish strap.”
The customer puts the watch down. “Well, I’m going to look around some more,” she says, then departs.
Another sale lost. What happened?
It’s very obvious what this sales clerk should have done. Judging from her mode of dress, the customer could have been a nurse. Whether or not she was, she quite obviously preferred a conservative style, and she was practical. Her first words should have given the clerk a tip to her motivation.
“Is this watch shock resistant?” should have told the sales clerk to stress features like sturdy, durable, sensible, and practical instead of beautiful, fabulous and stylish. This particular lady did not care about fashion, so it is no surprise she left the store empty handed.
Again, the sales clerk was too busy selling her own motivation. Trouble really becomes evident when a salesman attempts to cram his own motivation down his customer’s throat.
With that in mind, let’s say an obviously low-income customer visits your store to buy an expensive watch. He may be a janitor for a downtown firm, and your first impression is to talk him out of the expensive watch and to interest him in something more economical.
Stop right there!
That would be selling your motivation, not yielding to his. If this customer does relent from his original desire and buy the watch you suggest instead, he will probably never be happy with the substitute.
Instead, do this. Paint for him a picture of the pride of ownership that he will enjoy. Tell him his lovely new expensive watch will be the envy of the entire family and perhaps the whole neighborhood. Let him know how his friends will envy him for owning such a magnificent timepiece, but stress that the watch he has chosen, is not a work watch, and that it will have to be worn with consideration. You might also want to tell him that you are sure that with his good sense he will receive very good service from his watch, that he must take care of his valuable time piece.
It should be obvious that a man such as this one is seeking recognition and that he is willing to pay for it. He has already painted his own visual picture, and he anticipates the reaction and admiration of his friends when he displays his treasure. Wouldn’t we be wrong to deprive him of this pleasure, even though we may think he can’t really afford such luxury? Naturally, there are times when a customer must be lured away from purchasing an item there is no hope in them paying for, but if matters can be arranged in the favor of the customer, let him buy what he wants, with your blessings.
Perhaps, you’ve encountered a prosperous business executive who hovered over the “not so elegant” models of watches of lesser cost and “no frills” style. His motivation would be to save money, and it is equally as important for him to do this as it was for the janitor to have the finest. Here are two different men with distinct motivations, each needing to satisfy a particular motivational drive.
To this executive, cost is far more important than other people’s opinions. He doesn’t really care what other folks think about him or the style of watch he picks. He must feel that he is saving money and being economical in order to satisfy his motivation. The clerk will have to pitch the “money/bargain” motivation to this customer if he is to be sold. Keep talking in terms of practicality and what a good buy he would be getting for his dollars. He may have a few hundred thousand tucked away at the First National, but his desire to save and to drive a hard bargain will not be squelched by this fact.
Naturally, all business executives are not stereotypes. Some want the most elaborate and expensive watch available. They have a recognition motivation and seek to satisfy it with the purchase of fine jewelry that will be viewed and envied by their associates. Likewise, all janitors do not seek the most expensive merchandise, or the cheapest. Each man has his own motivation regardless of his station in life, and each different motivation must be fulfilled in a different way.
An executive may purchase many fine watches during his lifetime. The workingman my only make one such purchase, which represents hours of labor and many monthly payments. Whatever the reasons or motivations which prompt a person to do his thing, we should respect and fulfill those needs and desires as efficiently as possible.
In order to do this, we must listen to the customer! He will tell you what his motivation really is. He will use words like, “beautiful,” “expensive,” “rich,” “original” or “cheap,” “economical,” “less expensive.” Whatever he says will be your clue. Pick it up and use it.
A jeweler acquaintance makes a bit of money selling spinel earrings. He hits money and recognition motivations square on the head each time he sells by using a few well-chosen words.
“Lady,” he will say, “this looks like a half-carat diamond. No one can tell the difference. Why, you’re getting all the flash for just a small fraction of the cost!”
The customer feels she will receive the sought-after recognition for a bargain!
The truth of the matter is, nobody ever learned anything with his mouth open, and you cannot listen to a customer if you are talking. There is a time for everything, and the time to listen carefully and remain silent is when the customer is clueing you in on his desires, needs and motivations. The time to sell is when you have an accurate grasp of these things well in hand.
It is generally considered good salesmanship to upgrade a customer. It is a wise and simple thing to do if you can interweave threads of his motivations into your sales presentation. Often, a customer who specifies a “cheap” watch can be upgraded by using phrases like “a better watch is your best buy in the long run. Here, let me explain why I say that…”
If you want to ring up more sales, don’t be guilty of falling over your own motivation in order to reach the customer. Listen carefully to the first few words a customer says, and then talk about your merchandise along lines which best suit his needs and motivations.
Try it for just one week. You’ll never again have to wonder, “What makes a customer tick?”