There are only two reasons people buy.

Gaining something or avoiding loss. And avoiding loss is by far the greater motivator.

These examples from a recent sales workshop illustrate the point.

Sue recently bought a horse saddle. When asked why she needed a new one she replied, “The one I had didn’t fit my horse’s back properly, would have caused back problems over time, which would end up costing me a lot of money in vet bills.”

She added, “The new one was a better quality with improved padding in the seat so I wouldn’t get a sore bum when riding long distances.”

Sue’s motivation? Avoiding loss. i.e. Not having to fork out for expensive Vet bills. Yes, she did want to look after her horse – but her primary underlying motivation was to avoid issues and subsequent loss.

Fred, who’d commissioned the sales workshop told me he wanted the team to become better at selling their services.

Why? Because they needed to meet their KPI’s or their budgets would be revoked. Ultimately this would mean terminating staff, something he wanted to avoid at all costs.

Fred also had a dream that the organisation could break free of their current funding model and strike out in in directions, servicing new markets.

However, his primary motivation is avoiding loss. So he took action and engaged us to help.

Of course, people are also motivated by gain. They want something so they ultimately feel good.

But in a selling situation, they’re often far harder to convince. Especially if there’s some pain involved in getting from where they are to the result they want.

Which is why 50% of potential sales go nowhere. The prospect simply won’t take action and nothing you can do will change that.

The art is in recognising if you’re in this situation and walk away rather than flogging a dead horse.

So what’s the best way of figuring out where you stand?

You ask them!

“What do you want?” “Why do you want it?” “What will having that give you?”

Listen carefully to their answers.

They’ll either tell you what they want to gain or avoid.

Then your job is to show them how your product or service solves this issue. Use their language. Talk in terms of gain or loss – whichever one is appropriate.

Be careful though.

Sometimes loss can masquerade as a gain.

“I want something because of…”

“Tell me more about why that’s important…”

“Because I want to avoid something else.”

Remember that 50% of sales which go nowhere?

You need to know if their motivation is high enough for them to take action.

Will they pay the price? And price could mean emotional and/or physical effort, not just money.

How will they justify the purchase – to themselves or others? Will they suffer buyer’s remorse and regret the purchase?

You’re looking for emotional triggers. Do they seem really engaged in wanting the gain or avoiding the loss?

If not, you may need to crank up the emotion.

One way is to project the future.

Ask them to imagine a point in the future where they’ve got what they wanted – gain or avoiding loss.

Have them imagine what the results are, what steps they’ve taken to achieve them and how they now feel.

Watch closely to see if their physiology changes. Do they smile, look happy, appear to really want this?

If not, you have more work to do or maybe you’re flogging a dead…

There is far more to effective selling than I’ve covered here. But master what I’ve just told you and you’ll be light years ahead of most.

And if this has whet your appetite and you want to become more effective or simply can’t afford not to, talk to us about personalised sales effectiveness training and coaching.

We’ve improved sales effectiveness with clients ranging from multi-nationals selling high end products, small businesses with 2 – 3 sales people and solo business owners who have doubled and tripled their revenue in months.

I guarantee you will increase your revenue while spending less time and effort selling.

Call us on (02) 9499-7958 to get started.


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