Why and How People Buy

Download Now: Free Marketing Plan Template
Mark Kilens
Mark Kilens



544022867acWouldn’t you love to know why people buy?

I know I would.

Think about it. There’s usually a reason that you buy something. It usually has to do with a goal you’re trying to achieve. Simply speaking, the thing that you buy should help you reach your goal. It doesn't matter if you’re an individual, a group, a business, or a non-profit.

Anyone that buys your product/service has at least one goal they are trying to reach. That’s their reason. This holds true for anything you need to buy.

Why do you maintain your car? Why did you go to the college you went to? Why did you apply for the job you now have? Why did you just purchase the last thing you purchased?

Why Do People Buy

“Why” a person buys is naturally central to the sales process. Each one of us has different goals, plans, challenges, and timelines (also known as GPCT) at different points in our lives. We have them at work and at home. Ultimately, the four GPCT areas are why we buy things.

The consultative sales process helps you to learn, understand, and solve GPCT. Understanding and solving for GPTC means that you can nail the sale.

Marketers and salespeople need to ask themselves the following questions:

  • What are the goals my product/service helps people to achieve?
  • What is the plan for using my product/service?
  • What challenges does it help people to overcome?

Let’s break GPTC down in some more detail.


We’re motivated by goals. Goals drive us. Some goals might be to lose 25 pounds, to get into medical school, or to grow a business’ revenue. How do you uncover your lead’s goals? Research, ask, and listen.

Here are some questions that might help you discover a goal:

  • “Tell me more about your role at [X Company].”
  • “What are you responsible for?”
  • “How are you measured?”
  • “What goal or benchmarks are you looking to achieve?”
  • “How did you arrive at that goal/number?”


A plan is critical to reaching any goal. Some plans might be to go to the gym four times a week; to go on a diet, to self-study for the MCATs; or to implement inbound marketing.  You need a plan to reach a goal. Sometimes the lead will already have a plan. Other times the lead might not have a plan at all, and that’s when the most amount of teaching needs to occur.

Here are some questions that might help you discover a plan:

  • “Do you have a deadline for achieving [X Goal]?
  • “What have you tried already?”
  • “What has worked in the past?”
  • “Who is responsible for meeting these goals?”
  • “What are you trying now?”


We all face challenges when trying to execute the plan to reach our goal. Maybe you’re only going to the gym twice a week instead of four times, or maybe you need help with some medical concepts, or maybe you’re not converting the right types of leads. You need to teach each lead how your product or service can help overcome their challenges.

Here are some questions that might help you uncover some challenges:

  • “What bottlenecks are in the way of achieving your goal?”
  • “What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far?”
  • “You mentioned you’re doing [X Plan]. How are you measuring this?”
  • “How could things be better?”


The timeline is a very important component of why someone will buy. If a lead’s timeline doesn’t match up with your buying cycle timeline, then you have a problem. The lead might not be qualified to buy from you.

You need to lose 25 pounds in six months. You have to take the MCAT in six months. You have to generate $1 million in new revenue in twelve months. This is a critical component to understanding if your product/service can provide the lead with value in the appropriate timeline.

Here’s a simple question you could ask:

  • When do you need to achieve [X goal] by?

Identify the gap between the goal they need to accomplish and what they’re on track to accomplish in their timeline. Identifying this will help you qualify the lead to understand if they are a right fit for what you sell.

You need to understand the consequences or implications of your lead not reaching the goal. Sometimes this will be obvious, sometimes less so. The lead should understand what will happen if they don’t take action.

Sometimes the lead will know what the consequences will be, or they might have only a slight inkling. You’ll need to make sure that they definitely know what the consequences of not taking action are, because you’ll want to use this to help you close the sale. You will use the consequences as a way to help the lead understand why they need to buy.

Remember, it’s a consultative sales process. Always be naturally curious and don’t fall back on assumptions. Make it a rule to always ask why.

We can help people reach their goals if we’re passionate, confident, and demonstrate a lot of conviction.  As Simon Sinek says, “Inspire people to do the things that inspire them and together we can change the world.”

As you read about the “why” part of the equation, you might have realized that the answers we get are the same answers we need to develop buyer personas. I recommend that your marketing and sales teams work together to document the answers and build content that addresses the buyers’ goals, plan and challenges.

Now that we understand why people buy, let’s talk about how they buy.

How Do People Buy

There are two components to how people buy: budget and authority. You have to have money to buy something, and you have to have the correct authority, or power, to exchange the money for the good or service.


Bring up money very early in the sales process. However, you want to use good judgement around when is the right time to bring this up. It will be different for the product or service that you sell, and the industry you are selling to.  You want to qualify leads out that have no budget as soon as possible. Always tell the lead how much your product/service costs. It will be $2,000 for 6 months of personal training. It will cost $5,000 for 3 months of tutoring. It will cost $20,000 a year for marketing software and consulting.

You should try to get a definitive yes or no. Remember, a no is just as good as a yes. If they say maybe, ask what that means. Use the active listening technique to dig deep for the real answer.

You should even try to help them “find” money for your product/service if you know they really need it to overcome their challenges and reach their goal.


Not everyone has access to the money needed to buy what you sell. Multiple people might need what you offer, but one might only hold the authority to authorize the purchase. Signs that this might be the case include:

  • I’m waiting for a bonus
  • I need to get a loan
  • I don’t hold the budget

Finding out the authority of everyone that you talk to during the consultative sales process is a must. You should only negotiate with the person(s) who holds the authority. Only negotiate if they initiate either negotiation. Most people negotiate for two reasons; they either need to or like to negotiate. Me? I usually need to. :-)

Always Strive for the Why and How

Remember: Try to make the why of the conversation truly inspirational. As the lead becomes increasingly inspired by the why, you can then dig deeper into their goals, plans, challenges, and timelines. And this will help you both find the solution you’re looking for.

Hat Tip to Simon Sinek, whose concept of “The Golden Circle” started me thinking more about the “how” and “why” of people’s buying behavior, and the implications of this for inbound sales. If you’re interested in learning more about what Sinek says on the topic, and what the Golden Circle is all about, watch his TED talk or read the book.

Thanks Simon for inspiring me!

Topics: Inbound Sales

Related Articles


Outline your company's marketing strategy in one simple, coherent plan.

    Marketing software that helps you drive revenue, save time and resources, and measure and optimize your investments — all on one easy-to-use platform