If you could tell your exact buyer motives, you'd have no problem tailoring an effective sales strategy to suit their interests and inclinations. If you could always understand your buyer's motivations, you'd never lose out on a deal.
Even though you cannot read people’s minds, there are still ways to get a feel for the underlying buying motives that drive most purchases.
Read on as we explore some of the most common and essential buying motives you need to consider when conducting your sales efforts.
Emotional vs. Rational Buying Motivations
What is Buyer Motivation?
Buyer motivation is the set of factors that influence your customers’ buying decisions. These thoughts, feelings, and instincts determine whether a consumer makes a particular purchase or not.
There are three main stages in the buyer’s journey. These are:
- Awareness: where the buyer becomes aware of a need or problem.
- Consideration: where the buyer gathers information about how to solve their problem.
- Decision: where the consumer’s motivations move them to make a buying decision or move to another product to solve their needs.
Understanding and guiding consumers through each stage of this journey increases the chances of closing a deal.
- Financial Gain
Need might be the most immediate buyer motive. If a prospect has a problem you can solve, they're inherently motivated to consider your offering. Capitalizing on your buyer’s needs generally hinges upon how aware they are of the full spectrum of potential issues that can stem from their situation.
If you approach interactions with prospects assuming they already have a comprehensive understanding of everything they need when they talk to you, you're selling yourself short.
Steve Jobs once said, "A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them." The same principle applies to need. Prospects don't always have a need until you inspire one.
Some buyers have a clear-cut picture of their problems, your product or service, and its potential solutions. But others might need a little guidance.
You have to raise their awareness of an issue, explain how it applies to their situation, and walk them through the ways that you — specifically — can solve it better than anyone else.
As a buyer motive, acceptance is essentially the byproduct of consumer FOMO or "fear of missing out." It's when prospects are interested in buying a product or service because everyone else around them seems to be buying it as well.
And according to research by Washington State University, this motivation affects people of all ages.
That's why acceptance is the buyer motive behind most fads. Certain products or services catch steam, generate quick interest, and develop followings that rapidly expand.
Prospects don't want to miss out on the movement, so they make a point of buying in and showing off.
Fear is a powerful catalyst for action in almost any situation, and sales is no exception. That's why so many companies lean on scare tactics — subtle or overt — to create urgency behind their messaging and sales efforts.
For instance, Volkswagen ran an ad in 2006 featuring a realistic depiction of a car crash, backed by the tagline "Safe Happens." It was a campaign that played on natural consumer anxiety to accentuate the value of its cars' safety systems.
Playing on this buyer motive might seem cheap or unethical, but it can still be very effective. And the process of doing so is similar to that of the first point on this list. In the same way, you can highlight specific needs your prospect might not be considering or raise fears they might be ignoring as well.
Many consumers are interested in taking steps to protect their well-being. Accenture’s 2021 Life Reimagined report reveals more than 45% of respondents are ready to pay more for health and safety-related experiences. So if you can create the impression that your product or service will make them live better or longer, they'll be inclined to learn more — at the very least.
The key to selling based on health is offering some legitimate demonstration — showing and proving. You need to have some sort of concrete, compelling evidence to establish your product or service's clear-cut benefits to consumers' wellbeing. If you show that your offering addresses a relevant, urgent health concern, you'll be in an excellent position to sell effectively.
People don't always give a ton of thought to the purchases they make. Everyone is guilty of falling under the spell of this motive at some point. Many consumers will get caught up in the heat of the moment and buy for the sake of buying.
Impulse buying is rooted in excitement, and capitalizing on the motive is a matter of creating it. Generating flash-in-the-pan urgency can help facilitate purchases on that basis.
A particularly compelling deal might get you there — promotional pricing tactics like flash sales can often be powerful starting points for potential impulse buys.
Acceptance and impulse can often go hand in hand as well. For example, if buyers see their peers collectively embracing a product or service, they might be inclined to get on board without considering whether they actually need what they're buying.
By and large, consumers don't strictly buy the bare necessities. Sometimes, they make superfluous purchases that are less than essential. People like to enjoy themselves, so they buy products and services that suit wants — not needs — from time to time.
Generally speaking, you should only try to sell by this motive when selling a product or service that can easily be cast as a luxury. Of course, it's up to you to discern if that's the case with your product or service, but it's generally fairly obvious.
If someone is shopping for home decor or a new pair of designer sandals, their priority is probably pleasure. The same can't be said for someone looking for insect repellant to deal with their house's ant problem.
7. Financial Gain
Several prospects — particularly in B2B sales — are spending money to make money. Their primary motive is to leverage your product or service to improve their business operations. For example, they might want to boost employee productivity, generate more revenue, or want to shed unnecessary expenses.
If you're selling to a prospect with this motive, you must demonstrate authority and show actual results. Show — don't tell. Reference similar businesses or current customers that saw significant financial gains from leveraging your product.
Prospects motivated by financial gain typically have more at stake than those buying products to avoid missing out on a hot new trend. That's why you have to convince them they'll be in good hands if they invest in your product or service. Put them at ease with legitimate results and show them what they can expect if they do business with you.
Some consumers buy based on aspirations for self-improvement. They want to change for the better and are leveraging that dollar to help support those efforts.
Purchases like gym memberships and subscriptions to online courses generally aren't made out of fear or the pursuit of pleasure — they result from sincere ambition.
If you're selling to a buyer motivated by aspiration, the key is to stress what they could be if they stay the course after their purchase. If you're selling online coursework or paid online certifications, let your prospects know how your product can help bolster their resumes and what that can do for their career development.
Self-improvement requires determination. If you want to capitalize on this motive, show them something to be determined about.
Emotional vs. Rational Buying Motivations
Buying motivations typically fall into two overarching categories — emotional and rational. Let’s talk about these now.
Emotional Buying Motives
Here, consumers are motivated to buy something because they think it might bring comfort or boost their status among peers. In other words, these motivations are driven by the need for personal satisfaction.
Emotional buying motives often end in impulse buys.
Rational Buying Motives
On the other hand, rational buying motives are driven by logic and reasoning. Here, the consumer carefully considers factors like durability, safety, price, etc., before making a buying decision.
That being said, it can be hard to classify every purchase buyers make as being in one of those buckets.
Buying decisions are most often a combination of both sides of that token. Still, even though it's not usually clear cut, most purchases usually err towards one side of the spectrum set by those two qualifications.
The Car Buyer Example
The primary difference between the two types of motivation is the degree to which an individual buyer prioritizes practicality in the context of their purchase.
A rationally motivated purchase is made, first and foremost, based on need and utility. For example, imagine a consumer looking to purchase a new car. In this case, the buyer spends time conducting extensive research on factors like fuel economy, safety, and durability.
They identify a specific used vehicle at a local dealership that meets their ideal specs and budget, and they purchase it despite its lack of features like power windows or a stereo. That would be a borderline-exclusively rational purchase.
Now, let's consider another prospective car buyer. This consumer already owns a car but goes to the local dealership to look at a new line of convertibles in person. Once they get there, they see what they immediately decide is the car of their dreams.
They take it for a test drive and love how it rides. Then, they imagine how cool they'll look driving along the Pacific Coast Highway with the top down, wearing a scarf, aviator sunglasses, and leather gloves.
That image and the excitement that comes with it prompt the consumer to buy the convertible in cash — on the spot. That would be a near-purely emotional purchase.
Most purchases fall between those extremes, but those examples capture the essence of both categories. Emotional motivations can include qualities like pleasure, vanity, comfort, or prestige. In contrast, rational motivations tend to be based on factors like budget, safety, and durability.
You must take the time to understand the underlying buying motives that can influence your interactions with prospects. If you grasp why they're considering buying, you can better understand how to approach them.
There's a reason for every purchase, and it serves you to be able to identify it.
Understand Buyer Motives to Increase Sales
Understanding buyer motivations can help you create campaigns that nudge your customers towards buying your product or service.
Armed with the insight we’ve provided in this article, you can better target your audience in a meaningful and engaging way.