The science of sales: Understanding client buying motivations

In part one of this series, we covered prospecting and the art of remaining relevant to customers. By proving your relevance and credibility businesses can become a supplier of choice when decisions are made and orders placed. But part of proving relevance is understanding client buying motivations. If we can identify their reasons for approaching the market and making an investment, we can use this information to sell the value of our solution against the motivations of our client.

Identifying why a business invests in something – be that people, technology, services etc – can be done with the seven step motive triangle. For those of you that aren’t familiar with this already, here’s how it breaks down below.

Starting from the bottom, every purchase a company makes is considered an investment. Naturally any investment made will come with an expected return on investment (ROI).

That investment forms part of a considered activity or project. Purchases or investments are not made without due process and will need to have received sign off. Remember that it is not your prospect who is spending money, rather their company.

Every project or activity which requires investment will have an agreed upon success measure. This will have formed part of the business case put forward before sign off is given to any investment – what was success defined as?

Any success measures will have been determined based on a problem which exists in the business, or one that is anticipated to happen. These will be summarised in the strategic plan. The strategic plan will detail the current state and anticipated future state of a range of operational matters within a business. It will also detail what needs to be done to make progress towards goals – aka understanding client buying motivations.

The purpose of the strategic plan is to deliver against the strategic priorities of the organisation. The strategic priorities (or mission critical priorities as they are sometimes known) are those things that when met, will enable the company to get to where it needs to be.

The strategic priorities will have been agreed upon based on the overarching strategy of the business. If for example, the strategy of the business is to float on the stock exchange, the strategic priorities might include such things as ensuring there are robust financial controls in place and mapping out a clear growth plan.

Finally, at the top, sits the ultimate motive, or motivation, of the shareholders and/or company directors. For example, if the motive of shareholders is to release some capital then an IPO (Initial Public Offering – or floatation) could be the strategy identified.

Through this approach we can establish what any business’ primary goals are, what the bosses need to do to achieve those goals, their planned approach and what investment they need to make. As salespeople, the higher up the motive triangle we can reach, the better positioned we are to sell on the value our solution offers because we are closer to understanding client buying motivations.

Stay tuned for the next part of our science of sales series!

Matthew Gillen is managing director at Michael Page Sales.

Image: Shutterstock

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