The Power of Buying Motives

07 April 2021 by Shweta Jhajharia

There are many reasons why we buy new things, both in business and in our personal lives. However, from a sales point of view, the struggle is in getting deep into the mindset of your customers and understanding what makes them tick. If you can do that then you will very quickly realise what might be missing in your sales process and where you need to improve your value proposition (VP).


“A motive is defined as an inner urge that moves or prompts a person to action”.

Prof. R.S. Davar, DA – Marketing Management

“A motive may be defined as a drive or an urge for which an individual seeks satisfaction. It becomes a buying motive when the individual seeks satisfaction through the purchase of something”.

J. Stanton (1987) – Fundamentals of Marketing

Sometimes, in sales, you get to a point where you have done enough to make a sale but for some reason, the client doesn’t buy. You can clearly see the product can help them but they don’t have enough MOTIVE to take ACTION.

The motive can NEVER be the product or service. This might sound simple to you, as you read it, but if you ask salespeople, 50% would give you the answer that the biggest motivation was a specific element of the product.

If you remember, in our second sales training, we discussed how a salesperson should build value; and we used the “value ladder” to illustrate where most salespeople need to be.

Read: Stop Taking Orders and Start Climbing Ladders

Classification of motives

When thinking of classifying the motives of our buyers, there are 2 main categories:

Rational: Something we can logically assess and comprehend

Emotional: is anything else

classification of buying motives

The list of motives here is not exhaustive but for most buyers, there will be 1 (max. 2), which can move them to action; this is called the Dominant Buying Motive (DBM). Any other motives may interest them, however, they are not enough to generate a purchase action.

The rational elements are more straight forward but you can see that the bulk of buying motives are in the emotional category. It is important to recognise this and make sure you train your salespeople to identify how to relate your value proposition to these more emotional motives effectively. A good salesperson will be able to do this naturally and it will come across as more genuine, rather than just superficial.

Determine the most common Dominant Buying Motive for your customers

These 5 steps will help you to discover and determine where you can improve your own sales process when it comes to understanding buyer motivation.

1. Determine the most common DBMs:

According to industry and target persona or customer avatar. You should always remember to stay updated and find out new trends/ changes.

2. Specify straight lines between DBMs and your VP:

Through sales training, show how each component of your VALUE PROPOSITION satisfies one of those DBMs. Use specific examples. Again, emphasise that BMs are never the product/ service.

3. Look for cues:

Salespeople need to use OBSERVATION & active LISTENING to find indicative signals for the buyer’s DBM. This should be part of their sales training.

4. Test for agreement:

Use the trial/check close method – E.g.: “Is [satisfying certain BM] a priority for you?” – “What are your thoughts on […]?”- “How does […] sound to you?” – “Would you prefer […] over […]?”.

5. Use an effective questioning approach:

This will help to engage with prospects in a meaningful manner.

If you would like any further help or guidance with your sales approach or in understanding your customer base, please feel free to get in touch, we would love to help.

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Shweta Jhajharia

Shweta Jhajharia is one of the leading authorities on Business Value Building and the creator of the unique 6M Model. Shweta is widely respected as an impactful, intelligent and results orientated professional who helps business leaders unleash their potential to reach meaningful, higher objectives. This realisation of potential and maximisation... Read more