You’ve made a dozen cold calls to start your morning. You’ve sent out fifteen personalized emails to new leads. While the responses are all nuanced, the result is the same. “Now isn’t the time.” Sometimes that’s just the nature of the sales cycle. Sometimes, though, it can be helpful to consider the top reasons people buy in the first place.
As Shari Levitin, author of Heart and Sell: 10 Universal Truths Every Salesperson Needs to Know, tells Forbes, “When companies connect with their customers’ deep emotional motivators, the pay-off can be huge.”
There are countless theories for why people buy. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is one of the most common connections often used to address the drivers that buyers operate from. In this article, we’ll explore the connected nature of Maslow’s theory and sales while exploring the top reasons people buy.
What is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?
First crafted in 1943, Abraham Maslow proposed five levels of needs, with the theory that lower-level needs (seen as basics) must be fulfilled first in order for higher-level needs to then be achieved. While Maslow’s hierarchy has since been updated, the core concept still remains. Similar motivation theories exists for why buyers purchase the specific goods and services they do.
Reasons People Buy
Both tried-and-true sales theories, as well as Maslow’s hierarchy, recognize that primary needs exist as our basilar motivators. Think shelter, food, safety. Each of these must be met for people to consider other issues facing their person. This can come into play both literally (providing shelter, food, security) and figuratively (supplying the basic parts or services needed for their business to function) for why people buy. If your new lead is in this phase, remain focused on ways to assist. Your attempts to discuss next-level ways the product or service can help won’t land.
Our needs escalate to positioning once our basic human (food, shelter, etc.) or business (widgets, workers, etc.) needs are met. For selling straight to consumers, this may mean tapping into Maslow’s literal positioning for friendships, mutual respect, and other connection. For B2B needs, this can include speaking on next-level functions aimed at streamlining their business (cutting avoidable costs, enhancing the quality of materials, expanding infrastructure).
Just as the top level of Maslow’s original hierarchy focuses on self-actualization (issues of identity and purpose), B2B and B2C businesses can tap into this, as well. This might include sustainability and charitable contributions for consumer products or B-Corporation certification for businesses. While these labels can’t be achieved without the basics being met, many companies so closely align these elements with their core business model that they are willing to see the business fail rather than compromise on these values.
People buy for more reasons than just the above breakouts. Your lead isn’t simultaneously in more than one of these areas at once, though. So, if the basic aren’t met, your ability to speak to benefits at the “identity signaling” level simply won’t resonate. Explore the right issues at the right time by understanding your lead’s bandwidth.
Consider the top reasons people buy the next time you find yourself receiving an onslaught of “not right now” responses. Ask some probing questions to figure out which stage the lead is currently in. You may better position your product once you have a clearer sene of the needs they’re seeking to fulfill.