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Purpose-Driven Sales

The Psychology of Buying


Starting with Why

I'll start with a little bit about myself: I am a cheerleader, although technically my employer calls me a "sales consultant" (or sometimes a "client advisor"); but, what I really do is cheer people on from thinking of buying a car (or other product/service) they need to a commitment of driving a car they want (for example). This was the case with the mom who needed more space for her growing family, or the dad who needed reliable transportation to work an hour away, or the student who totaled her car in an accident but it wasn't her fault. I helped them achieve things they never imagined, and that is why I am a salesperson. Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why, encourages us to start with why it is that we do what we do, rather than beginning with what it is that we do.

So, why do you sell? The answer to that question is the first step in finding purpose in what you do,, and what people do as well. That begs another question, why do people buy? "People buy needs," they say as salespeople faithfully conduct their "needs analysis." According to author and consultant Casey Conrad though, people buy wants. Wants are emotional in nature, not logical as is the nature of needs. Moreover, studies suggest that what people want is to either gain pleasure or avoid pain. Interestingly, studies also found that people are more inclined to avoid pain than they are to gain pleasure. It is not logical, and it may not even make sense. The key is to uncover both their pains and their pleasures to find what they want, asking the right questions and listening to understand how it makes sense to them.

How to Communicate

In order to be able to ask questions and listen to what someone wants, you have to speak their language (so to speak). Communication is the method by which we express ourselves to others, and Conrad elaborates on the matter. Communication is not only made-up of words, it is mostly comprised of vocal tones and body movements. Words make up around 10% of communication, while vocal tone makes up around 30% and body language around 60% (rounded off to nearest tenth). In order to speak their language, you have to match and mirror their communication style. As you notice the words people choose to use, the tones they speak in, and the gestures they make as they express themselves, you will be able to more effectively communicate with them and establish common bonds beyond the sale.

There are four primary communication styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and digital.Visual communicators rely on the sense of sight to process information, use words like "see" and "look," have loud tones, and make grand gestures. Auditory communicators rely on the sense of sound to process information, use words like "talk" and "sound," have quieter tones, and make smaller gestures. Kinesthetic communicators rely on the sense of touch to process information, use words like "feel" and "touch," are so quiet they can barely be heard, and have to be invited to speak or move. Digital communicators rely on facts to process information, use words like "percentages" and "data," speak in figures and numbers, and are moved by charts and graphs. While people can have traits of more than one style of communication, most people will prefer to communicate primarily one way over the others.

What You Want

The whole point of effectively communicating with people is to establish rapport and build relationships, which lead to the ultimate end game in the sales process: people who buy from you and refer others to do the same. But, why would someone buy from you to begin with? According to Conrad, people buy from people they trust; and to establish trust, you must be knowledgeable and authentic. For example: I cheer for Volkswagen, so I am knowledgeable in communicating model benefits because I continually expand my product knowledge and practice my communication skills; more importantly, I drive a Volkswagen because I trust their safety features. Both my knowledge and authenticity give people a credible reason to trust me.

My buyers not only trust my Volkswagen knowledge, they mostly trust my own trust in Volkswagen. Because I practice what I preach and believe in what I want them to believe in, I create positive anchors. These anchors not only resonate with people when they think about Volkswagen, but also with me when I think about Volkswagen. In fact, my Jetta has since come to save my life! That is the kind of knowledge and authenticity that people trust, and trust is the foundation of any relationship. It is what people want most, and what they ultimately buy: mutual trust. I urge you to identify why you sell what you sell, approach each interaction as if you were communicating with a loved one, seek to understand each person, and keep your purpose in mind. May the sales force be with you!


Conrad, Casey. Selling Fitness: The Complete Guide to Selling Health Club Memberships, 6th Edition. Communication Consultants, 07 November 2008.

Sinek, Simon. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Illustrated Edition. Portfolio, 27 December 2011.

© 2021 Marylin Prado

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