Identifying the Basic Motives of Clients and Prospects

Although it may sound surprising, clients don’t purchase a service just because they think they should. They buy because of the benefits they will receive as a result of those services.  For example, they don’t hire an accounting firm because they know they should.  They hire an accounting firm when they are convinced it will make their life easier, and make them more money.  (Those are some compelling benefits after all.)

Understanding this concept can help you better focus your selling efforts.  Place more emphasis on the unique benefits of your accounting firm and how those benefits apply specifically to a particular prospect.  Each person is different, with his or her own reasons for purchasing or not. Each person will purchase for those individual reasons – not yours or anyone else’s. If you try to sell a prospect on any reason other than their own, you run the risk of turning the him off or otherwise alienating him. This usually ends up destroying the sale – and any possibility for future sales. Figuring out why people make certain decisions can be a complicated process at best, even frustrating at times. But an understanding of basic buying motives can make selling your firm’s services so much easier.


Motives for Buying

Behavioral psychologists tell us there are seven basic motives that move a person to action or, in this case, cause them to buy. An understanding of these motives and how they apply to your clients and prospects can give you a tremendous advantage.


1. Desire for Gain or Profit

Nobody likes to lose. People want something in return for their efforts and hard work. And the easier they can get it, the better. The success of the lottery games in various states bear testimony of people trying to find an easy way to gain and profit.  The products you sell can help your customers realize their dreams for gain or profit too. Your clients can and will invest in the various products and services you sell – not to for the sake of it, but in an effort to increase their profitability and the amount and value of their assets.


2. Fear of Loss or Need for Security

People will go to great lengths to prevent losing something. In an effort to protect their property, some people install burglar or fire alarms, smoke detectors, or night lights that automatically come on when movement is detected.  Some people carry spray cans of mace or tear gas, while others have resorted to carrying guns or other weapons to protect their person.  Psychologists say the fear of loss or the need for security is, perhaps, the greatest of all motives.  If the products and services you sell can help protect your clients and their businesses from loss, or if you can in some way increase their security, either at the present time or sometime in the future, you owe it to them to capitalize on that fact as much and as often as possible.


3. Pride of Ownership or Status

People want to be noticed and recognized. Little boys ride bicycles with no hands, and little girls dress up and act out dance routines and shout to their parents, “Watch me! Watch me!”  Adults do the same things, but in different ways. While they may not verbally shout out, they still say, “Watch me! Watch me!” just as loudly. They do it by the kinds of cars they drive, the clothes and jewelry they wear, the houses they live in, and the lifestyle they lead.  While people may buy because of the benefits, they also would appreciate an impact to their lifestyle.


4. An Interest in Doing Something More Easily or Efficiently

We all appreciate methods that make doing things easier. One only has to look around his or her home to notice the abundance of time and/or money saving conveniences we all enjoy.  What about your services?  They make a business function more easily and efficiently.  Because they do, there are direct and indirect benefits to your prospect or client. This is something you can capitalize on.


5. The Desire for Excitement or Pleasure

A popular bumper sticker reads, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” That message is clear evidence that people want excitement and pleasure, and it seems to suggest that pleasure comes in the “having,” rather than in the “getting.” It’s whoever has the most at the end who wins.  But in reality, “excitement” and “pleasure,” for most people, comes in the acquiring of things.  Think back about the times you have worked hard to get something and how excited you were in the process.  But then, once you had whatever it was you were working for, the excitement dulled.  Sometimes it’s not the end result that counts as much as the process of acquiring. A more practical interpretation of the bumper sticker might read, “He who lives with the most toys wins!” Of course, these applications have to do with “things.” Some people really enjoy acquiring “things,” and even keep score by how much they accumulate. Other people gain great pleasure or excitement knowing their family’s future educational and livings needs, as well as retirement, will be taken care of. Business owners like to know their businesses are operating at peak efficiency and profitability and are meeting the needs of their customers, and as a result, will be around for a long time, providing jobs and security for their employees and their families, as well as providing retirement funds for the owner when the business is sold.


6. Self Improvement or an Increase in Effectiveness

Your investment of time in reading this material is a good example of your desire for self improvement and increased effectiveness. People want and need to improve and to be able to do things more efficiently.  Sometimes that involves taking risks with time or money. Not all risks have to be “risky.” Calculated risks based on well thought-out plans and outcomes are the safest way to go and can contribute greatly to the successful improvement of effectiveness and efficiency.


7. The Desire for Importance or the Need to Feel Appreciated

According to noted psychiatrist Dr. Abraham Maslow, this is one of the basic needs of all humans: acceptance and appreciation. Children want to be accepted by their parents and peers, and parents want their children to remember them when they grow up and leave home.
In his book, The Human Side of Enterprise, Douglas McGregor explains that workers are motivated more by “significant works” and a feeling of being needed and appreciated, than by money.

People want to make a difference and be appreciated for it. Fathers and mothers not only have an obligation to see that their family’s futures are provided for, but they want their family to understand and appreciate their efforts.  Business owners have an obligation to the people who buy from them, the employees who work for them, their employees’ families, the suppliers and the vendors who sell to them. Too often, each of those groups of people lives with an attitude of expectancy and entitlement. That is, they expect the business owner will take care of them. How much better it would be if more appreciation were shown to those who make our lives better. If the products or services you provide can help make this possible, you may have an open ticket to success because of the great unsatisfied need that exists.

If you understand these basic motives and how they apply to the selling of your products and services, and then sell to the needs (both stated and unstated) of your clients and prospects, you will prosper.  And if you are not prospering, it simply means you have not uncovered your prospects’ and clients’ motives for buying. You are not addressing their specific needs. In most cases, you can’t wait for your clients to tell you what they want. You must be able to recognize their needs.

Remember, you are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of your business. If you are doing it right or wrong, either way, the marketplace will let you know.


The Loyalty of the Customer

Customers make an interesting study. It seems they always want the very most for the very least cost. They are ruthless, selfish, demanding and even disloyal. One day you may realize it’s been weeks since you heard from one of your best clients. It’s incredible how many business owners just write off the loss of a good customer. But that’s not what you should do. Instead, now is the time to become even more proactive and go after that “lost” client. One of the best ways to minimize or cut down on the frequency of losing your good customers is to resell them on the reasons they bought from you in the first place. Regularly scheduled meetings or conversations with your clients to remind them of their motives – and discover any new ones – can go a long way in helping insulate your business from the competition.

Remember, your competition has similar products, services and prices. Also remember, your client’s reasons for buying are only 35% based on those products, services, and prices. The other 65% is about what you can do for them. Spend time with them. Review their needs, wants, and concerns. Remind them why they hired you in the first place. Reinforce their motives and their decisions for buying, and you will reduce your client defection rate. You will develop not only loyal customers, but friends as well.

If you enjoyed this article, learn more about PASBA.  Since 1982, PASBA has helped accounting firms become the premier providers in their communities. PASBA membership gives accounting firm owners everything they need to succeed.