How to Identify the Six Basic Buying Motives

By Homer B. Smith
Pile of question marks with two highlighted to represent the accurate answer and buying motive

Understanding buying motives helps sellers align product benefits to the true buyer motive. Often, when this connection is made, it results in a closed deal and a loyal customer.

But how do you make it simple? There are a multitude of buying motives, thousands of different types of buyers, and unlimited emotional and rational reasons a person might make a purchase – all of which are known as rational buying motives and emotional buying motives.

Learn the Six Buying Motive Categories

The truth is all buying motives can neatly fit under one of the six following categories. Once you identify the category, you can then concentrate on matching your product’s benefits to your buyer’s true buying motive.

Buying Motive One: Profit or Gain

The customer is looking to save money, make money, be more economical, or simply gain more profit or more sales. This buying motive is often about personal advancement and growth.

Buying Motive Two: Fear of Loss

The customer is trying to prevent loss, guarantee success, protect what they have through safety and security, or save time. This buying motive is often about insurance, eliminating risk or blame, and bringing a layer of security to their current success or foundation.

Buying Motive Three: Comfort and Pleasure

The customer is seeking enjoyment, good health, comfort, beauty, sexual attraction, sports, or entertainment. This buying motive is about improving morale, keeping and attracting better employees, and maintaining a higher level of satisfaction.

Buying Motive Four: Avoidance of Pain

The customer is trying to avoid or relieve themselves of something – desiring less work, better health, saved time, and more. This buying motive is about reducing worry, pain, stress, and loss, and making their world more attractive.

Buying Motive Five: Love and Affection

The customer is looking for loyalty, social approval, beauty and admiration, and the security of loved ones. This buying motive is about better public relations and strengthened employee relationships and friendships.

Buying Motive Six: Pride and Prestige

The customer is looking for social acceptance, a higher quality of learning, or self-improvement, and has a desire to possess more or advance from their current state. This buying motive is about admiration, recognition, and leadership – often seeking to beat the competition and improve the product as well as their public image.

Identify Your Buyer’s Motive

To delineate which buying motive category a buyer falls into, follow the below four techniques:

  1. Ask the buyer screening questions that identify or eliminate buying motives, such as, “If I could help you save three minutes on each operation, would you be interested?”
  2. Listen for comments your buyer volunteers through the conversation, such as, “I wish I had more time to…” This will signal the seller to emphasize the time-saving benefits and value that come from using your product.
  3. Listen carefully to the comments and questions during the sales presentation. For example, the customer may ask, “How long will it take to implement?” This signifies that the buyer is more interested in speed and prestige than in the economy of the operation.
  4. Observe and study the prospect. Often their surroundings give evidence of current interests and products they currently use that give clues to their emotional and rational buying motives.

Learning a buyer’s motives is about knowing which questions to ask and taking the time to listen and observe with every interaction to understand what buyers are telling you about themselves – even if they aren’t directly telling you the answers. Often, as sellers begin to pay closer attention to the details, they get stronger and seeding questions that will lead them to the appropriate buyer motive category.