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Understanding What Motivates People to Take Action
So I wanted to buy a car. It was a tough choice but I decided that my next new car would be a Volvo. So I drove down to a local dealer and told him I wanted to take a look at a few Volvos and could he help. "Of course" he replied.
After viewing a few of the cars I decided to test drive one of them. As I drove around the salesman went on about how great this car is and how customers don't complain about the car and how they love their Volvos. I then asked him to be more specific about what customers like about their Volvo. He seemed to hesitate. It quickly became obvious no one had ever asked him to be specific. He said, "Well you know, people like the way it drives and how it looks." He rambled on but never got into specifics.
After a few test drives and more "oohs, ahs" about how great it would be to own a Volvo I thanked him and left without buying a car. I just wasn't sure and wanted to think about some more.
About a week or so later I decided to go back and test-drive some Volvos again. This time I went to a different dealership hoping to get another flavor before making up my mind.
The salesman that greeted me was a polite and unassuming individual. We'll call him Jack. Jack asked me simple questions about what I was looking for in a car. I also told him that I had test driven a few Volvos but was unsure of whether to buy or not.
Jack listened and nodded his head and said, "Alright. Let's begin with the model you like the most." I said, "Sure."
We got into the car and I was ready to start the car when Jack asked me to wait a minute. Jack then went on to explain the features of the car. By the time he was done I understood what every button on the panels, dashboard and doors could do. Then Jack explained how many of these features would make my drive more comfortable. It became quickly apparent that Jack understood how to sell benefits, not features.
When we finally started driving, Jack began to go into the history of the Volvo; origin, model transitions and improvements and on and on. It was like listening to a Volvo documentary?with me in it!
When we finished driving, Jack stepped me around the car to explain some of the hidden safety features. Volvo is known for being one of the safest cars in the world. And after Jack's mini-tour around the vehicle I understood why. Needless to say, within an hour I was sitting down in his office finalizing the paperwork to purchase my first Volvo.
I gleaned a couple lessons from this experience that I want to share with you.
First, Jack wasn't a 'slick' salesman. He was an average guy with a very modest demeanor. Most people have it in their heads that to be a great salesperson you have to be a fast and smooth talker. Wrong. Who would you trust more? A fast talking salesperson like the first with slick answers and no depth or someone like Jack who answers all your questions with details and facts?
Second, people don't want to be sold, they want to be convinced. Jack understood that giving me a lot of information would go a long way in helping me decide as to whether I wanted to buy or not. Having enough information allowed me, or better yet, convinced me to make a decision.
I didn't buy from the first dealership because I didn't have enough information to make an informed decision. All I had were the opinions of other people who had driven the car from a salesman I didn't personally know. Testimonials are great, but unless I know the person behind the testimonials it mean very little to me.
More often then not, people reject proposals or making a buying decision because somewhere in the sales process their concerns weren't addressed. They still have lingering doubts about whether it is the right choice for them.
Jack's approach reminded me of an adage I keep in mind when trying to understand the link between motivation and action:
"An uninformed mind is a confused mind. And a confused mind will NEVER make a decision."
In a hyper-capitalist society where we are inundated and bombard with new technology and features, our minds often times can't keep up. The job of a salesperson is to explain the new advances, but more importantly how they benefit the buyer. Whether selling or just trying to convince others, what motivates people into action is 1) knowledge and 2) that it is in their best interest.
Think about it for a second. When you know 'how to' do something, you rarely hesitate in getting it done. When you know that it will benefit you personally, you will act!
A final note: If you're in management, keep this is mind when someone doesn't buy into your approach, strategy or way of thinking. Maybe the reason they don't has less to do with your ideas, and more to do with them not having enough information to make an informed decision OR how it will benefit them in the long run.
p.s., Update: five years later my Volvo is still going strong!
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