Why People Buy | The Psychology of Closing the Sale

By Ben Hart

You can’t sell without knowing why people buy. I’ve compiled a list here of what I believe are the 18 top reasons driving people to buy.

1) Fear

I would argue this is the #1 motive driving people to buy.

People buy because they fear getting old, fear going broke, fear being left behind. They fear being left out. They fear death. They fear getting sick, fear going to hell, fear being alone. They fear Republicans gaining power, or they fear Democrats gaining power.

They fear the Nazis or Communists gaining power. They fear life is meaningless. They fear failure. They fear their kids won’t amount to anything. They fear being insignificant, not leaving a mark. Fear comes in all shapes, sizes, and forms. Fear is a powerful motivator causing people to buy.

2) Avoid Pain

The fear motive is followed closely by the “avoid pain” motive. People in pain will do almost anything to cure pain, end pain, avoid pain.

3) Desire to be recognized

People buy because they want honor and prestige. They want recognition. They want to be set apart from the crowd. They want to be part of an exclusive, prestigious club. They want fame.

4) Greed

Just about everyone wants more money. No matter how rich someone is, they always want more. Even billionaires want more, not because they need it, just because they want it.

They want more than the other billionaire has. Warren Buffet has not stopped trying to make more money even though he’s the second richest man in the world. Bill Gates still wants more because he wants to stay the richest. Ten thousand pairs of shoes were not enough for Imelda Marcos. She always wanted more shoes.

5) Love

Love is a powerful motivator to buy. What other motive can there be for buying life insurance? People want to make sure their children have the best and that their loved ones are taken care of.

6) Self-improvement

People always want to improve themselves. They join a gym to get in shape. They sign up for a seminar to learn something that will help them get ahead. “How To” manuals are some of the best selling books on Amazon.

7) Desire to win

There’s a strong competitive instinct in most people. People just flat out want to win at games, at sports, at business, at love, and in life. No one wants to be called a “loser.”

People want to be the best. They want the recognition that goes with winning, or they just want the satisfaction of knowing they are the best at something. It’s not enough for Tiger Woods to be the best golfer in the world. He now wants to be the best golfer of all time. Does he want to win because he wants more fame or more money? Does winning make him feel superior to other people?

I don’t think so. I think he is someone who sets a goal and then just wants to achieve it. He’s a perfectionist. He feels he can always do better.

The desire to win will cause people to buy the best equipment, get the best teacher, buy the best books and videos on the subject. We want our kids to win. We want our teams to win. The innate desire most of us have to win fuels the sports industry and much of our economy.

8) Comfort

People want comfort. They want a comfortable bed, a comfortable chair, a comfortable car, comfortable shoes, and comfortable clothes. People want a Jacuzzi. We want pain relievers even for the most minor pains, just to make ourselves more comfortable. We want larger and more comfortable rooms. Americans, especially, seem to be on a never-ending quest for more and more comfort. This is a sub-category of the “avoid pain” motive.

9) Laziness

Sure, people want to improve themselves, and they want to win, and they want to make more money . . . but only if it’s easy. Remember, people want to avoid pain.

People are lazy. That’s why you don’t see many sales pitches that highlight how hard you must work to achieve the results being advertised. You will see beautiful people sitting on the exercise equipment and talking more often than we see them actually using it. People want the results without the work. “Lose 10 pounds in 30 days with no dieting or exercise. Just take this pill.”

That’s the basic pitch.

10) Quest for a great experience

People want great experiences they will remember for the rest of their lives. They want travel experiences, educational experiences, family outings, parties, vacations, barbecues, great food at great restaurants, and good movies to watch. They want exciting experiences, relaxing experiences, social experiences, and entertainment experiences. People want shared experiences with loved ones. The travel and entertainment industry is all about creating and selling memorable experiences.

11) Sex

People want more sex and better sex. People want sex, period. People want to be more attractive and sexier. Sex is everywhere in advertising, movies, and entertainment. Sometimes it’s in the open, sometimes implied. The mere mention of the word “sex” draws immediate and riveted attention.

12) The desire for relationships

People want friends. People want dates. People want romance. People want to get married. People want to be connected to other people. People want to be part of a community. Dating sites are among the most popular on the Internet. People want to improve their relationships with their children and with their spouses. When a relationship breaks up, it’s painful. When a relationship starts, it’s exciting. Most people do not want to be alone in the world.

13) Anger

Anger can be a very strong motivator. People send money to the Republican Party because they are angry with the Democrats. People send money to the Democratic Party because they are angry with the Republicans. People hire a lawyer to sue someone because they are angry. Following the 9/11 terrorist attack on America, people bought flags and decals not just out of patriotism, but also to show their anger at the terrorists. That was certainly justified anger. Anger makes people want to strike back and fight, even go to war.

14) Desire to make a difference

People want their lives to count for something, to make a difference.

People run for president and public office to make a difference—hopefully not just for recognition. People contribute to charities, political causes, and religious organizations to make a difference. People become teachers and religious leaders to make a difference. People write books and articles to make a difference. People volunteer to make a difference.

Very few people want their life to count for absolutely nothing, to have made no positive impact in the world. Most people want to leave a legacy of some kind. The desire to have an impact, to leave a mark, to make the world a better place, can be a powerful motivator to buy or contribute.

15) Desire for meaning in life

People want life to mean something. Religious organizations rely on this motive to prosper. Most people believe in God. Most people do not want to believe their life is an accident. People buy Bibles, religious tracts, and philosophical discourses to find meaning in life. They join a church and attend seminars for the same reason.
Billions of dollars are spent every year by people wanting to find meaning in life.

16) Desire for power

People want to tell others what to do. They want to be in charge. They want power. They want to be like God. Sometimes they want power to do good things, sometimes evil things.

Elections are about deciding who will be in charge. Billions of dollars are spent to win elections, win power. People start their own businesses and organizations in part because they want to be the boss. People want to be in charge of their own lives and in charge of other people’s lives as well.

The FBI says serial killers are the way they are because they want power over others—their victims. The desire for power over others is at the root of every war. The obsession for power has caused enormous human misery. Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot, and countless dictators throughout history are just a few examples. Thank heavens in America we have found a way to prevent anyone from getting too much power.

The desire for power is one of the most powerful human motives.

17) Necessities of life

People need food, water, soap, clothes, electricity, gas, transportation, haircuts, phones. Maybe computers and Internet connections now fall under the category of a necessity of modern life. Businesses need paper, copiers, desks, chairs, fax machines, phones, and computers.

“Can’t do without it” is certainly a powerful reason to buy.

18) Addiction

People become addicted to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, gambling, pornography, sex, and fast food. Some addictions are physical, other psychological. But the effect is the same, an ever-present compulsion to get more. Marketers of these products see their jobs as feeding the addiction and creating more addicts to the substance, product, or activity. This is how the drug dealers, the tobacco and alcohol companies, the porn industry, sex traffickers, the casinos, and the fast food and junk food companies are making billions.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.