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Task and Personal Motives to Selling

By Susan Hall

Task and Personal Motives to Selling

Have you ever stepped back from a failed sales proposal and wondered what went wrong? In Episode 23 of the Strategic Insights Podcast, Susan Hall, Bob Parks and Tim Deuitch discuss the two components of a decision that a customer or client is balancing when choosing a partner to do business with.

Susan Hall: 00:01 Hello and welcome to Strategic Insights brought to you by Strategic Enhancement Group. I'm Susan Hall, Vice President Business Development & Performance Improvement and today I'm joined by my colleagues Bob Parks, who is Senior Partner of Strategic Enhancement Group. Hi Bob.

Bob Parks: 00:16 Hi, how are you?

Susan Hall: 00:17 Doing well, and also Tim Deuitch, Senior Performance Consultant. Welcome Tim.

Tim Deuitch: 00:22 Thanks Susan. Glad to be here.

Susan Hall: 00:23 Great. I'm really excited to have both of you here today to talk about a topic that I think is one of the things that probably trips salespeople up most, and that is every salesperson has had an experience where they've met the customer's stated business objectives and yet they still didn't get the business. It's important to know that there are two components to every decision that a customer makes about doing business with you. One is, the task, the business or logical side of the decision. In other words, "How can you help us grow our business by X percent? We need to improve our profit by Y percent," but what they often miss is there's another side to their decision making, and that is the personal or emotional part of the sale. "You may be able to show me that you can meet my business objectives, but if my team isn't on board" or "This isn't going to help me get the promotion that I really want," you're not going to get that business. So today, what we'd like to talk about are what we call task and personal motives, and there are four of each. The four task motives get to the business logical side and the personal motives are that emotional part that's really gonna help you differentiate your offering and bring value to the customer. So very quickly, task motives are around more profit, less costs, more quality and less effort. Tim, can you tell us a little bit more about those?

Tim Deuitch: 01:58 Glad to, I'll give you a brief description of each. The first one, more profit, is the one we most identify with and that's simply, "We would like to grow sales, grow revenue." Second one is less cost, that's money sensitive. These are folks who simply say, "I need this to come in under budget.", so budget conscious. The third one is more quality. That's largely about productivity, where they want to get greater results overall, or better use of time. Maybe sometimes it's morale, they want to get a morale boost about what we're doing or longer shelf life to products. The fourth one is less effort. That is simply about being an easy to implement, a turn key solution. It's a time sensitive motive that they have. They want to make sure that whatever you are bringing is easy to access and easy to implement.

Susan Hall: 02:55 Great. So, more profit, less costs, more quality or output, less effort. Bob, I know you've got some experience with this. Can you elaborate?

Bob Parks: 03:03 My experience is that most salespeople get these in some way or some form. They understand the business or logic. The tragedy here is that they don't get the personal or emotional motives. The interesting thing is that when those two come in conflict, so when a buyer is trying to get both of those motives satisfied and you have a situation where logic is coming into conflict with emotion, the interesting thing is when I talked to almost all salespeople that I work with, I ask them, which one is more powerful? When logic and emotion come into conflict, the answer is always emotion. So, it's important for salespeople to understand that this is not optional. That in fact, if I don't understand the emotional, personal motive, then I'm probably leaving on the table more than half of the sale and I can satisfy a lot of task motives, but not satisfy the personal motive or get the sale. An example would be that you have a client that is trying to buy a machine that you are selling. Your competitor has a machine that costs less and your machine costs more, but the buyer is looking to get the approval, his personal motive is to get the approval from his team and they like your machine better. Well, you're going to get that sale because of approval even though that particular machine costs more. It's important for you to understand that, so that you can sell to that.

Susan Hall: 04:50 So, you're saying that even though the task motive is maybe less cost and your competitor can meet it, the fact that you know that the personal motive is the approval of the team can help you win that business, even though you're not the low cost machine?

Bob Parks: 05:05 Exactly.

Susan Hall: 05:06 Wow. Well, that is pretty powerful stuff. Let's unpack more around personal motives, which is the emotional side of decision making. We're all human beings. We all make decisions for both these task and personal reasons. There are four personal motives, Power, Approval, Respect, and Recognition. Tim, can you talk a little bit about these?

Tim Deuitch: 05:28 I will Susan. I'll take the first two, which are Power and Approval. So first, Power, this is the need for the individual you're working with to really have control over the situation or the process of deciding what product or solution you'll go with. This is a person who tends to say, "Yes, if I'm going to be in charge of us bringing in this acquisition, than I'd like to see the following things take place." They want to be in control. So, it's very important to give them that control and that's the language of it. Approval is almost the opposite of power. Approval is when they use the language of saying, "Well, this is going to be a team decision" or "I'm going to run this idea by my team," being able to know and understand that the decision making processes here may take longer, but that the approval of the team makes for a stronger chance to win the deal. That's why it's so critical to recognize that one.

Bob Parks: 06:37 There's two more. The last two are Respect and Recognition and they are sometimes confused. Respect is where the buyer wants to be acknowledged for their expertise, for what they know. They want everyone to know that they are the expert. It's important that you acknowledge that and it's important that you make sure that they understand that you understand that they are the expert, they are the professional involved. The second one is Recognition and that one is a little different because they just want applause. Somebody who is in Recognition wants everyone to know that they are in the position to make this decision. They are the one that's behind this. It's not about, necessarily expertise, it's just about the good thing, the great thing that they have done here. That's really the four of them. How do we find out though?

Susan Hall: 07:42 Good point. The most challenging part is drilling down and finding out what these motives are. Tim, what are your thoughts on that?

Tim Deuitch: 07:52 Well, I think the first part is preparation. One of the things that the salesperson is really typically good at is asking fact based questions that gets us to those business motives. Well, in this case, to understand what the emotional need is, we need to ask feeling based questions. Without getting too touchy feely, what we mean by that is this, questions like, "What does this personally mean to you as we walk through this process?"

"What's the type of experience you would like to have or I can ensure you have as we walk through the process of making this decision?"

"What are some of the consequences to you personally of succeeding with this application, this solution that we're going to bring to you?"

Essentially what we're saying is, "What's important to you..." person across from me, " we walk through this process?"

Susan Hall: 08:47 Yes and you need to have an element of trust, don't you, to ask these personal motive questions?

Tim Deuitch: 08:52 Absolutely.

Susan Hall: 08:54 And again, I think that may be why some salespeople are hesitant to ask them, but if you have the relationship why wouldn't you ask the question, "So, help me understand the impact of this project if we do this business? What's the impact on you personally if it's successful, if it's not?"

Tim Deuitch: 09:12 It's interesting. I think a lot of salespeople shy away from that moment because they're just not prepared for it. One of the things that's helpful to know is the power of those questions and to be comfortable with how the person receives them. So what I've seen, in experience, is two different forms of response. If I asked that feely question such as, "How would you personally most like to benefit from this?" There's two things. One is you may get silence and that's okay, because they're thinking about it. They're not often asked that question. They may actually look at you confused and you can say, "Hey, meeting your needs is as important as meeting your business objectives." Say it out loud. The other thing that can happen is they unload on you. They say, "Oh, thanks for asking, this is what's most on my mind," and they give you a lot. What the benefit is, is you get to ask them back then, "Of all that you just shared with me, what's your top priority, personally?" and then that allows you to hone right in on that motive and deliver it for them.

Susan Hall: 10:19 Well, and think about how powerful that is when it comes to your proposals, when you present your solution, because you're able to tie the value that you bring directly to what is most of value to that customer. What's important to them from a task point of view, but also, which by the way your competitors are doing, but also from a personal point of view and that's where you can really differentiate.

We've talked about a lot today.

To summarize, it's fairly straightforward to ask those logic based questions and find out what those business motives are. It's really worth taking the time to plan your discovery in a way that's going to make sense for you to understand those personal motives and Bob, I know you had some thoughts.

Bob Parks: 11:04 Yes. In closing, every salesperson listening to this needs to understand that if I don't want to deal with personal motives, I don't want to ask those questions that Tim talked about, you need to understand that your chances of succeeding based on business, logical, task motives is less than 50%. If you're having trouble closing deals, understand that, it's probably because you're not paying attention to the personal motives.

Susan Hall: 11:33 On that note, we will wrap up this particular podcast, but as always, if you'd like to learn more about motives or anything that we've talked about today, please reach out to us at

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Published: August 29, 2019

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Susan Hall

Vice President - Business Development & Performance Improvement

Susan brings over 20 years of experience working with global markets and organizations, helping them navigate through tough economic challenges while maintaining their margins. Since joining SEG in 1995, she has had the privilege of working with organizations that truly value the development of their employees and recognize the impact their people have on their bottom line results. Susan graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a double major in business management and speech communication. She has also completed course work toward her master's degree at Johns Hopkins University.

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