The Psychology of Selling Imported from Europe

0

My interest in the psychology of selling was rooted from my own frustrations and failures while making a living selling products door to door.

What really puzzled me was that the same training I was given for sales was taught to every potential salesperson. Yet I noticed that some salespeople thrived, while others failed, all in the same environment and with the same training. Why? Why did this training work for some and not others? None of the subsequent training classes I attended ever addressed this question. In fact, none of the training was ever different from the rest, despite being touted under different names and claiming falsely to be “new and improved”.

The Roots of the European Psychology of Selling

It wasn’t until I was looking for an alternative to typical sales training that I discovered answers. I didn’t look outside of the box. I looked outside of my country. And the answers came in the form of a whole other approach that could be used from segments of European Existential Psychology and Philosophy.

I was stunned to learn about this. But the more I learned, the more I realized most Americans were kept unaware of the dynamic implications of the European approaches to understanding human nature and the human condition. It was easy to apply these fresh ideas to selling and to develop a psychology and philosophy of selling. To say I was keen to learn more is an understatement.

As my research deepened, I unearthed a belief that most European psychologists have. This belief, which is the crux of understanding what motivates people to buy, is that the world has no real fixed meaning or purpose except for our own interpretation. Meaning and purpose for everything in the world are derived from each individual in the form of worldview, and that worldview is the very thing that drives a person to see the value of what they purchase.

This is a gigantic, revolutionary shift for sales, selling, and sales training.

The reason for this shift is due to the distinction between Western and European psychology, also known as Continental psychology. Western psychology focuses on behavior showing WHAT we do and personality tests show HOW we do it. Continental Existential Psychology, on the other hand, focuses on what it means to be human revealing our inner structure. This structure explains how motivation is developed and WHY we do what we do. It is what I call, our “Starter Kit.”

If you haven’t heard about the differences between Continental and Western psychology, you’re not alone. Most people in the West are not aware that there has been a battle going on as to how to study motivation and the human psyche for decades. The split became very noticeable in the early 1960’s following the book called “Existence, A new Dimension in Psychiatry and Psychology,” edited by Rollo May in 1958.

Within the three months I confirmed that people bring objects and services into their lives that resonate and conform to their inner identity. People are really buying not what the American Sales Training Industry provided but something very different. This explained in large part, why over 90% of sales trainees fail within the first 3 to 6 months.

I put these insights and more into my current book, Learn To Sell What They Are Buying, offering insights into an approach to the psychology of selling through the research I learned as a series of epiphanies; each is called an “Aha.”

Each “aha” in the book took me twenty years to discover, define, and verify through door-to-door cold call selling. I put it into practice, kept my family thriving, and created an entire approach to sales which is not only revolutionary here in the United States but is also repeatable, reliable, and effective.

Here are three “Ahas” from my book on selling and a breakdown of what each one means.

The Roots of My European Psychology of Selling

“The European approach to the study of humanity is radically different from the American approach. Know and understand this and completely change your strategy.”

~John Voris, “Learn to Sell What They Are Buying”

During my research, I focused on discovering why people with similar backgrounds, opportunities, and intelligence levels succeeded or failed at certain occupations. Each new person I met when I was a cold-call salesperson presented a golden opportunity to uncover what motivation is and what form it takes for each individual.

Through a painstaking process of elimination, I kept only those European theories I had validated in the field and tossed the rest.

These were revelations, unlocking the reasons why people buy objects and services and why certain people bought certain types and kinds of objects and not others. These revelations evolved when I observed what people do with the objects they choose to surround themselves with. There was a consistency between these findings and the people with whom they engaged with in everyday life. Eventually, through experimentation, I was able to accumulate these results into reliable universal principles revealing, defining, and guiding human motivation and a new psychology and philosophy of selling.

As my research deepened, I unearthed a belief that most European psychologists have. This belief, which is the crux of understanding what motivates people to buy, is that the world has no real fixed meaning or purpose except for our own interpretation. Meaning and purpose for everything in the world are derived from each individual in the form of worldview, and that worldview is the very thing that drives a person to see the value of what they purchase.

This is a gigantic, revolutionary shift for sales, selling, and sales training.

The reason for this shift is due to the distinction between Western and European psychology, also known as Continental psychology. Western psychology focuses on behavior showing WHAT we do and personality tests show HOW we do it. Continental Existential Psychology, on the other hand, focuses on what it means to be human revealing our inner structure. This structure explains how motivation is developed and WHY we do what we do. It is what I call, our “Starter Kit.”

If you haven’t heard about the differences between Continental and Western psychology, you’re not alone. Most people in the West are not aware that there has been a battle going on as to how to study motivation and the human psyche for decades. The split became very noticeable in the early 1960’s following the book called “Existence, A new Dimension in Psychiatry and Psychology,” edited by Rollo May in 1958.

I was delighted to discover that what my clients were looking for can be found through European sources. We may live in the physical world but we live and die for the invisible world of ideas. In other words, how this applies to sales is that objects people buy in the physical world mirror the ideas and values that form their Authentic Identity causing them to buy in the first place.

The Need to Express Authentic Identity

“The human mind has only one need, and that is the perpetual need to express its Authentic Identity. Let your prospects express theirs.”

~John Voris, “Learn to Sell What They Are Buying”

To help a client understand their Authentic Identity, I asked Justin a series of questions.

I asked this client, who lives in the suburbs of the U.S., if he felt he needed a car. He said yes, and explained that he lived twenty miles from work and a car is necessary.

Then I asked if he could take a bus, taxi, Uber, Lyft or have a friend take him to work.

Justin admitted he could but it would be either expensive or inconvenient to use these options based on certain contingencies. Well those are not needs but desires and wants.

Then, I asked Justin why he had to go to work. He laughed and said to pay his bills.

I asked him, “What would happen if you didn’t work?”

He said, “The bills wouldn’t be paid and my wife and children would not have a place to live or food to eat.”

I asked, “So what?”

Justin gave me a surprised look. He said he loved his family and would not want them to suffer.

The point of this line of questioning has multiple goals: Justin was beginning to see the difference between what he thought was a need that was really only a desire and want. Also, I was beginning to understand his Authentic Identity.

Everyone’s Authentic Identity is made up of energetic systems that interplay with one another generating stability and flexibility in their life. By asking him these questions, I can start to reveal my client’s life purpose, interests, beliefs, values, virtues, motivations, and judgments. His answer that he loved his family as a motivating force is only a fragment of what I will need to collect to fully understand his Authentic Identity.

Many might think that the answer Justin gave was the most popular, expected or easily anticipated. This is a false assumption. I have asked this questions hundreds of times and received other answers: One client claimed a car was needed because it was the most practical and seeing to the needs of family is only right. Another said that having a car and working bought opportunities for his family to enjoy life and for the children to develop and grow into young adults. Still another said, I know what the lack of money would do to my family.

Ultimately from my continued questions, Justin repeatedly confirmed my initial findings revealing his only need was to express his love for his family. Having a car was in fact a desire or want. And his Authentic Identity was tied to loving his family.

The key to effective sales then is to find out, through a line of questioning and other methods, the authentic needs of the client, and then sell the object or service to the client based on those authentic needs. Mental wants and desires (such as my client stating he needs a car) have no foundational cause but are generated from prior wants and needs. They are not characterized as compulsions or something mandatory as are authentic needs (such as my client’s authentic need to love his family).

Conformity with Objects

“Humans have to express their Authentic Identity, and they do it through conforming symbols of meanings, which are their basis of buying objects.”

~John Voris, “Learn to Sell What They Are Buying”

One of the methods a salesperson can use to reveal a client’s Authentic Identity is through observing and understanding their conformity and relationship with objects. Let me state clearly that conformity here means simply that an object is in harmony with a person’s identity.

As I quoted earlier, people are motivated by one need and that need to is express their Authentic Identity. People choose to surround themselves with objects, to spend time with people, or to participate in events, that share certain qualities and or meanings that conform to their identity. This always explains their presence. In other words, the objects, people, and events define us just as we define them.

A good example of this object conformity in practice is demonstrated when women shop for clothes. When a potential client emerges from the dressing room wearing a new piece of clothing, the sales rep often oohs and ahh’s, saying, “Oh, that is you! It’s perfect. Oh yes, it’s definitely you!”

If a possession and possessor are united – or in other words, if a potential client is attracted to a particular object – there must be a natural adhesive to explain their union. This adhesive is the essence found in the relationship between the possessed and the possessor. Desire of a particular object is not simply of the object itself; it is the desire to be united with the internal relationship itself, as if a person felt united with a certain color and look of a sweater.

Melisa, for example, is looking for an outfit to wear for a job interview. She seeks clothes that resonate with her Authentic Identity. She chooses apparel that ultimately will make others believe she will fit into the job but also seek to find clothing that is “her”.

A client of mine was a woman applying as a legal secretary in a law office. She wisely steered towards purchasing conservative clothing for the job interview, but made the outfit her own through her choice of colors.

The link between client and object/service can be found in decision-making. The essence of a reason is an expressed Authentic Identity. The glue that holds our Authentic Identity together is our consistent and conforming decisions based on the reasons we give. To paraphrase David Hume, logic and reason are the slaves of our passions. We sense what we want first, and then find the reasons to secure that want.

This offers sales representatives a unique opportunity. We allow clients to take possession of and thereby convert an external object, event, and others into one of their new Authentic Identity symbols.

Life Theme Symbols

“When you speak to a prospect, you should speak to their theme (Love, Justice, Wisdom and Power) which is their belief structure and worldview.”

~John Voris “Learn to Sell What They Are Buying”

Uncovering your potential client’s Authentic Identity means you will learn which Life Theme they represent. Throughout the history of humanity there are four reoccurring Life Themes in all of human nature and the human condition in which we live. These topics are within the scope between caring to love (Love), symmetry to justice (Justice), curiosity to wisdom (Wisdom), and change to power (Power). These four Life Themes have consistent patterns created through their Authentic Identity.

I’ve learned that for all of us, one of these four Life Themes dominates our life. In fact, no one can escape these four sources of motivating forces.

Within the studies of anthropology and archaeology there are four common themes that govern human behavior. They show up as either archetypes, gods or Universal Virtues depending on the cultural context. Even though they come from vastly different cultures, they are similar to one another in their attributes and expression. The four are Love, Justice, Wisdom and Power. John calls them “The Life Themes.”

The Life Themes operate universally in this way: we learn in order to understand (Wisdom) the meaning of all that is in our environment; this learning occurs progressively through exchanges (Justice) of experiences with others as we act (Power) to produce and impact our environment. This is all dedicated to affirm (Love) our identity and promote well-being in the world.

Within you the Life Themes operates differently as one of these four takes precedence over the others. You become the expression of that theme and it becomes the modality from which you derive all meaning, purpose, direction, understanding and motivation. Your existence is spent validating your Life Theme as the one and only belief system worthy of any recognition.

The Love Theme is motivated to better humanity by trying to correct that which causes pain, discomfort, suffering, and victimization. It is driven by love, compassion, and empathy.

The Justice Theme seeks balance and harmony. Justice is expressed in several ways. It seeks to correct injustice and immorality in people, relationships and organizations. It also gets expressed by seeking balance and perfection using design through engineering, art, music and literature.

The Wisdom Theme is driven by a need to know in order to exercise sound judgment in problem solving and goal attainment. Wisdom finds its expression and purpose through teaching, learning and working with data.

The Power Theme needs to act upon thoughts and get into action. Empowerment finds its expression and purpose through Power a natural leader and agent of change.

Through my blog series, I will continue to share each of the “ahas” in Learn to Sell What They Are Buying and reveal the meaning to each one individually. Similar to examining small brush strokes on a canvas, studying each “aha” from the book individually will enable you to understand the entire picture of what it takes to effectively sell a product or service.

About the author

CEO of Authentic Systems, Degree in Philosophy from University of California, Berkeley.

Leave a Reply

Which One Are You? Love, Justice, Wisdom or Power

Subscribe and take the FREE Life Theme Test



Archives