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Sales Psychology: Harness the Power of Desire

We’re drawing nearer the end of September, which means there are just a couple more weeks left in this Sales Psychology series. If you’ve just discovered this post on sales psychology (and it’s still September), be sure to check out the details on how you can win more amazing sales-boosting prizes than you can shake a stick at!

Now it’s time to take it this series to the next level, turn it up to eleven and light a fire under your sales. So far we’ve only scratched the surface of the Sales Psychology puzzle, with building instant rapport, analyzing your beliefs about sales and why people won’t pay your rates… but there’s so much more to sales psychology. A lot more.

This post explores the power of selling through emotion – the driving force of human behavior.

What Motivates Us?

Human behavior is driven by two powerful mental forces: the emotional tug toward what we want and the emotional push away from what we wish to avoid it’s the pain & pleasure principle.

We’re all motivated toward what we believe will create pleasure. We want nice fast cars, holidays, that chocolate bar, a new cell phone or the latest book from our favorite author. Possessing or consuming these items feels good – it creates pleasure.

At the same time, we’re motivated away from what we believe will lead to pain. We avoid unnecessary hard work, spurn chores and jog away from obesity and disease. Avoiding pain feels good because it keeps us safe.

Toward and Away. These two human desires drive every behaviour, motivate every decision and govern the outcome of every sales interaction. Our conditioned need to seek out pleasure and avoid pain is the very foundation of our thinking.

That’s the big picture. Let’s bring it back to the psychology of selling.

If you want to convince someone to buy, you need to persuade that person that the decision to buy will result in pleasure and help avoid pain. You need to transform the person’s perception of the product so that he or she would feel it’d be painful not to buy it.

How to Tip the Pain/Pleasure Threshold

When you wake up in the morning to your alarm, your brain performs a complex piece of pain/pleasure analysis. Bleary eyed, you stare at the clock. 6:00 am… and your unconscious mind rapidly visualizes the estimated pain that would result from hitting the nine-minute snooze button.

Your unconscious imagines you’ll have to shower quickly or perhaps eat breakfast faster. No big deal. The pleasure of some extra sleep far outweighs that small pain price.

Your arm darts out to slap the snooze button.

Nine minutes later, it all happens again. This time, your unconscious imagines you having to skip breakfast or perhaps eat on the run. Still, the potential pleasure of sleeping in outweighs the potential pain of missing breakfast. You hit snooze.

At 6:18 am, the alarm beeps and you leap out of bed. Your unconscious has figured out (in an instant!) that the cost of staying in bed any longer could mean trouble at work or a missed appointment. That’s big pain and it outweighs the pleasure of staying in bed. The decision is made and you’re up like a rocket.

The pain/pleasure threshold has tipped.

How to Sell using Pain and Pleasure

As I’ve just shown you, people weight pain and pleasure for every decision they make. That means every sales pitch you give someone creates a weighing of the pain/pleasure scales in the mind of your prospect.

On one end of the scale, the person considers the pleasure of owning your product and all the good it’ll create. The pain of not owning your product and any resulting future pain that might create is on the other end of the scale.

But there’s more. Smart salespeople know that there’s another set of scales beyond just “to own or not to own”. And that set of scales has an entirely different pain and pleasure balance: it’s about money.

On one end of the scale sits the emotional pleasure of holding onto the money required to buy and the future pleasure that money could create. On the other end of the scale sits the pain of parting with that money and the upcoming pain the loss of it could create.

A superb salesperson can explain to a prospect why each of the two scales should tip in favor of the purchase. He does so by connecting with the prospect’s emotions, playing up the good pleasure andgood pain… while downplaying the bad pain that might prevent a sale.

This sales patter taps into an irresistible desire to buy. It’s a sales technique that, when mastered, separates the amateurs from the Jedi.

Here’s the Best Example Ever:

I sell a product, a book called Demystify your Fear.

Now just a minute: Stay tuned and pay close attention, because you’re about to learn something in the text that follows. As cheeky as it sounds, it’s best for me to demonstrate using my own product simply because I’ve already spent time brainstorming the pain and pleasure points for this book.

A lot of entrepreneurs struggle with overcoming the fear that holds them back from taking action on their best ideas. Crippled by self-doubts and hesitations, they become idea-rich and action-poor. That means they don’t get good results. Their careers end with the majority of their potential untapped… all because they never figured out precisely how to smash their fears into oblivion.

Now a few lucky business owners learn early on about the secret to overcoming fears. They find a master mentor or wizard that teaches them what they need to figure out how to systematically destroy their inner critic. They master and use the secrets that enable them to rapidly turn all their best ideas into tangible results. These business owners build vast fortunes and free lives, all because they learned the secrets and do what others are afraid to do.

My book, Demystify your Fear, shows you exactly how to do that. Best part? It’s guaranteed (literally).

But it’s expensive, priced at $47 because of its value. Some people would look at the price as a big obstacle. Others (the lucky ones) might realize they could overcome fear for good – in as little as a month, at slightly less than two dollars per day.

Thirty days, $1.65 per day. That’s less than the daily coffee you buy. That’s small and very doable. You could skip a cup of coffee each day for just a month and accomplish huge goals. If it were me though, I’d get the book AND buy the coffee. 😉

While having an extra 40-some dollars might be cool, the confidence of knowing that you’re about to get everything you need to destroy your fear-based self-sabotage…. well. If you click the buy now link, it might be one of the most significant actions you’ve taken all week.

Want to get the book right now? Click here to learn more or just click here to buy now

See what I did there?

  • The pleasure of effortlessly overcoming fear – achieved!
  • The pain of not having the answers in the guide – check!
  • The pleasure of holding onto your hard-earned money – reframed!
  • The pain of NOT spending money on critical solutions – realized!!

Want to accelerate your sales success? Answer this question: What pain and pleasure points can YOU tap into in your sales patter?


+ Add Comment
  1. So that’s why I bought “Demystify Your Fear”…thanks for explaining it. 😉

    All joking aside, a entertaining, informative post and a great ebook, well worth $47 🙂

  2. The pain points I can eliminate will be decreasing counseling and other inconvenient costs that stem from the problem I am addressing. One of my strongest value propositions (in my opinion) is that I can help universities turn a cost into a source of revenue while also increasing student satisfaction.

  3. I’m trying to do the mental maths here, since I buy coffee twice a week, not every day. If I get the large cappuccino then it’s about even, but if I buy the small size then it’s not…. And if it’s at the Hyatt then it’s one and a half coffee’s because they’re exxy even though they don’t taste any better…. Oh, this was just an illustrative principle…. 😀

    Back to the point of the post… Pain and Pleasure points for my clients (that sounds rather risqué)
    – feeling in control of their business
    – no more overwhelm (ok, significantly less)
    – having a purpose to work towards rather than stumbling in the dark
    – increased profits
    – more time for family
    – remove the fear of failure

    That was funny, I started listing the ‘features’ rather than the pain and pleasure points of what I give my clients. So easy to default back to that!

  4. I agree with Melinda, it’s so easy to fall back into features and benefits. Thinking in pain/pleasure is a new concept for me…I’ll need to think this through. Let’s see…

    The pain of doing all the work, all by yourself…check!
    The pleasure of knowing that they can turn a profit faster…Word!
    The pain of learning graphics, design, HTML, and copywriting while trying to run their business…Word Up!
    The pleasure of watching the “opens” and “clicks” increase on their email campaigns…Oh Yeah!

    That was Fresh! Great post Peter!

    1. Love it! The third one is where the magic is – if you can have prospects understand that the very act of handing over the cash will be an enormous release of stress, worry and concern… you’ll win.

      After all, hiring experts SHOULD feel that way. Swipe a credit card (or the online equivalent) and BOOM! ….. kick back, relax, because that problem is now someone else’s.

  5. Let me see if I can restate this in a crude way:
    Pain Pleasure
    Buy | | |
    Not | | |

    This grid then becomes the foundation for my pitches.

    To be honest, I never thought of figuring out the pain & pleasure points for not buying. This changes a lot. Thank you for walking me through this.

    1. Sorry, my illustration didn’t quite work out. I was trying to build a 4×4 grid with the columns marked Pain & Pleasure and rows marked Buy & Not (buy).

      There’s a reason why I’m not a designer.

    2. That’s not a bad idea – could be a good training tool for direct sales folks like yourself. Shame about the formatting issue… but I LOVE the idea 🙂

      Thanks for the contribution Carl

  6. I’m actually dealing with a lot of the same stuff with my clients. There’s a lot of fear, overwhelm, and not being good enough, so I could practically just copy and paste what you wrote into my stuff. Problem solved!

    Getting serious though, I’d say pleasure points: freedom, independence, being able to take time off whenever you want without asking your boss, being able to live anywhere at any time and do anything you want (almost).

    Pain points: The jungle of information, too much stuff. Overwhelm. Fear, are you good enough, can you do this, do you have to be talented? And on it goes!

    1. Hey Henri,

      This is great. If you want to take it to the *next* level, you’ll figure out how to make the act of handing over the cash pleasurable.

      What does that moment of purchase MEAN to the prospect? What could it mean?

      No answers, just smart questions 😛

  7. Oh the emotional post, I’ve been waiting for this!

    Sad to say, but I have honestly never thought of the pain/pleasure combo. Now that I think about it I know I have used it, but never consciously; I always focus on the pleasure side. This post definitely has me thinking:

    My Pain/Pleasure list as a web designer

    • To have to learn coding and design on your own which could be time spent on other parts of the business ie: It pays for itself!
    • Not achieving the same quality if you do it yourself or go the quick/cheap route with a Site Builder program
    • If your site crashes and you don’t know what to do or no one to turn to — Oh that one will scare ’em! 😉

    • Knowing that an important aspect of your business is being completed by a professional
    • Knowing that you have an “employee” (the site) that is working even while you sleep
    • Knowing that you are instantly more credible with having a site and tapping into the vast potential of the internet

    Because of this post I definitely plan to change my “About” page up a bit, thank you! The list I wrote above is more of a “general” web designer so I will need to also think of some pain/pleasure ideas of going with me personally versus other designers.

    On a side note: I wrote a comment a couple posts back about the good mechanic salesman. He focused on all pain: if this certain thing wasn’t fixed, then this would happen. Like I said, I considered him a “good” salesman (I explained why in the previous comment) but I think he could be great if he added in the pleasure side of things.

    To be honest, I started reading/commenting on these posts only for the competition. I knew I would get some information, but these posts are honestly changing how I do business and I am a little blown away. Great stuff!


    1. Hey Dave,

      That last statement made my day. Thanks for the feedback – it’s great to know that these ideas are making an impact!

      You’re spot on btw – in a crowded market, what can you do to make prospects understand that buying from YOU is going to be more pleasurable than buying from others?

      The sneaky option is to figure out how to suggest that buying from others could result in some form of pain! Highly effective strategy- but you’ve gotta tread carefully.

      Avis car rentals did a great job of this with their old “We’re number 2 – so we try harder!” campaign. A simple little ambiguous statement that forces prospects to mentally focus on all the undesirable elements of the competition (poor customer service etc etc).

    2. Hey Dave

      Thanks for pointing out that these strategies can be used in about me pages. Your comment got me thinking and over the course of a few hours I polished up my page (clicking on the link will take you there)

      It’s still a work in progress but I think it has some promises. Would love to see examples of this strategy used elsewhere, as well as feedback from the community here about how much I rocked/sucked

    3. Glad both of you liked this comment!

      @Peter I like that Avis story, I wonder if I could incorporate it somehow since I am somewhat new to freelancing.

      @Bhaskar Looking good. I like the titles to your lists (maybe add “And here is what I do to fix those problems” to the second one). Like you said it is a work in progress but I think it is pretty ‘rockin’ for a rough draft!

      1. depends if that’s what they need! Some people might be looking for a geek in shining spectacles to come take away their website code catastrophe! 😛

        I use that example because it looks like we have a few such geeks in the comments here!

        PS I use the word “geek” in the most positive sense possible!

  8. Pushing pain/fear and then showcasing how your product removes/crushes/obliterates/immolates/etc. is a very effective marketing technique! Anything that bypasses solely just plain logic and zeros in on the emotions gets you that much closer to the sale.

    It helps when you over-deliver on your product as well!

    Great article and indeed, brilliantly smooth. Well-done!

    1. Thanks Barbara! You’re right – although I believe being able to rationalize the sale logically is super important too!

      Smack ’em with a mighty hammer of logic AND tenderly cradle ’em in the gentle hammock of emotion! That’s the ticket!


  9. Thanks for inspiring me to think this through, Peter. Ok, pain and pleasure points for my Marketing and Technology Coaching business:

    * The pain of getting stuck and failing to take action, while your business withers
    * The pleasure of watching your business grow and prosper
    * The pain of losing business to competitors
    * The pleasure of feeling confident that you’re presenting yourself professionally
    * The pain of feeling overwhelmed and blocked by technology challenges
    * The pleasure of establishing business systems that nurture your business
    * The pain of “peak and valley” cash flow
    * The pleasure of consistent new sales and regular repeat business

    1. Hey Karilee! Love it.

      Depending on what kind of market you like to work in, I’d recommend adding an additional element: The pleasure of making the decision to “get help”.

      i.e. What would it feel like, the moment after I make the decision to hire you? Would it be a rush of relief and while I relax knowing that “big things are about to happen?”

      That’d be cool. That’s how hiring coaches/consultants should feel, at the point of financial transaction.

      Making the buyin’ feel GOOD! 😉

    1. Hey David,

      I think scripting is a fantastic *exercise* to reinforce sales principals… and even to use once or twice. BUT, real artful selling needs the flexibility of simply knowing your stuff.

      Script it, sure. Then get so good you don’t need the script.

  10. That was definitely an awesome sales write-up for your book. I’m printing it out and analyzing it.

    Let’s see… for my site I think that the pleasure would be:
    – clear information on writing
    – simple steps on how to get a platform launched
    – simple steps to social media
    – inspiration from authors, who are real people and not people on a platform (unreachable)
    – clear information on getting started writing

    I have to think some more on these.

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