David Sandler’s search for knowledge about why and how people buy coincided with the Transactional Analysis (TA) movement in psychology. TA theory defines three ego states that influence our behavior—the Parent, the Adult, and the Child. Think of these ego states as internal tape recorders where childhood impressions—teachings and associated feelings—are stored.
The Parent contains recordings of what you saw your mother, father, and other authority figures do and what you heard them say during your first five years of life. Its recordings were unedited. Sometimes, Parent messages were critical, judgmental, and/or prejudicial.
The Adult acts much like a computer, processing data supplied by the Parent and by the Child, as well as data it collects. The Adult is logical, rational, and analytical. The Adult solves problems and reckons probability.
The Child is where many of our decisions originate—not just buying decisions, but all kinds of decisions. The Child is that little six-year-old in us who, feeling a particular emotion at a particular time, says, “I want this,” and “I want to do that.” Or perhaps: “I don’t want this,” and “I don’t want to do that.”
David Sandler recognized that it’s the prospect’s Child that starts the buying process.
The Parent isn’t going to judge whether a purchase is appropriate or not, and the Adult isn’t going to weigh the pluses and minuses of the purchase or the pros and cons of a particular vendor until the Child wants the product or service. Why would the Child want a product or service?
Psychologists suggest that people take action (including buying products and services) in order to have something, to know something, to be able to do something, or to be known for something. So if Melanie is selling consulting services to Randall, a CEO, she needs to be able to identify which of those (very different) desires is most likely to motivate Randall!
Does Randall want to have greater market share? Does he want to be able to do something to reward his team for a great quarter? Does he want to be known for an achievement that no one in his industry has ever pulled off? These are very different motivations. These desires can be initiated by greed, envy, curiosity, desire, fear, or any other feeling or emotion that resides within the Child. Until she identifies those feelings and emotions, Melanie is not in a position to make any kind of recommendation to Randall.
Getting the Child to express that kind of desire is the objective of the critical phase of the buyer-seller relationship that we call the Pain Step. Getting prospects emotionally involved in the sale doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be emotional—unhappy, angry, distraught, fearful, or any other specific emotion. Nor does it mean that the prospect has to express an emotion. It simply means that the prospect's inner Child is saying, “I want it.” Why is your prospect’s Child saying, “I want it”?
Perhaps it’s because you helped him discover something he didn’t know before he met you. Maybe you helped him see his situation from a different perspective, and uncovered some doubt about an existing strategy. Perhaps you helped him focus on the real root cause of his problem. Perhaps his Child is saying, “I want to know what this person knows,” or “I want what this person has to offer.”
Whatever the motivation, you will not close a sale unless the emotional component of your prospect’s identity—the Child—first signs off on the deal.