5 Consumer Behavior Examples to Learn From

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Secrets of Closing the Sale" by Zig Ziglar. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are some examples of consumer behavior? What is the key to understanding what a customer truly wants?

There are five common consumer behaviors you must understand to do your best selling. Master salesman Zig Ziglar talks about these behaviors and how to use them to your advantage in his book Secrets of Closing the Sale.

Here are five consumer behavior examples to learn from.

Behavior #1: Customers Give You One Reason for Not Buying When It’s Really Another 

The first consumer behavior example is that customers often unwittingly express false reasons for not wanting to buy the product. For instance, someone might argue they can’t afford the product when in reality, they simply already own a similar product. As a salesperson, you must listen well to figure out what their true objection is so you can address it.  

(Shortform note: Ziglar contends that people often give false reasons for not wanting to buy a product, and indeed, other experts agree that people generally aren’t as in tune with themselves as they think they are. Humans are good at evaluating themselves on certain traits—they tend to correctly evaluate how emotionally stable they are, for instance—but they’re bad at evaluating themselves on traits like intelligence and generosity. You might take advantage of humans’ habit of thinking of themselves as smarter than they perhaps are by flattering their intelligence to make a sale.)

Behavior #2: Customers Decline to Buy Because They Don’t Have Enough Information

Often, a customer declines to buy because they don’t have enough information on the product to make the choice to buy, writes Ziglar. They want you to provide more information so they can feel secure in their decision to buy. For instance, a lead might decline to buy your smartwatch because they don’t understand all its capabilities. When you explain these to the customer, they feel confident they’re getting value from the product and buy. 

(Shortform note: In Way of the Wolf, Jordan Belfort elaborates on the idea that leads are more likely to buy when they have comprehensive information about a product. A lead’s certainty about a product falls somewhere on a scale from one to 10. As a salesperson, your job is to move them to 10 on the scale. What’s more, he argues, there are also scales of certainty about you, the salesperson, and the company you work for. Establishing credibility in the eyes of the lead, as we discussed in Part I, can be seen as moving the lead’s certainty about you to 10.)

Behavior #3: Customers Buy Things They Want, Not Things They Need

The third example of consumer behavior is that customers far more often buy products they want over products they need. This means you must appeal to peoples’ desires, not their needs. When selling your smartwatch, don’t pitch it on its utility but rather on its stylishness and modernity, for instance. 

(Shortform note: Donald Miller would disagree with Ziglar on the notion that people buy things they want, not things they need. In Building a StoryBrand, Miller claims that people are motivated to purchase by the basic need to stay alive and prosper. Any marketing or brand that doesn’t speak to these basic human needs will fail. In other words, if a lead doesn’t feel your product will fulfill a basic human need (like securing shelter or building self-esteem), they won’t buy.)

Behavior #4: Customers Buy the Pleasure the Product Promises, Not the Product Itself

Ziglar also believes that customers buy the experience of pleasure the product promises, not the product itself. So, when selling, stress the joy the product will give the purchaser. For example, when selling your smartwatch, emphasize the freedom the customer will feel when they don’t have to track their exercise themselves. 

(Shortform note: In Building a StoryBrand, Donald Miller provides even more targeted advice on how to sell the experience of pleasure: Be very specific. It’s easier for customers to imagine and desire a specific future pleasure than a vague one, which will then make them more likely to buy. For instance, rather than telling a lead your smartwatch “will make you feel great,” tell them your smartwatch “will make you feel like there’s nothing in the world holding you back.”)

Behavior #5: Customers Dislike Losing Something More Than They Like Gaining Something

The last consumer behavior example is that buyers fear loss more than they appreciate gain. Customers will often be motivated to buy when they feel they’ll miss out if they don’t. You can use this knowledge to sell by showing customers that their lives are worse off for not owning the product. For example, emphasize to a customer how much harder it is to track their exercise without your smartwatch.

(Shortform note: Behavioral psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky were able to put a specific number to our fear of loss: We dislike losing 2.5 times more than we like gaining. They came to this conclusion in an experiment in which they gave subjects the chance to win $100 or lose $100 if a coin landed heads or tails respectively. Most subjects declined this bet and only took the bet when their winnings could be $250.)

5 Consumer Behavior Examples to Learn From

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Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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