Philosophers have been attempting to create a simple framework for understanding how to better communicate with people for thousands of years. The first recordings of this framework have existed since ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. However, it is generally accepted that the Greek doctor Hippocrates was the philosopher who formally developed the framework, calling it The 4 Humors. Initially associated biologically (phlegm, blood, and bile), they continued to evolve with philosophers like Theophrastus and others who associated characteristics and temperaments to these humors.

In modern times, these concepts were reinvigorated by Behavioural Scientists in the 40s ad 50s. This is where the widely accepted psychometrics of Myers-Briggs, DiSC, PXT, and Kolbe found their origins.

Today, we apply these generally accepted and helpful concepts to communicate better with others. The challenge of course, in sales, is that we are far away from a controlled environment, and the complexity of figuring out a person’s temperament correctly has been proven to be more consistently inaccurate than accurate.

So? How do we quickly ascertain a person’s buying motives and adjust our language to be more persuasive with our audience?

In this article, I will provide the 3 part framework to help sellers sell, and buyers buy. But, just before we dip our toe into the frigid new waters, let’s look at how this framework is fed.


Chris Voss, author of Never Split the Difference speaks about labeling as a communication tool. When we verbalize our observation of different feelings, we can positively affect the outcomes by speaking to the dog in the language of the dog about what the dog cares about.

In a buying situation, the dog only cares about 3 things. Your solution fulfills these three things in different ways depending on the person’s current mindset. These are the buyer’s pain and pleasure points.

The only 3 things any buyer actually cares about are:

  1. Money
  2. Energy
  3. Time

The Amygdala is the most ancient area of the human brain. This is the emotion center that humans have zero ability to regulate. We can react, but not regulate.

Amazingly, the Amygdala is assessing the environment 5 times EVERY SECOND! What is it assessing? Risk and reward. Pain and pleasure. Positive and negative resonance. Does it feel right?

If these basic survival mechanisms are baked into our DNA, shouldn’t we start by listening to our CORE Felt Needs first?

Each of the 3 CORE Felt Needs has either a positive or negative resonance (energy). Often mistaken as the pursuit of happiness, it is more accurately the pursuit of positive resonance. People want to “feel right”. For it to “feel right” during your sale, you need to speak to what the person cares about most from their 3 CORE Felt Needs.

When you have MET (see what I did there) these 3 CORE Felt Needs, a sale is made. When you have not MET (and satisfied) these pain and pleasure points, the buyer stalls, or outright refuses to buy.

It is these 3 CORE Felt Needs that form the foundation of all perceived value in your sale. The challenge, of course, is that no customer is telling their seller their felt needs in such a forthright way. It is up to the seller to figure this out quickly and read between the lines to tug on their emotional buying triggers.

Felt needs are different from human motivation but are directly associated with the overarching hierarchy of needs that all humans subsist on, whether surviving or thriving.

Let’s take a look at how these things all fit together.

Hierarchy of Needs


In 1943, Abraham Maslow introduced the Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow theorized that there are 5 fundamental needs and that people ascend these needs as more rudimentary needs are met. Abraham Maslow said the greatest unmet need of 65% of us was our need to belong.

This has led to the misconception that the pursuit of happiness is more about ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ and less about recognizing what we are grateful for in our lives. As I studied the relationship between the needs of the individual and the needs of the group, this became very apparent.

The reason why people are motivated by identity, purpose, and adventure, are founded in the need to belong. To be loved. To be relevant. To have status, with others and with themselves (self-worth).

People strive to thrive in the belonging category of the hierarchy of needs. The majority of Americans bounce between security and belonging, depending on a variety of controllable and uncontrollable factors. Very few people ever reach levels 4 and 5 within the hierarchy, not even realizing that there is more to life than making money or survival.

Given that the majority of buyers are either in survival mode or thriving mode, we know that if we want to be more persuasive, we need to speak the appropriate language when it comes time to sell them. A buyer who is in thriving mode has different motivations and anti-motivations driving their decisions than those in survival mode.

Surviving vs. Thriving


Most people in North America are either living in level 2 Survival Mode or level 3 Thriving Mode.

Survival Mode

People who are in Survival Mode genuinely believe their life sucks. No meaningful and caring relationships, struggling to eat or keep a roof over their head, living paycheck to paycheck. Job loss, bad bosses, sales slumps, and broken marriages all drive people down into survival mode.

Survival mode directly correlates to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, outlined above. People who are in survival mode are prone to hoard resources, jockey for rank, and do desperate things, all in an effort to belong — in thriving mode.

What most of those who’ve grown accustomed to Survival Mode forget is that what they did to get into Thriving Mode are not the same things that help them either stay or ascend in Thriving Mode. This very often has them finding their way back to Survival Mode in a constant battle for success and happiness.

Thriving Mode

Virtually all people who have ascended to Level 3 in their business and personal life feel like they’ve made it. Most people who achieve the ’American Dream‘ have no idea, or just a small sense, that there is more to life than the spoils of war.

Those who are in thriving mode, but have yet to achieve their version of ‘success’, are often fighting a battle to stay in thriving mode. As work, life, bosses, and relationships change, so do people.

This creates a collection of strange behaviors as people do everything to protect and defend their status. Some are intentionally evil, but more often than not, they are bred from the purest form of innocent ignorance. What I mean is, their intentions are right, but their actions are incongruent with the true meaning of real success.

The strangest thing is that the actions and behaviors they exhibit are the exact things that are holding them back in the first place. Wealth accumulation is completely viable and prevalent in Level Three Tribes, but you never leave a legacy.

As people ascend through the 3 levels that exist in Level Three/Belonging mindsets, they shift from valuing money more than time, and start valuing time more than money. This changes buying behavior to look for solutions rather than solely the price. These people perceive they have the means to buy convenience, and look for sellers that can provide it.

Convenience doesn’t just mean during their buying experience either. They are weighing the convenience you offer post-sale via warranties, preventative maintenance, and even the likelihood you’ll be in business for the long run.

Time is a precious, non-renewable resource that they cherish. The one who can give them more of their time back with the least negative energy (frustration, stress, anxiety) gets the sale.

3 CORE Pleasure Points

Human beings who are living in a thriving mode mindset buy stuff for 3 primary reasons; identity, purpose, and adventure. These motivators are the 3 CORE Pleasure Points.

People naturally have a strong sense of identity and want to show the world who they are by what they surround themselves with. They buy things that represent their own personal brand. Identity answers the question, “who am I”? While Lululemons tell others what a fine butt they have, a new air conditioner tells the world that you are cool (metaphorically and literally).

People also buy things to help them achieve their purpose in life. These can be items that let them cope better with life (like an air conditioner), or to help them do the thing that they believe matters, like a university degree or a sales training course. People answer the question, “why am I here?” with purpose.

Finally, people buy things for the adventure of it. That trip to Italy is one thing, but it also includes those things that challenge them, feeding their purpose and identity. Going through trade school is an adventure. Doing that DIY weekend project is an adventure. Discovering that new restaurant is an adventure. Starting a business is an adventure. Adventure is answering the question, “what must I overcome”?

Have you ever noticed that people don’t buy things when they aren’t motivated to do so? This is precisely what propagates The 6 Objections in sales. No one puts in the money, energy, and time on something that they aren’t motivated to fix.

All of these motivations and anti-motivations are dictated by the underlying felt needs because all of them require an investment of money, energy, and time. People who cherish their personal identity are cautious to spend their money on something unless they are certain that it shows them in the very best light. From that cute outfit to the brand of vehicle people buy, they want to believe that their purchase shows them in the best possible light. Why? To belong in the belonging category of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Too many people spend their life without purpose. Some find purpose in their children, others, their job or a higher cause. Some find purpose through an extracurricular pursuit like playing a musical instrument or writing open-source code for a website that will improve the world. Others pour their money, energy, and time into entrepreneurship. Regardless of how, when you embrace responsibility, you find purpose. Often purpose feeds their identity and adventure along the way, leading to a very satisfying life. Purpose is the reward for responsibility.

“Today’s tug-of-war is not between freedom and slavery, but between freedom and responsibility.” -Roy H. Williams

One cannot go on an adventure without money and time. Going on an adventure supposedly is meant to reenergize the batteries. Some call this passion, or motivation. Close, but not quite right.

The best adventures are not fully clear and defined. There are mysteries to solve, trials and tribulations to challenge you, and literal and figurative villains to overcome. Those adventures, in all their different shapes and sizes, require your money, energy, and time to conquer.

3 CORE Pain Points

The universe persists in duality. Darkness and light. Good and evil. Right and wrong. Mercy and justice. For 50% of the population, life simply does not feel fair.

People don’t always have the choice when it comes to making a purchase. If they are lucky, they can make their purchases while in thriving mode, but many Americans are struggling in Survival Mode (including some of your salespeople, BTW).

If a purchase is forced by an external event, it has to be addressed, but rest assured, it’s a grudge purchase. The more expensive the forced purchase, the more it causes undue stress and anxiety. This is the fate of most residential home service purchases.

In these instances, purchases are not made because the person is internally motivated to fulfill one of the 3 CORE Pleasure Points (identity, purpose, or adventure). The purchase is antimotivated from the 3 CORE Pain Points; fear, shame, or guilt. Why antimotivation? Because it is still motivating an action, just from a negative resonance rather than a positive resonance.

Fear is a strong antimotivator. Fear of death, not having the money to survive, or not being accepted into your desired tribe. Fear causes people to do strange things. For example, air conditioning is no longer a luxury, it’s a life support system for many people. Regardless if you are just getting by in survival mode or you’re inconvenienced by an untimely breakdown in thriving mode, it’s an essential system that needs prompt attention from many.

Shame is an internal response to a negative trigger. We feel shame when we are meant to protect our loved ones. We feel shame when we don’t keep up with the Joneses. We feel shame when expectations and reality don’t align. Shame has us taking on debt to get back to a baseline of society’s minimum expectations.

Guilt affects us in much the same way. Guilt antimotivates us to do things we would otherwise ignore. Externally triggered, guilt is an internal response to the problem. Often we feel the victim in these situations and are forced to do something we do not want to do.

Antimotivators are not the ideal reason to buy anything, but in a constant pursuit for positive resonance, getting back to a place free of pain, punishment, and risk, we begrudgingly make these purchases.


Knowing what motivates and antimotivates a sale, we can now look at the different dispositions people come into your sale with. With this knowledge, we can speak to the sentimentalities of the mindset, getting right to what they care about most, and leaving out the bits that won’t resonate with them.

Buyers break down into 2 archetypes, Transactional Shoppers and Relational Buyers. The most important part to understand is that we are all both archetypes, depending on the thing we are purchasing and the mode we are in (surviving or thriving).

For example, a person who is thriving could very well be thinking like a survivor, making them a transactional shopper. Vice versa, a person who couldn’t finance a hot dog could act as a relational buyer. Furthermore, internally triggered, impulse purchases are abundantly positive, fun, and exciting, while externally triggered grudge purchases are never any fun.

The key is to be aware of the environment they are in, hear the words they are using to find an outcome, and speak THAT language, not the other language.


Transactional Shoppers

Transactional Shoppers value their money more than time for your offering. They want the lowest overall price. These people are more prone to ‘go shopping’ and use logic, ROI, and overall lowest price (left brain) to measure the outcome. The more transactional the shoppers, the more likely they will lean too hard on cognitive biases in lieu of common sense.

More often than not, these decisions are founded in antimotivators. People who are overzealous about measuring price are often afraid of being bamboozled by more technically literate people, and rarely will allow the seller to articulate actual value as it is perceived as an attack on their sensibilities.

You cannot change someone’s behavior until you have first changed their belief. -Frances Frei

If you ever hope to sell them your solution, you first have to rationalize the purchase on their terms. For example, there is a significant difference between the cheapest price and the lowest price. If your salespeople can introduce something new, interesting, and different, they have the chance of getting a Transactional Shopper to change their core beliefs toward your offering. Only then, do you have a chance at closing the sale as a premium-priced provider.

For those Transactional Shoppers who appear, by all rights, thriving (nice home, car, family) we cannot judge a book by its cover. If their credit is good, but overextended, their job or marriage is tenuous, and pressures at work have them in a survival mode mindset, these artifacts are nothing more than red herrings. Surviving and thriving are a mindset, not a net worth or FICO score. To be most persuasive, figure out their mindset.

Transactional Shoppers can be divided into 2 mindsets:

  1. Oxygen Thieves
  2. Birkenstock Professors

Here’s how to identify them:

Oxygen Thieves 

Oxygen Thieves represent approximately 16% of the population in any given marketplace. These shoppers will not or cannot budget money toward the thing you sell. They are perceptually buried in other obligations, or they simply refuse to believe in any value for what you sell.

This doesn’t suggest that they are poor by any means. They are just unwilling to associate the value of your offering with the money they have in their pocket. While they may very well have the money (or credit) and the time to give you, they simply will not.

Lovingly known as the Oxygen Thieves, any time you spend with them is a waste of oxygen because they either have no means or willingness to buy your thing.

The sooner you identify them for what they are, the sooner you can move on to a viable prospect. In home services, these are the people who wait for the $19 maintenance call and want you to fix the whole system for $19.

Fortunately, they represent the minority of overall consumers.

Birkenstock Professors 

Birkenstock Professors represent approximately 34% of buyers for any given purchase. Like Oxygen Thieves, they will consume 80% of your time (if you let them) and only represent 20% of your sales if you’re anything more than the cheapest price. This isn’t because they cannot be sold. It’s because they are much better at selling salespeople on their position than salespeople are at selling them on your company’s offering.

Birkenstock Professors will gather an endless amount of quotes and patiently wait for the advantage, if left unattended. They value money more than their time. If they are forced to accelerate a purchase, they will pull out every tactic in the book to fear, shame, and guilt you down to their level to get the deal done.

Misery truly does love company. 

Why? Because they are terrified of making a purchase for something that holds no intrinsic value in their perceptual reality. They very often have the money, they’re just unwilling to spend it on something that they don’t value.

To be clear, your Transactional Shopper places more value on their money, than your combination of tangible and intangible solutions. You have to talk about the ROI on your solutions, and the lack of ROI from your competitor. This ROI is a combination of mostly money, but also how that ROI brings them back to (or past) a baseline of risk and reward.

When you relieve the pressure, you rationalize the sale. You become the best case scenario and close the deal.

Left unattended, they will look for any opportunity, loophole, or mistake to keep precious pennies in their trousers, even if it means stepping over a one hundred dollar bill to do so.

Birkenstock Professors are easily identified in the wilderness by their unwavering commitment to wearing socks with Birkenstocks. They likely drive a Subaru and carry around a clipboard to record every last stitch of value you’re willing to give up.

Relational Buyers

Relational Buyers are ready to buy, as long as the conditions of sale are right. Relational Buyers value their time more than their money. They are looking to buy the best overall solution for their actual felt needs based on their pain and pleasure points.

Being a relational buyer is not synonymous with ‘money is no object’. That’s just nonsense. They are, however, ready, willing, and able to pay a reasonable premium for the value you propose that best satisfies their felt needs. When they see you displaying the right selling signals (predominantly warmth and competence), it’s your sale to lose. Come in at the right money (price and financing) with the least amount of wasted time, and the least amount of stress and frustration, and you win the business.

For example, a recent relational buyer I saw, Jeff, had received a few quotes but was left feeling very wary about the options he was provided. One quote for a new HVAC system was only $2,000 with home warranty, while another one was for $8,000. Both felt suspiciously cheap to Jeff, but he still wanted the right deal. When our client’s salesperson went in and offered $13,000 and 0% financing for 60 months, the deal was done.

Jeff’s FICO score was in the 800s, but he didn’t have $8,000 just sitting around. 0% financing resonated with Jeff because he was in thriving mode, but hadn’t always been. He thought like a Transactional Shopper, but only because he was still looking for his forever HVAC guy. The one he could trust to do it the right way, not the easy way.

All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. All things not being so equal, people do business with their friends. -Jeffrey Gitomer

Relational Buyers can also be allocated into two mindsets:

  1. The Joneses
  2. Daddy Warbucks

Here’s what to look for:

The Joneses

The Joneses represent about 34% of any given marketplace in North America. The Joneses value their time more than their money. They realize that they can use their money to afford them a better use of their time.

The Joneses don’t want to go shopping around. They want to buy. They just need to know that they aren’t making the wrong choice. That includes the wrong choice in their chosen solutions provider and product selection.

The Joneses have a thriving mindset. The Joneses are looking at not only the product, but the supporting items that make the solution ideal. This also includes the terms and conditions of the sale, including 0% finance options, rapid delivery, and a wide range of solutions to satisfy their “unique” needs.

The Joneses are busy. They are tirelessly working, chasing kids, friends, community, and family obligations.

They ain’t got no time for Slick Willy the Snake Oil Salesman.

They are going to be hyper vigilant in finding the right solutions. They will be open to looking at your premium products and superior solutions if it translates into less future burden on their time and energy.

They are willing to pay a reasonable premium for competent convenience. The Joneses, more than anything, want you to provide them with the right solution the first time, and then not have to deal with it again anytime in the foreseeable future.

The more they feel they know, like, and trust you, the less protective of their money they will be. Branded Marketing and Club Memberships are your friends to establishing and building trust. When you consistently demonstrate that you have their best interests at heart, you have a customer for life.

Daddy Warbucks

Daddy Warbucks was an exceedingly wealthy man who stayed in touch with the common people. The Daddy Warbucks we portray in this archetype is one who has both the time and money to take in all of your buying experience. These people are financially free, and therefore, free to experience life as they see fit, up to and including spreading their wealth to the hard workers that build and protect America.

You know these people to have the time and energy for you. When you match their energy and exceed their expectations, you win their business. Also relational, they are ready, willing, and able to buy whatever they believe in. It is incumbent on you to deliver a world-class buying experience.

Don’t mistake a Daddy Warbucks for an Oxygen Thief though. While some are genuinely interested and willing, there are just as many that are placating you.

Fortunately, both of these groups are the minority of buyers. Putting on a world-class show is expensive and there aren’t enough of them to justify the expense for most business owners.

Sell to the masses, live with the classes. Sell to the classes, live with the masses. -Henry Ford

Daddy Warbucks is looking for both the horse and the pony show. These are the elite (or aspirationally elite) who are happy to pay a premium for a genuine experience. This is different and separate from the premium the Joneses are paying for expeditious service and minimal future disturbance.

For example, they will pay $22 for a martini at a posh bar. They buy what their perceived expert advises them to buy. Done well, you can be their expert.

Sometimes Daddy Warbucks will buy your thing just to know they have the best, most exclusive, or special thing. When it feels right, sounds right, and looks right, they buy without hesitation or deep analysis of the price or its constituent parts.

We know many people who don’t want the cheapest possible solution. That’s why big houses and fancy cars exist. This doesn’t suggest that money is no object, but it does confirm that people will pay for what they perceive as valuable. Sometimes, that includes the buying experience itself.


The answer isn’t to abandon the 34% of viable shoppers who are transactional by nature (bye, Oxygen Thieves). The answer is to get better at identifying and closing more sales of both Transactional Shoppers and Relational Buyers. When you get a Daddy Warbucks, it’s time to dance to the music being played, but put your efforts into developing scripts, narratives, and value propositions that fit the sentiment of the buyers and shoppers you’re in front of.

Sometimes you’ll have a Relational Buyer and a Transactional Shopper as joint decision-makers. This often has you facing the No Agreement Objection of the 6 Objections, forcing you to speak two different languages at the same time.

The fact is, your offer is more than just your price. Your price is the sum of their money, energy, and time you are proposing to exchange for your solution. Half your customers will lead with low price, half with value. Both will end on energy.

The gap, you might say, is the likelihood of a Thriving Transactional Shopper, or a Surviving Relational Buyer. Keep in mind that this is a mindset. By virtue of the fact that a Transactional Shopper is miserly with their money for your thing, doesn’t mean they are surviving. But they think like a survivor. Their heart still lives in the antimotivators from the standpoint of, for example,  resource hoarding and risk aversion.

No different are the Relational Buyers. Their heart is just in it for your thing more than the burdens of the money. They say things like, “you only live once”, or, “the most important thing is we’re comfortable”. They sacrifice money to improve the time they do have in their perceptual reality.

The great news is that whether the Transactional Shopper has you satisfying their pain points of fear, shame, and guilt, or your Relational Buyer has you satisfying their pleasure points of identity, purpose, and adventure, both consumers want the same resolution.

A resolution that alleviates their pain, pressure, stress, anxiety, and frustration, and brings their life back to or exceeds a baseline of reward, pleasure, positivity, happiness, and pleasantness.

The only question left…

How are you going to make it easy for your buyers to buy?