(2 minute read)

Lover, lover, why do you push?
Why do you push? Why do you push?
Baby baby, did you forget about me?

(The Divinyls – Pleasure and Pain, 1985)

First developed by Sigmund Freud, the psychoanalytic concept called the pleasure and pain principle has been broadly used within the sales profession. The concept is based upon the belief that we are born into the world seeking gratification by either finding pleasure or avoiding pain. In fact, some believe that these form the two primary motivations for people taking action to do anything.

If we were to take this principle into a sales environment, we would do well to understand the customer’s actual and potential pain-points and strive to alleviate or minimise these. It is believed that customers are motivated to act much more frequently because of pain than because of pleasure because pain is more immediate and generates stronger emotions, so avoiding it is a most attractive option.

Moving the prospect toward pleasure hinges upon triggering the positive emotions that are associated with this feeling. While prestige and comfort can prove to be great motivators, it is the release of ‘happy hormones’ behind the scenes (dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins) that plays a key role in moving toward this desirable state.

With this knowledge, the sales professional must now show the prospect how their solution can help move them further from pain, or closer to pleasure.

As an example, consider how a prospect’s decision may be influenced toward subscribing to a new healthy eating and meal delivery plan.

Daniel Levis, a highly regarded sales coach and consultant, shares a model which helps us understand the unconscious calculations that go on inside people’s heads.

Pleasure Anticipated (Motivator) — Looks forward to losing or stabilising weight, gaining energy, general health and longevity.

Pleasure Sacrificed (De-Motivator) — Dreads not being able to chow-down chicken wings and beer with friends while watching sports on the weekend.

Pain Avoided (Motivator) — Wants to minimize fear of developing heart disease, stroke, or diabetes as a result of a lifestyle with poor food choices.

Pain Anticipated (De-Motivator) — Believes dieting means hunger and deprivation… not being able to control negative emotions with food. Fear of falling off the wagon… the cost of the program… risk that it won’t work.

So, whether attempting to influence a prospect during a sales negotiation, or weighing up the pro’s and con’s of a decision for ourselves, we can do a lot worse than giving good consideration to the principle of moving further from pain or closer to pleasure.


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