Ray Collis

Strategies For Identifying Hidden Requirements

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4.Shed The Light Of Awareness On Hidden Motivations

Make it manifest, helping stakeholders make known their hopes and fears. Bring them out into the open.

Bring logic and analysis to bear on the buyer’s hidden agenda. For example a past negative experience with a technology of the type you are selling may be impeding the buyer’s decision. As a salesperson you might help the buyer to rationalize the fear, applying numbers and logic to it:

‘The failure rates today are less than 2%, compared to 20% in the early days of this technology. That makes it 5 times more successful than the other alternatives. We provide a pilot in order to demonstrate how successfully it can be implemented and a full guarantee – so risk is minimal’.

However take care in adopting this approach because:

  • The seller can easily come across as insensitive, a poor listener or even arrogant.
  • Applying logic to emotion can be like mixing oil and water. Underlying beliefs and motivational may be impervious to reason and resistant to change.


5. Look Out For The Messy Stuff

Hidden motivations can sometimes be contradictory and confusing. They may even conflict with the buyer’s stated or on surface requirements. They may be counter-productive, and not the buyer’s long term best interests. In particular this can happen when there is:

  • Un-thinking acquiescence, compliance or conformity
  • Political tension
  • Unspoken risk
  • Self defeating behaviour
  • A skewed version of history or interpretation of reality
  • An unaccepted responsibility
  • A blind shot – an element of self deception, or denial
  • There may be an elephant in the room – an unspoken issue, or challenge,
  • A previous bad experience, or un-addressed wound
  • Flawed logic
  • Paralyzing fear or limiting belief
  • Complacency or lethargy
  • A short term mindset

As a salesperson you may or may not be able to change these things. In some cases you may consider it prudent to let ‘sleeping dogs lie’ while in other cases these factors unless addressed may impact on the potential of the sale, or the account.

6. Listen To The Language Used

The words the buyer uses may offer a window into the buyer’s hidden agenda. But more important than the words is the tone of voice. So really listen. Also, listen to what they talk about most, or least. It may provide a cue to their hidden agenda.

Use the buyer’s words in your pitches and proposals – if you take the buyer’s requirements and put them into your own language then something can get lost.


7. Use projective techniques

A range of what are called ‘projective techniques’ are used to shed light on hidden motivations.  Theses include asking the person to answer certain questions in ‘stream of consciousness mode’ – that is without deliberating on the answer.

Perhaps the most effective technique of all is to help the buyer to visualize and imagine the results, or the future that he, or she wants to achieve. For example by asking ‘What does success in respect of this purchase, or project look like?’ Other techniques include:

Word associations – e.g. ‘What three words would you use to describe this part of your business….’

Metaphors  – e.g. ‘If this project was a sports car then what kind of car would it be?  Would it be a Ferrarri or a Honda?  Would it be going at full speed?  Who would  be driving it?  What would be in the boot? etc.

Sentence completion – e.g. Please complete the following sentences….

  • ‘I’d be delighted if…’
  • ‘A fantastic outcome would be…’
  • ‘When others talk about this decision – project – purchase they…’
  • ‘The worst thing that could happen is…’
  • ‘If there was one goal you could achieve this year what would it be…’
  • ‘If something were to go wrong it…’
  • ‘In an ideal world…’

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