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In This Episode of The Buyer’s Mind with Jeff Shore:

Dr. Peter Noel Murray — an expert on the psychological, emotional and cultural motivations of consumers — discusses with Jeff how the purchase decision of anyone is primarily an emotional decision.  Don’t think so?  Did you ever NOT buy something because you didn’t like the salesperson? You’ll want to understand this important part of the brain if you want to be a superior sales professional.

Topics we’re going to cover on today’s podcast:

  • [3:03] Quote of the Day
  • [4:25] Sales Tip of the Day
  • [9:08] Are tech buyers less emotional?
  • [10:39] Biases we bring with us
  • [14:18] We don’t know, what we don’t know
  • [17:07] Connecting the dots
  • [19:42] Luxury items are more emotional
  • [24:50] How did you get into your field of study?
  • [28:46] Motivational Summary

More about our guest Dr. Peter Noel Murray:

Dr. Peter Noel Murray has been published by Psychology Today, the New York Times, Advertising Age, the magazine of the American Marketing Association, and others

He is a member of the American Psychological Association and the Society for Consumer Psychology

He holds degrees Georgetown University, the American University, and the University of Maryland (College Park).

 

Links from today’s podcast:

Homestreet Bank

Peter Noel Murray

Read Full Transcript

Jeff: Here’s a question. Do your customers make rational purchase decisions? No, they don’t. We’ll talk about it in just a moment.

Announcer: Welcome to the Buyer’s Mind, where we take a closer look deep inside your customer’s decision-making mechanism. To reverse engineer the perfect sales presentation. Now, please welcome your host, Jeff Shore.

Jeff: Greetings everyone and welcome to the Buyer’s Mind where we investigate exactly what’s going on in the brains of our customers, those who are considering a purchase decision. This podcast is all about knowing your customer on a deeper level than you ever have before, and it’s about knowing your customer so well that that sale beings to roll right out in front of you. This is something that I’ve been encouraging sales professionals with for a long time. When you know your customer extremely well, that sale begins to just show up, and it’s a beautiful thing. We take that very seriously here, but we like to have fun and celebrate this wonderful, mystical world of sales along the way.

I’m your host, Jeff Shore. You can read the full bio here in the show notes or you can go to jeffshore.com. While you’re there, you can sign up for our free weekly newsletter, a little Saturday morning inspiration, motivation and technique to help you on your sales journey. If you’re enjoying the Buyer’s Mind Podcast, would you consider posting a link on your social media page? That would mean so much to us. As always, we’re joined by our show’s producer, Mr. Paul Murphy. Murph, how are you doing today?

Paul: Hey, greetings from Colorado Springs.

Jeff: Yeah, you live in a beautiful, beautiful place. What’s the best part about living in Colorado Springs? What’s the worst part about living in Colorado Springs?

Paul: I gotta say, the worst part is probably the bipolar weather. I mean, just this week, we were in the 60s and sunny, and then middle of the week, it was snowing and freezing. And today, again, now, we’re back up to sunny and warm. So it just can’t make up its mind in the spring.

Jeff: Yeah. And the best part?

Paul: Oh, the best part is skiing, of course. Colorado’s got the best skiing in the world.

Jeff: Easy there. I live at the base of the Sierra Nevadas. We’ve got some fairly decent skiing out this way as well. So it’s funny how that works. If we had somebody from Utah on the line, they’d be telling us all about Park City being the best, so yeah, I get it.

Paul: Absolutely.

Jeff: Everybody’s a brand territorial about their skiing. And you also have the incredible Broadmoor Resort, one of the most beautiful resorts that I’ve ever stayed at. Do you ever head out that way?

Paul: We do, every now and then, and it is a world-class resort. The only thing they don’t have that they used to have was skiing.

Jeff: But they’ve got everything else. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Glad to have you here, Murph. Before I forget to mention, stay with us because we always give away something at the end of the podcast. We’ve got something very cool to tell you about here today, a little contest that we’re running that you’re absolutely gonna want to be a part of.

Our quote of the day comes from Augustus William Hare and this is what he says. “The feeling is often the deeper truth, the opinion the more superficial one. The feeling is often the deeper truth, the opinion the more superficial one.” The deeper truth comes from feeling, it comes from emotion, and that quote is gonna line up really well with a message from our guest coming up in just a little bit.

Dr. Peter Noel Murray is an expert on feelings, and more important to our conversation, he is an expert on how emotions emotion affects a purchase decision. It’s a fascinating subject, there is some real depth, and it’s gonna change the way that you look at your customer, even in the middle of the sales presentation.

Hey, a quick sponsor shout-out here. We want to let you know that the podcast is brought to you in part by HomeStreet Bank, our good friends at HomeStreet Bank. This is not just our show’s sponsor. This is my lender of choice. I used HomeStreet in my last home purchase, and I have to tell you, smoothest transaction ever, and I’ve purchased quite a few homes. Professional, dependable, great rates, great service, and if you’re a real estate professional, you’re just not going to find better people to work with in taking care of your clients. And they can do it all: banking, home loans, credit lines, anything you need. Go to homestreetbank.com to learn more. That’s homestreetbank.com.

Here’s our sales tip of the day, and I refer to this as the traffic light rule of communication, and it’s something that spurs from a conversation I had with an early coach of mine, Dr. Marty Nemko. And he used to suggest that people will pay attention to you for about 30 seconds of uninterrupted time. But if you go beyond 30 seconds without any interaction, you start to lose them, from 30 to 60 seconds, you’re in a dangerous spot. But once you go 60 seconds or more without interaction, they’re gone. You’ve lost them altogether. So I look at that as the traffic light rule.

If I’m talking with a customer, I get about 30 free seconds of green light, where I can pretty much bet that they’re paying attention. But when I go to 30 to 60 seconds, they are checking out. I may have them, I may not. That’s yellow light. If you go 60 seconds or more without interaction, you are in the red light zone, and your customer can no longer pay attention. Think about it from that perspective. Pay attention. Think of your customer’s attention as a commodity, and a limited-supply commodity. They are paying that attention. So if you ask them to pay too much, because you’re sharing and sharing and sharing and there’s no interaction, then you’re gonna drain that account, they’re going to have no attention left to give you. So the idea here is to make sure that in your sales conversations, you are never going too long without the chance for interaction. When it’s all one-sided, you’re going to lose your customer.

And before we get to our interview, let me tell you about an opportunity for real estate sales professionals, it is our 4:2 Formula Academy. This is an intensive training program. It includes live training for three days, but weekly training over the course of 13 weeks. This is a very detailed program that equips real estate sales professionals with modern selling strategies and skills specifically designed for today’s buyer, today’s market. You can find the 4:2 Formula Academy and other exclusive training events throughout the year for sales leaders and sales professionals, just go to jeffshore.com/events.

All right, let’s get to our interview. I’m really interested to have Dr. Peter Noel Murray with us today. I came across Dr. Murray’s writing on “Psychology Today.” I found it just fascinating, wonderfully approachable, taking a very complex subject and making it easy to understand. He’s been published not just on “Psychology Today,” but “The New York Times,” “Advertising Age,” a host of others. He’s a member of the American Psychological Association and the Society for Consumer Psychology. He has academic degrees from Georgetown University, the American University, the University of Maryland, College Park. And he was also awarded a U.S. and international patents for covering the integration of messages into interactive content, sounds absolutely fascinating. We’ll ask about that.

Dr. Peter Murray, welcome to the show, sir.

Dr. Murray: Thank you very much, Jeff. It’s a nice touch to be invited.

Jeff: I think we’re gonna have some fun with this topic because it is right in our sweet spot as we think about the psychology of a purchase decision. And one of the things that I have certainly learned in interviewing our expert guests is that we probably know a lot less than we think we know. Or maybe more appropriately, to suggest that we think we know what we’re doing in a consumer purchase decision, and that’s not always the case, is it?

Dr. Murray: Well, you know, we don’t know what goes on inside the depths of our mind, and a lot of what takes place in checking our behavior is on an unconscious or a subconscious level. So we don’t have access to that. And one of the myths about consumer behavior and is, in fact, in all behavior is that we are rational beings. Obviously, we all like to think that we’re rational. It is considered to be a mature, judgement kind of thing to be, to be a rational person. And there is a certain stigma to acting irrationally and a negative stigma.

But in terms of behavior, we are greatly influenced by our emotions. And in fact, emotions are integral to our rationality in and off itself. They are core to our beings. So that’s the key difference between rationality and emotions in terms of behavior and that’s what we really need to understand.

Jeff: Sometimes, when I’m talking to a sales professional, they will suggest that if they’re selling a technical product or selling to a technical buyer, they’re gonna look and they’re gonna say, “Well, no, no, no. My buyers are engineer-types. They are all logic. They have no emotion in their process.” My guess is that you would disagree with that premise.

Dr. Murray: Well, I think that some categories are more, you know, rationally-based in terms of their features and benefits, without question. But at the end of the day, that buyer is a human being and that person has biases, that person is affected by emotions, that person is greatly affected by the emotional reaction to the individual salesperson themselves.

So, you know, we, as human beings, we make enormous judgments about other human beings, subconsciously, and those judgements affect our behavior. So at one level, we’d have to say, “Well, there is emotion is involved than the interpersonal reaction here.” And then in terms of the judgements that the buyer makes about one product versus another, even if it’s a technology product, there are biases and there are emotions that are associated with that as well. There are belief systems. There are prejudices…not prejudice in a societal sense, but in a bias sense of toward one type of technology versus another, and those biases can be very emotional in terms of how it affects thinking and judgements.

Jeff: Give us an example. If I’m a consumer, I’m thinking about purchasing – it doesn’t matter – a mattress, a television, a car or whatever it is. Give us one example of a bias or a prejudice that I bring into that conversation that I may not be fully aware of.

Dr. Murray: Right, it’s very easy. First of all, that happens on many, many levels, Jeff. It can happen in many ways. All of us, for instance, in a more simple way, you think back about the brands that you have a preference for, and then think back to your childhood. You will find connections. Not with every brand, but there are brands that we grew up with that we have very warm feelings about. And I’ll tell you, for instance, for no reason whatsoever other than the fact that I know that I was brought up this way, that I, for some reason, prefer Tide detergent. Why would I prefer Tide detergent? There is no reason. I don’t even use, you know, do my laundry that often. But that is a brand that’s built into my mind that I associated with my home, with my mother, with all of the growing up. So there’s a positive feeling about brands that we have that we bring from other associations.

The ones that are really more relevant from a marketing or a sales point of view are the fact that our decisions are quite often, particularly in areas of luxury or even in technology, are based on emotional association with how these decisions or how these brands are gonna reflect on us as people. For instance, if buying a certain technology product, I think, will make me perceived as smarter by my peers or by my boss or whoever it is, that is an emotion associated with self-identity. And so much of what we do and the decisions that we make are driven by our own needs for self-identity.

We all carry around different concepts of ourselves in our minds: our regular everyday self, my husband self, my ideal self, which is the person I’ve thought I always wanted to be. We all have these different selves that we carry. And fulfilling those selves is a part of our behavioral pattern. So when we make purchases, quite often, and not the simplest example to give you is a luxury car, for instance, people buy luxury cars, in many ways, just to reinforce their perception of themselves or what they would like other people to perceive themselves to be.

Jeff: So there’s the brand… We actually had, on our second episode, Bruce Turkel who’s a branding expert. We talked about this connection between a corporate brand or the brand that an organization wants you to believe exists, but then how does it connect with that personal brand we carry around. And that was one of the experiences we looked at and we said, “With the car we drive, with the clothes we wear, with the restaurants that we choose to eat at, they’re all an extension of our brand.”

And it’s fascinating to you look at it from that side because we carry that brand identity inside of us and that drives a decision, without really sitting down and deliberating. I don’t have to sit down with a pad of paper and say, “Here are the 18 restaurants that are within 30 minutes from where I am right now, which one is gonna offer the best value per calorie?” It’s a silly computation when you look at it. There’s that sense of brand identity that carries us forward.

But you wrote that – and I thought this was so fascinating and this is from an article in “Psychology Today” – this is the direct quote: “The human mind does not have access to information about the processes involved in their decision-making.”

Dr. Murray: Right.

Jeff: That’s sounds like we have very little control over our own decisions. Is that the case?

Dr. Murray: Yes, Jeff, that is the case, in the sense that we have things operating unconsciously that are affecting our decisions. At the end of the day, we, of course, have the will or the free will to go ahead about the decision or not. That quote refers to something else which is a problem in marketing. And that is this that when we sit down, for instance, and I do a lot of consumer research, so we sit down with consumers and we say, “Well, what were you thinking when you made this decision,” and they’ll always tell you, “Oh, here’s what I was thinking about,” and they’ll give you a long speech, full of details. And the fact is that they are telling you things that they have no access of knowing. They’re telling you how them went through judgements and what their tradeoffs were in their mind and whatever. But we don’t have access to that information about how our mind works and what our processes are behind our behavior, because they take place on an unconscious level.

Now, that is very important from a consumer research point of view because what it requires from me then is to…and I use psychological methods to get beyond that, so I can understand on a deeper level what’s driving them. But it also is, I think, thinking in terms of your audience, you can’t…if you’re in a sales situation, you can’t rely a lot on what it is that people tell you about how they’re gonna go through and make a process to buy your product. It really requires a lot of intuition on the part of the sales person to think about well, I really believe in the idea of critical thinking, and that is that we all…to not just take whatever anybody tells us, and particularly, if it’s a research respondent or somebody that we’re trying to interact with in a business sense, don’t take on a surface basis that they really are able to tell us, and that they really have the information that they’re telling us about what their intentions are and what their processes are for their behavior.

We need to be critical thinkers and say, “Is that really the case because I want to just question that in my own mind and think about what my instincts are about why this person may be making the decisions they’re making and let me try a different angle or let me think about going about it in a different way and makes sense based on sort of my larger understanding of the category or my larger understanding of consumers like…for this person or customers like this person.”

Jeff: So a customer is likely not going to walk in to, say, a jewelry store and say, “You know what? I’m here today because I’m feeling a certain psychological emptiness in my life because of some relationships gone bad, and so I’m going to take care of myself…” No, what they’re gonna say is, “I want a necklace.” It sounds to me that it’s up to the sales professional to find some way to be able to get into that back story, and just to learn a little bit more about that person’s life.

Dr. Murray: Right.

Jeff: Really, it sounds like it’s the process of connecting the dots by the time you’re done.

Dr. Murray: Well, it is connecting the dots. But the important part, the place to begin is a personal connection, because you wanna really get that person to open up to you and really think of them as a human being and not as a potential buyer or whatever it is you got to sell. So if you make that personal connection, they’ll open up to you in ways that they wouldn’t ordinarily…people walk into a buying situation in a defensive mode anyway. And so you wanna be able to break through that.

And people are so responsive to individuals that they like personally, they connect with. We’ve talk about how we connect with people and we do make judgements and unconsciously, about personality matches. We tend to like the…oh, who had the similar personality characteristics that we have. And so that’s what attracts us to other people. And incidentally, that same is true about brands, or that same is true about stores. We tend to like brands…there’d been a lot of research studies that show brands have very distinct personality profiles just as human beings do, and that consumers are much more interested in and relate to and more likely to purchase brands that are a good personality match to themselves, just as we are friends to people who tend to have very similar personality characteristics to us.

So when you think about what your product is, when you think about if you’re selling in a retail environment, you also ought to then think about personality of where you are, who you are, and contextually, what that might be communicating to your customers and then be consistent with that. Don’t try and be something that you’re not or if you’re in a retail environment, don’t try and pretend that that retail environment is something that it is not. So that you have to conscious of that and in that way, you have a deeper and a quicker connection with the consumer that walks in.

Jeff: You wrote that – and again, I’m gonna go with a direct quote here – “Evidence suggests that the decisions to purchase a luxury product are overwhelmingly emotional.” And this really goes against a very common misconception that I hear that so-called “sophisticated shoppers, sophisticated buyers” are less likely to follow their emotional impulse. Why do you suggest that the emotional impulse is actually stronger for that upscale buyer for that luxury item?

Dr. Murray: Well, luxury is a fascinating category, and I’d done a lot of research about luxury. And there’s two things that happen. One is that luxury categories, you think about a category versus brand, luxury categories like luxury car category or luxury jewelry category, they are perceived to be luxury based on how unique they are in terms of their features and design and whatever, and then, also that they’re not easily accessible to other people. There’s a certain scarcity so there is a distinction between that and a mass brand.

But when you get deeper into it, you’ll find that what luxury buyers really get focused on are the ideas of how authentic the product is, that’s a very vague but emotionally powerful dimension of a product. I mean, a Porsche is very authentic in the sense of its design, heritage, and it’s manufacturing criteria upon which it’s made. And there’s a second characteristic which is timelessness. So that a luxury product perceived by a person who is really into that category or into luxury products is emotionally satisfied by a product that they know is…To be a product that kind of is fashionable one day, one year, and then go on the next year is the antithesis of luxury. Luxury is forever. That’s why brands like Cartier and Ralph Lauren are very good at projecting that timelessness aspect of it and then delivering on it as well.

So it’s those very non-product related and non-rational factors that really are driving the luxury buyer into that segment. And then once they get into those segments, then they are making decisions that relate to areas such as self-identity or social comparison or self-esteem or have hedonic values which give them a lot of pleasure which they don’t think they can get from a mass brand.

Now, mass products, on the other hand, don’t have those levels of or those kinds of characteristics. They tend to be much focused and much more…and marketed much more on their utilitarian values, and price value comparisons are much more a focus on mass brands. That is the difference and that’s why luxury brands are so heavily emotional in terms of their appeal and in terms of actual buying decisions by a luxury customer.

Jeff: We’re almost out of time. Let’s put a little case study out there, and we’ll put one company on trial here for just a moment. I work with a company, one of my clients, it’s called Hearts On Fire, it is an upscale diamond company. Now, a diamond company is, by definition, already upscale, but this is on the upper end. It’s a very, very high quality diamond. And one of the things they talk about is the idea of they call it the “Ten Table Diamond.” They call it the “Ten Table Diamond” with the idea that if you’re at a restaurant, you can see a Hearts On Fire diamond sparkling from 10 tables away. Is this the type of thing you’re talking about here, where we look and say… you could talk about their quality and the cut and this, but really, what you’re trying to get to is that emotional side, “I want somebody to notice my diamond from 10 tables away in a restaurant.”

Dr. Murray: That’s precisely it. What would be the value of noticing it 10…if that doesn’t make a person feel like they had something that other people didn’t have, so there’s a social comparison issue. It makes them…it fulfills their self-identity of being somebody who can afford this or if it’s a woman who gives a self-identity that I’ve got a real loving and caring mate or spouse or whatever that…whoever gave them that diamond or that I make so much money that I can afford this. Whatever it is, there are these psychological values in terms of their own identity that are really the factors that are driving the consumer’s satisfaction, the consumer’s pleasure, and ultimately, the consumer’s decision to purchase that or to have influenced the purchase by somebody also their behalf.

Jeff: Before we wrap it up, how did you become involved in this? Was your idea to study consumer psychology from the beginning of your career? How does one become an expert in the area of purchase decisions?

Dr. Murray: My background is in marketing. I started off as a MBA in Marketing and I started off as a product manager in a large packaged goods, Kraft General Foods. And then I was in the advertising business, again working on consumer products. The thing that struck me was I never felt that we understood the consumer. Even large, sophisticated companies that I worked with, they didn’t really understand the consumer. That became my burning desire. I quit my midcareer and went back and worked for a doctorate and focused on psychology and focused on mass communication and areas that really affect the consumer behavior, and that’s how I came to do this. I’ve been doing this now for 20-some years, I guess, or about 20 years anyway.

And also, what’s happening right now in terms of marketing and in terms of psychology, there is…we are about to enter, I think, a real era, a new era in marketing and sales which is going to be the emotion…be known as the “emotion era.” Because of cognitive psychology and because of neuroscience and developments in the last decade or two, there is new understanding about consumer behavior that we just never have had before and it’s gonna change the way we advertise, it’s gonna change the way we develop products and position, and it’s gonna change the way we do any personal sales. We’re entering a new era that’s very, very exciting.

Jeff: That’s fantastic. And I think I’d speak on behalf of all of our audience that…thank you for making that jump and just sharing with us. It’s just such great stuff. I want to encourage you all to go to petermurray.com. There is a host of articles. I got to tell you, you’re gonna pull up an article, maybe print it off, because you’re gonna want to write in the margins. You’re gonna wanna ask questions of the article. You’re gonna wanna chew it over and ask how it applies. And I have found just a wealth of information just by reading Dr. Murray’s articles either at petermurray.com or on his “Psychology Today” page.

Dr. Murray, I cannot than you enough. That was absolutely fascinating. Thanks for being a part of the show.

Dr. Murray: Jeff, I really enjoyed talking with you. Thank you very much.

Jeff: All right, well, there you have it. I knew I was not gonna be disappointed, Murph. I’ll tell you what, I saw his stuff on “Psychology Today” and I just thought, “This just resonates so smoothly and so easily, right? He took a complex content and really made it easy to understand.

Paul: He really did. I hadn’t even really thought about some of those topics, but the fact that the luxury brand is really more of an emotional thing than anything, and mass brands tend to be more about economics. Very cool stuff, haven’t thought about that.

Jeff: Yeah, I loved how he tied in his commentary about brand alignment so consistently with what we had learned earlier from Bruce Turkel about that. There is that whole idea that the expression and the things that we buy picks up that brand. It’s an expression of our personal brand. So great stuff. What do you think? We’re gonna have Dr. Murray back on the show?

Paul: I hope so, because just, as you mentioned, it took me back to Bruce Turkel, and I’m sure that there are other things that are gonna connect in with some of the other people we’ve interviewed if we had talked to him a little bit more.

Jeff: There you have it. That’s what we do here at the Buyer’s Mind. We talk to really, really smart people, and they make us better about what it is that we do so that we can, in turn, go out and take better care of our customers.

And let me ask you this question as we head into another wrap up here. I want to ask you a question. Who are you vulnerable with? I think vulnerability is a beautiful thing, and it’s a very underrated attribute, because vulnerability is sort of scary, when you think about it. But I led my roundtable group, I have a mastermind group of sales leaders. We get otherer once a quarter in person. We talk every week, I just really pour myself into them over the course of a year, and led them in an exercise that caused for a tremendous amount of openness and honestly and vulnerability. It was very touching. It was very deep. It was very powerful. But the question I was asking afterwards was why was it so moving? And I think the reason it was so moving for everyone in the group is because we just aren’t vulnerable all that often. We don’t find ourselves in a safe place to really share what is happening in our heart. And I want to challenge you with that today. What are doing to make yourself…who are you vulnerable with? Put yourself out there. Find those people who you can trust, who provide a safe environment, and open up and be honest. And I guarantee you, you’ll be a better person for it.

Well, I would love it if you would subscribe to this podcast. Boy, that means a lot to us. It helps us get the show out to more people. It’s promoted more highly when we get a lot of people to subscribe. A review would be awesome as well. But if you would consider posting a link of the podcast on your social media page, we’d really, really appreciate that.

Now, if haven’t heard about our contest by now, then get ready. You have the chance to win the Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Canceling Headphones or a Shore Consulting swag bag. All you have to do is download all of the Buyer’s Mind episodes, subscribe to this podcast, and leave a quick review. It’s not difficult. Then go to the show notesat jeffshore.com/podcast and click on the contest link. Just give us the email and the name that you used for the review on iTunes and we’re gonna pick the winners from there. So 10 people are gonna win the Shore Consulting swag bag. That includes all kinds of stuff, 5 books, our Shore Consulting coffee-worthy coffee mug. It’s great stuff. But the grand prize, the Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones. We’ll also get you the Earbuds if you prefer. I love these things so much that I own both. I listen to the podcasts I listen to using my QuietComfort Headphones.

All right, there you go. That’s a wrap on our podcast, the Buyer’s Mind. I hope you enjoyed it. You can find everything you need at jeffshore.com. But until then, go out there, my friends, and change someone’s world.