Embracing the “Experience” and Understanding Buyer Motivation


Simply hearing the word “change” is unsettling. Something we are used to is about to become (at some level) unfamiliar.  The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus taught that “the only constant in life is change”. Benjamin Franklin put a much finer point on it when he noted that “When you are finished changing, you are finished”. This does not portend well for those mired in an unchanging paradigm.

Part of change is a biological evolution at a genetic level, but part of change relates to elements outside of the body. Evolution is certainly part innate nature, but also part nurture. Relating to nurture, Merriam-Webster provides a definition of evolution that many of us can relate to: “A process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse state to a higher, more complex, or better state.” In AV and digital signage, we are evolving and changing from a “simpler state to one that is more complex” and (although some might disagree) better. The changes require a paradigm shift in our thinking and approach (sales) and is centered on the concept of providing the “experience”.  Experience is an easy word to say, but not so easy to understand and accomplish. Allow me to explain.

Recognizing the need to change the focus of an entire industry, the AV industry association is now known as the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association (AVIXA). Dave Labuskes the Executive Director and CEO of the newly named AVIXA said at the time “As of today, we’re something more. This is a name that marries the tradition of what we do with what we create. It’s who we’ve been, who we are and who we hope to be.” Naysayers will disagree but the fact is that we are something more than we were before. We know where we have been and where we are, but the focus needs to be on where we are going.  Clients no longer respond to conventional and traditional sales techniques, and they are no longer as impressed as they once were with what I call “Ooh! Shiny!”. Whether they say it this way or not, they are seeking and demanding something more. We can call it “added value” or whatever you prefer… but it boils down to that (sometimes-elusive) emotion we call an experience.

Experience is the process through which people perceive the world around them. We have all heard the phrase that perception is reality. It would be more accurate to say that a person’s perception is their reality. Experiences can be an active awareness on the part of the person having the experience, but they often go deeper and are more cerebral than a basic reaction. For our purposes, experience consists of observation, sensation, and perception.

One psychologist noted that “In everyday usage, the word “experience” may refer, somewhat ambiguously, to both unprocessed, immediately perceived events (such as “the experience of looking out the window”), and to the purported knowledge gained from these events or from reflection on previous events”.  There is an observation and immediate sensory experience, and it may stop there (remember “Ooh! Shiny!) but if we do our jobs right as AV professionals, we plant the seeds of personal reflection helping elevate the first sensory experience to something more profound. The focus needs to be guiding the perception… their perception.

Perception comes from your sensory receptors constantly collecting information. It involves signals that go through the nervous system, which in turn result from physical or chemical stimulation of the sensory system. For example, vision involves light striking the retina of the eye; smell is mediated by odor molecules; and hearing involves pressure waves.  A noted psychologist specializing in the science of perception (yes, it is a branch) pointed out that “Perception refers to the way sensory information is organized, interpreted, and consciously experienced. Perception involves both bottom-up and top-down processing. Bottom-up processing refers to the fact that perceptions are built from sensory input. On the other hand, how we interpret those sensations is influenced by our available knowledge, our experiences, and our thoughts. This is called top-down processing. One way to think of this concept is that sensation is a physical process, whereas perception is psychological.”

Be aware that not all sensations result in perception. For elements in our environment that tend not to change, we often do not perceive a stimulus. Psychologists call this sensory adaptation. To illustrate the concept, here is an example. “Imagine entering a classroom with an old analog clock. Upon first entering the room, you can hear the ticking of the clock; as you begin to engage in conversation with classmates or listen to your professor greet the class, you are no longer aware of the ticking. The clock is still ticking, and that information is still affecting sensory receptors of the auditory system. The fact that you no longer perceive the sound demonstrates sensory adaptation and shows that while closely associated, sensation and perception are different.” From this we can see that what you sense and what you perceive may be two different things.

The remaining ingredients in the process of perception are attention and motivation. Attention is the act of becoming and being aware. The Oxford dictionary defines it as “notice taken of someone or something as interesting or important.” For our purposes, attention is not enough. It is the motivation (read that emotion) that ends up being the behavior modification we are seeking. This is where the challenge lies in realizing the “experience” that AVIXA promises.

In the most basic of terms, motivation can be broken down into two types: Extrinsic are those things that arise from the outside, and Intrinsic are those that arise from within the individual. The three major components of motivation are:

  • Activation of a decision to act, to do something.
  • Persistence is staying the course to completion.
  • Intensity is the amount of concentration and energy you invest.

In our industry we must change the way many of us present our solutions, because our customers have themselves changed. Research from a Harvard Business survey shows that 50-90% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer reaches out to a salesperson. Creating the experience thus takes on a new and more urgent meaning. This necessitates a clear understanding of the elements that go into the experience. It is made up of our client’s observations, sensations, and perceptions. We need to address each of these elements.  The experience is going to be as different as the people we are addressing i.e., our clients. Just as a site survey tells us that the existing physical elements of a system that need to be addressed, a “client survey” is also required. We must find ways to direct the observation. We need to amplify the sensations, and we need to help “paint” their perception. It ultimately boils down to gaining their attention and most important of all, understanding what motivates them both externally and internally.

Buyer motivation is the set of psychological factors behind a decision to make a particular purchase. What exactly is motivation? Motivation is an urge to behave or act in a way that will satisfy certain conditions, such as wishes, desires, or goals. Psychologists believe that motivation is rooted in a basic impulse to optimize well-being, minimize physical pain, and maximize pleasure. In a more granular sense, psychological research shows there are the 8 most encountered motivations:

1.            Need

2.            Acceptance

3.            Fear

4.            Health

5.            Impulse

6.            Pleasure

7.            Financial Gain

8.            Aspiration

The experience needs to address more than one of these motivations. Of course, this begs the need to discover the motivations. Do not assume you know… Find out! What this tells us is that we “need to walk a mile in the moccasins” of others, but with modern complexities. The experience is not about you. It is about them, and “if for just one hour, you could find a way to see through his eyes” and not your own sets up a positive paradigm shift that can take place. One of my favorite quotes is from Neil Rackham the author of SPIN Selling, “People do not buy from salespeople because they understand their products, but because they felt the salesperson understood their problems.” If we come to know the client and their motivations (extrinsically and intrinsically) and if we employ a healthy dose of empathy touching on their motivations, we can then help create the bespoke experience to address them as individuals. The result? A more accomplished you and a more satisfied them. How? By providing the experience.