Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Self-actualised Selling -Maslow and Selling 70 years down the road.

Behavioural Psychologists, Neuroscientists, Humanists, Evolutionary Psychologists and the current UK Government loved ‘happiness movement’ support or challenge ( and some even reject)  Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

 It has come under attack for the lack of empirical research it was based upon.  

Perhaps one can challenge the sequence of his hierarchy,  his postulation of  2% of folk ( which naturally Maslow included himself) achieving self-actualisation as questionable .

 Individual behaviour also seems to respond to several needs - not just one.

For those in the research field there is also a problem if not some considerable debate in determining when a level has actually been "satisfied“

 The model ignores the often-observed behaviour of individuals who tolerate low-pay for the promise of future benefits for instance interns.

Maybe Maslow's contribution to selling today is more from a philosophical perspective yet there has also always been an attractive intuitiveness from his approach based on classic story telling of the journey of human experience and stories of business success.

Salespeople can recognise his levels and their sequence from classic fiction such Daniel Defoe’s The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe  ( 1719) . Amongst other things Defoe was a salesman or as historians are wont to describe “a general merchant, dealing at different times in hosiery, general woolen goods and wine “.  This book should be on every salesperson’s bookshelf or downloaded on their e book reader.

Should reading not be your thing, a copy of the classic  2000 movie directed by Robert Zemeckis , ‘Castaway’ starring the great Tom Hanks as Chuck Noland is essential viewing. William Broyles Junior the writer I guess must have been part inspired by Defoe's Crusoe.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow's theory of human motivation is 70 years old but it continues to have a strong influence on the world of business.

A recent BBC World service radio programme ( I player version available) asked of Maslow’s Theory What is it, and is it right?

The picture that painted a thousand words.

Once the somewhat complex theory had been illustrated into the simple visual of a pyramid / triangle this visual aid became commonly reproduced symbol which many believe holds the key to personal fulfilment and business success.

On sales training courses as management courses that triangle is as inevitable as ‘biscuits and role-playing.’

In 1943, the US psychologist Abraham Maslow published a paper called A Theory of Human Motivation, in which he proposed that people had five sets of needs, which come in a particular order. As each level of needs is satisfied, the desire to fulfil the next set kicks in.

First, are the basic needs for bodily functioning - fulfilled by eating, drinking and going to the toilet. Maslow also included sexual needs in this group.

Then there is the desire to be safe, and secure in the knowledge that those basic needs will be fulfilled in the future too.
After that comes our need for love, friendship and company.

At this stage, Maslow wrote, “the individual may even forget that once, when he was hungry, he sneered at love".

The next stage is all about social recognition, status and respect.

And the final stage, represented in the graphic as the topmost tip of the triangle, Maslow labelled with the psychologists' term "self-actualisation".

It's about fulfilment - doing the thing that you were put on the planet to do.

"A musician must make music,
 an artist must paint,
 a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately happy," wrote Maslow.
 "What a man can be, he must be."

And so perhaps
"A SALESperson must sell "
(i.e. give the customer a damned good listening to )

Perhaps Maslow’s most useful contribution to selling is that he gets us to think about both the rational ad emotional motivations of our client.
To gain a fuller picture and more rounded picture of our client from the signals and observations e pick up from encounters in the work environment e.g. their office , their social environment e.g. corporate hospitality, networking events and for those few clients we meet in the domestic arena of their home.
Adaptations of Maslow ( Pragmatic rather than rigorously theoretical)
Related Links :
1st September 2013 BBC News Magazine
BBC World Service health check I player programme
Castaway movie

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