Selling to Boomers’ Motivational Values

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Brain researchers don’t believe most people make decisions through logical analysis using the left side of the brain and with fluid intelligence. They believe decisions primarily are made through our emotions — not emotionally, but rather using emotions to determine whether or not something is personally advantageous.

Boomers’ Emotional Drivers
What are the right emotions that put the hot buttons in the On position? While they will vary with each individual, according to research psychologists and cultural anthropologists, they are associated with five major categories of emotional drivers or Motivational Values:

  • Independence or autonomy.
  • Connections with family, friends, and society.
  • Personal or spiritual growth.
  • Renewal – rest, recreation and relaxation.
  • Altruism or giving back.

TIP: To find out which drivers have emotional power with an individual Boomer client, all you have to do is ask. If you get a client talking about what is important, he will tell you. Then, make sure your logical, linear sales presentation is clearly related to what he has said. His somatic markers will take over from there.

The five emotional drivers are universal across cultures but you wouldn’t expect a person raised in India, to necessarily express them in the same way an American would. Similarly, because they have had different life experiences in their formative years, the late teens and early 20s, Boomers may interpret and express the five motivational values differently than other generations. Boomers raised in foreign cultures may express the motivational values differently than Boomers raised in the U.S. Think about your Hispanic or Asian clients, as examples. The values are still there and fully functioning, just expressed differently.

Independence or Autonomy
For Boomers, it means freedom; having choices. They’ll say, “When I retire, I want to do the things I want to do and live the way I want to live.” By contrast, their parents will say, “When I’m older, I want to be able to make my own decisions. I don’t want to be dependent on the government or my children.” Boomers also interpret the need for independence as control. They need to feel empowered.

TIP: Whenever possible, offer Boomers alternatives. Give them enough information so they feel comfortable making the decision. Educated, affluent Boomers are information junkies. View yourself as their partner and mentor, not their instructor. They prefer this.

Connections With friends, Family and Society
More than any other generation, Boomers believe in causes. They created the environmental movement. They’re the generation that created organization after organization to fight diseases. Causes are a fundamental characteristic of the Boomer generation because they express the emotional connection with society we all crave.

TIP: Acknowledge their causes. At a minimum, express your belief that their cause is important. If possible, participate in a cause: join a group, contribute time and/or money. It will make your Boomer clients feel you’re like them, allowing you to meet new Boomer prospects. People want to work with people who are like themselves.

TIP: Connect your recommendation to the need for connections through a legacy. The legacy can be for their family or their favorite cause.

Personal and Spiritual Growth
We all have this need as we get older. Boomers have had it from the beginning. They have been described as being on a perpetual voyage to the interior. They have an overwhelming need for self-fulfillment. It’s part of the Boomer DNA. It’s a quest to find the meaning of life – their own.

Pay close attention to your client when they verbalize their need for self-fulfillment, because it’s what makes the Boomer generation so individualistic. They may say they really want to work with disabled children when they retire or buy a ranch in Wyoming or go back to school or … you name it. They aren’t just blowing smoke. It really is something they want to do.

TIP: Acknowledge their desire, as soon as possible after they express it. Connect your financial recommendation to the need when you get the chance. Use their words, not yours. Their words have emotional power. Your words are likely to be powerless.

Renewal – Rest, Recreation and Relaxation.

Boomers turned exercise into fitness. They turned vacations into exotic adventures. They are the “forever young” generation. They will turn traditional retirement rest and relaxation into a quest for renewal. Going back to college is one approach. Getting cosmetic surgery is another.

TIP: Retirement income must accommodate each individual version of renewal. Find out what that version is. Show them as specifically as possible how your recommendation will help achieve the renewal they want.

Altruism or giving back.

Boomers connect giving back to their causes. They are big contributors to charities. It’s another – but distinctive — way of connecting with society. You’re in a position to help them give back through your financial recommendations.

TIP: Almost everyone has this emotional driver. Find out if your client has an urge to give back to some particular organization or type of organization or if it’s just a generalized desire. Suggest how he might do so, even if only in a small way. For example, the client might make a charity a beneficiary of a small portion of his life insurance or annuity. That small portion might help you close the sale by making the product purchase much more emotionally powerful.  






Source: Michael P. Sullivan in The Excellent Investment Advisor, authored by Nick Murray

Michael P. Sullivan is a Sales Consultant/Trainer for 50-Plus Communications Consulting Charlotte. He can be reached at or viewed on LinkedIn. For a free copy of his “10 Tips for Selling to Boomers,” email him at

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