Skip to content

Sean D'Souza on Why Customers Buy (and Why They Don't)

Liston Witherill
Liston Witherill
3 min read

About This Talk

This talk is by Sean D’Souza and was recorded on October 21, 2020. You can learn more about Sean by:


00:00 Intro
02:42 Why People Buy and Don’t Buy
05:57 Finding the Problem
08:44 Offering a Solution
16:17 Staying Focused on a Target Profile
29:54 The Importance of Triggers
36:04 The Kiss of (Marketing) Death
38:45 Language Comes First

Sean D’Souza’s Model For Why People Buy

How and why do people buy? Sean D’Souza says it depends on 7 things, which you need to deliver in your sales and marketing:

  • Problem: the pain or issue your client is experiencing that needs fixing
  • Solution: the answer to the problem that your client has
  • Target Profile: focus on a client type so you can understand
  • Objections: understand and address obstacles clients have to buy from you
  • Testimonials: social proof that other people have experienced and gotten value from your solution
  • Risk Reversal: taking on the risk that buyers typically shoulder
  • Uniqueness: what’s unique and different about you versus other options in the marketplace

Finding The Problem

When we’re driving down the street and suddenly see red and blue flashing lights, it overtakes our attention – everything becomes about the problem at hand. Where are lights coming from? Do I need to be alert?

This simple example illustrates that our brains always focus on the problem when one exists. We’re drawn to it, and it’s a survival instinct. It also happens to be how people buy. They’re looking for an answer to their problems, and if you can provide, they’ll pay attention to what you have to say.

But isn’t it negative to focus on the problem? No, we’re not trying to scare anyone, we’re trying to inform the customer of their situation and how they can improve it. The problem can be a clue for how certain things can be improved upon. More than anything, problems are an alert system about what we need to pay attention to.

Offering a Solution

Once you’ve established that there’s a problem, you can keep your customer’s attention with the solution that’ll solve their problem. The solution should be an answer to a client’s problem, but not necessarily the only answer to their problem.

As you think about implementing this model in your marketing and sales approach, try flipping back and forth between the problem and solution to keep your client’s attention. Here’s an illustration of how Sean might do this on his website or in marketing materials:

Staying Focused on a Target Profile

Imagine a huge jar of jelly beans. It has twenty or more colors of jelly beans, but you only want to eat one single flavor. That’s the idea behind having a target profile. Your customer is that one type of jelly bean out of twenty – or two hundred.

A lot of people will tell you to focus create a buyer persona, which is just a fictional profile of your ideal customer who could buy from, but doesn’t actually exist. Sean recommends you take the opposite approach. Instead of marketing to a fictional person, market to a real person you can take out to lunch and ask about their problems.

You can’t speak to an audience because it has a thousand people with five thousand opinions. The same is true with a persona: you can’t talk to a persona because it doesn’t actually exist!

Here’s what to do instead: isolate one person and find out what they need. It’s unlikely that the niche you choose will be too small, but in the digital age, you can use as many versions of your product pages as you want. But you don’t have to do that.

Just start with a real person, find their problems, and offer a solution.

The Importance of Triggers

When you describe your solution, you should formulate it to trigger one of two responses:

How do you do that? What do you mean by that?

When you hear either of those questions, you’ve triggered curiosity, and that’s a good thing. Rather than simply saying what you do, create intrigue with a trigger that gets your clients to ask how you do something, or what you mean. Here are two examples Sean gave in his talk:

  1. Wrinkle-free home lawns: anyone can do landscaping and lawn care, but do you know anyone who provides wrinkle-free home lawns?
  2. Taking the fat out of computers: would you hire someone who could provide computer maintenance, or would you prefer someone who takes the fat out of your computer?

The Trigger and The Kiss of Death

You know your trigger needs work if you get a response like “that’s interesting” or “uh huh” or “how nice.” Keep working on your message if you frequently hear those responses!