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How to Sell Almost Anything to Almost Anyone

Updated on March 1, 2008
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

"Selling" is not a four-letter word. Everything in life revolves around our ability to sell. Whether it's products, services, or ideas...we are all salespeople in one respect or another. Want your spouse to watch a movie you want to watch? Trying to get your kids to eat their vegetables? Like it or not, you're in a "selling"'re going to have to sell your spouse on the movie and your kids on eating vegetables.

Selling is just "decision making"...helping someone (or getting someone) to make a decision. So how can you sell almost anything to almost anyone? By using a simple step-by-step formula I "discovered" a long time ago for turning motion into motivation. I call it The IVAT Principle, and it has helped me make a lot of people very wealthy over the last twenty-years.


We all make hundreds, maybe thousands of decisions everyday. Most take less than a nano-second, but every decision has the same four basic elements. Those elements make up the IVAT Principle. The IVAT Principle is not some scientifically researched natural law like gravity; and I seriously doubt that it will be given the prominence of Einstein's Theory of Relativity...but it is real and it does work. It is simply the process everyone goes through when they make a decision. It is basic human nature.

You can use The IVAT Principle to determine how to sell your product, service, or idea...or you can use it to determine if your product, service, or idea will sell. You can also use it to find out why your product, service, or idea isn't selling, or what you need to do different to get your product, service, or idea to sell. Interested in knowing more? Then read on.

Turning Motion into Motivation

Motivation is probably the most misunderstood word in the dictionary. When sales are falling (or your kids won't eat their vegetables) out come the "spiffs". Most sales managers (and I suspect a few parents) will try to "motivate" with some sort of incentive...positive or negative. When you offer an incentive to get someone to do something you are not "motivating" them, you are "moving" them. What's the difference? Motivation is internal...movement is external.

You can get a dog to move from one place to another (or your kids to eat their vegetables) by offering an incentive to do what you want them to do. On the positive side you offer a dog biscuit (not to your kids...well maybe, I don't know your kids). On the negative side, you swat their backside with a newspaper. Unfortunately to get the dog to move have to offer another "biscuit" or another whack on the butt. That's movement, not motivation. Motivation is when someone does something to fulfill a psychological or physiological need...they do it because they want to do it, not because you want them to do it. Why does it matter? Because "movement" is a very expensive way (physically, mentally, or emotionally) to get people to do's always better to "motivate" them to do what you want them to do.

So how do you sell almost anything to almost anyone?

The IVAT Principle

I is for Interest

It doesn't matter what you're selling, the first and most important element is "Interest." If the prospect is not "interested" in your product, service, or idea, the rest of the steps are academic. It's why most businesses (and I'm reasonably sure a lot of parents) fail. "Interest" is simply another word for "problem" and "sales" is simply another word for "problem-solving." If your product, service, or idea doesn't solve a problem or the prospect perceives there is no problem to solve, you will find very little "interest" in your product, service, or idea. If your kids won't eat their vegetables it's not their problem, it's yours.

I'm sure you've heard the old saw that the best way to succeed in business is to "Find a need and fill it." After forty-years in sales, other than the basic human needs of food, clothing, and shelter, people don't buy what they need (how many televisions do you really "need" anyway?)...they buy what they want. A better corollary would be, "Find a problem and solve it." Problem-solvers are the highest paid individuals on the planet...a Doctor solves medical problems; a Lawyer solves legal problems. A successful car salesperson doesn't sell cars; he/she solves transportation (or perhaps ego) problems...likewise for any profession. What problem does your product, service or idea solve? If it doesn't solve a problem or if the prospect perceives there is no problem to solve...they won't buy; and there's no need to move to step two.

V is for Value

"Value is not what you ‘pay' for's what you get for what you pay." Once you have an "interested" prospect (mildly or wildly) the next step is value. Knowingly or unknowingly everyone places a "value" on everything...even if that value is nothing (nothing is still something). Value has little to do with price. People do not buy a product, service, or idea based on price. They buy because the product, service, or idea, provides the best "value" in solving their problem. It could be the "cheaper" alternative, but only if they perceive the product will solve the problem. If it was just about price...everyone would be driving a Yugo. Why do people buy generic drugs? They perceive them to be the same quality for less money. Why do people buy brand name drugs? They perceive them to be higher quality and worth the extra money...or they think anyone who buys generic drugs is either poor or cheap; and they don't want to be perceived as poor or cheap. Which one is right? They both are...because perception is reality. Why do people buy Rolex instead of Timex; or Timex instead of Rolex? If the prospect perceives that your product, service, or idea represents a good value for solving their problem (whether it's psychological or physiological), you can move to step three.

A is for Affordability

It doesn't matter how interested or how much value you build into your product, service, or idea...if the prospect can't "afford" it, they can't buy it. Think of it this way...if everyone had to pay cash for a home or car, most people would be walking the streets homeless. The only reason most people have cars and houses today, is because lenders make them "affordable." Is your product, service, or idea affordable? If not, you need to examine your options. If you have an "interested" prospect who perceives a value in your product, service, or idea; and they can afford it, you can move on the final step.

T is for Trust

This is where most salespeople (and parents) lose the "sale." If the prospect doesn't "trust" you or your product or trust that you or your product will solve their can forget it. How do you establish trust? First and foremost, you have to be honest and upfront with the prospect. The quickest way to lose a sale is to "lie" to the prospect. Once you've been caught in a lie it is nearly impossible to recover (ever promise something to your kids and then not follow through, or worse yet, break that promise?). It's why companies are quick to react to attacks on their credibility. Remember the Tylenol scare a few years back? It took a long time and a lot of money for people to trust and start buying Tylenol again (I'm sure there are a lot of older people who still won't buy it). How about Mad Cow Disease? Aren't you just a little queasy when you buy meat today? How do feel about toys from China? And what about salespeople...any you trust them? Nothing will hurt sales more than a breach of trust...real or imagined.

Applying the IVAT Principle

Obviously there is a lot more than this post will allow (the book is over 10,000 words and I'm still not finished). Look at your product, service, or idea. Are people interested in your product, service, or idea? Does it solve their problem? Does it have a perceived value to the prospect? Can they afford it? Do they trust that you and/or your product will solve their problem? If you answer "yes" to these questions (be honest) then you should have a very successful product, service, or idea. If the answer is "no," then The IVAT Principle will help you determine the problem with your product, service or idea, so you can correct it.

You can sell almost anything to almost anyone...if you understand what "motivates" the person to buy what you're selling. You couldn't pay me enough money to work in Dallas; the stress of driving in that traffic twice a day just isn't worth it to me. However, provide me with a chauffeured limo to and from work and you've got my attention. Before you can solve a problem, you first have to identify the problem that needs to be solved. How do you do that? Just ask. Most people will tell you how to sell them if you will ask enough questions and listen to the answers. So how do you get kids to eat vegetables? Try asking them why they're not eating them.

Ray Evans


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    • b2b-sales-europe profile image

      b2b-sales-europe 5 years ago from Berlin, Germany

      Its a long shot to implement Maslow, but your IVAT is surely most reliable in doing sales the right way! Think about the customer, get into his world, take him on a journey showing how great it will be after the purchase is serving his needs.

    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 6 years ago from Oz

      I've just started in sales and found this short hub excellent. thanks

    • profile image

      beautiful 6 years ago

      Manna you said it well. becouse of fear I did miss opportunity to date so many prof. , teachers and managers. They have rule that to spy each other. I thought they were people too. free to date.

    • Manna in the wild profile image

      Manna in the wild 7 years ago from Australia

      Here is something to ponder. Trust is not real. Betrayal is very real, and fear is a motivator and driver. If you know what your prospect fears, then you know what motivates him/her. "Fear of getting wrinkles, Fear of losing credibility, Fear of looking bad to the neighbors, Fear of upsetting some unseen force..." We are guided through life by not only our own cautious steps, but also by our ability to infer the cautious steps of others. You only 'trust' a bank to hold your money because you think you know what they fear, and that would be "loss of reputation and therefore business". You 'trust' a Nun because of your knowledge of their fears : fear of their deity and/or fear of being seen 'not' helping someone out as per their own advertising, and so on.

    • Ray Evans profile image

      Ray Evans 7 years ago from Arlington, TX

      That's a great idea Liam, thanks


    • LiamAnderson profile image

      LiamAnderson 7 years ago


      I've just read your hub. I used to be a Trainer in a call centre making outbound sales. This is pretty good and it address most, if not all the issues which prevent a sale from happening.

      One thing which I would do if I were training people in sales now would be to briefly present the IVAT model and then get the trainees to classify all the various customer objections according to IVAT's component parts, IE, Is it a trust issue? Is the customer actually interested? Does the customer think s/he can afford it? Does the customer understand the product's value?

      This would go a very long way to helping sales people understand why the customer was objecting and how to handle the objection.

    • Ray Evans profile image

      Ray Evans 7 years ago from Arlington, TX

      Thanks Melvin, glad you liked it. I just finished my newest book "7 Things You Can Do Right Now To Double Your Sales." As soon as my proof-readers finish I'll post a synapsis of the book.


    • profile image

      Melvin Campbell 7 years ago

      Absolutely brilliant hub. The IVAT principle makes sense. Often the process of sales can seem complicated and overwhelming. Your approach is simple and makes a lot of sense.

    • JohniRedd profile image

      JohniRedd 8 years ago

      Ray this was a useful article full of tips that one can actually use! Great job!

    • Ray Evans profile image

      Ray Evans 8 years ago from Arlington, TX

      Thanks for your comment. It may be old, but truth endures time. Trust is the hardest thing for most people...remember Diogenes? Unfortunately, once trust is broken (whether it's business or personal) it is almost impossible to regain.

    • AEvans profile image

      Julianna 8 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

      You are definitely correct as trust is a hard thing for me, especially when purchasing large items. I agree selling is a process and an art, as some can sell a bedbug and others cannot. I realize this article is old, but thanks for keeping it up.:)

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 9 years ago from Northern California

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 9 years ago from Northern California

      I hadn't thought of incorporating Maslow's Hierarchy into trying to sell someone something :)

    • Wanderlust profile image

      Wanderlust 9 years ago from New York City

      I absolutely agree with you - "A sale is a process". Being in sales for many years, I can say for sure - it is a process of building relationship with your client, and "Trust" is the most important part. An ability to communicate with people and understand their needs is the most important quality for a salesperson and that what makes "sale" a success. Then of course, a product itself, its quality and value are important.

    • Ray Evans profile image

      Ray Evans 9 years ago from Arlington, TX


      Glad it helped. I've been in sales most of my life and one thing stands above all..."A 'sale' is not an event, it's a process." The better you are at understanding the process, the more sales you will make.

    • Andy Xie profile image

      Andy Xie 9 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      I'm a salesman, and this article gave some great tips. Thanks!