How to Sell to Their Natural Values

By Jim Cathcart

Whether you are leading a sales team or presenting a product, the same fundamental forces are at work. People are persuaded by what they care about…period.

You might argue that holding a gun to someone’s head would work to motivate every person, but that’s not true if they don’t want to stay alive more than they want to cooperate with your demands. It’s the motive, not the motivation, that causes the action. A desire to live equals a  willingness to cooperate to avoid being shot.

The same applies to incentives and rewards. If you offer a vacation in Tahiti to someone who fears air travel, then it might miss the mark. In fact, you could potentially achieve more motivational impact by offering something that has only 10 percent of the financial value of that vacation – if it aligned with their natural values.

A “value” in this sense is: the relative importance of…whatever it is, when compared to other things. The value of a meal versus a magazine subscription, for example. Values come in two types:

  1. Values that are learned and
  2. Values that are natural to you.

A learned value is what you acquire from your parents, schools, churches, and social culture. You learn to be patriotic, a good neighbor, respectful, clean and well groomed, etc. A natural value is something that is innately important to you. Beyond air, food, and water (the survival needs) we tend to be motivated by our natural values. Maslow popularized the needs hierarchy and that’s a useful model, but here we are talking about motivators (values) that transcend Maslow’s model.

There are seven natural values – and all of us care about all seven of them, but not in the same order. My number one might be your number seven and vice versa. Therein lies the secret to motivating you and me. The value is your motive; the motivation is a stimulus to activate it. There is no universal hierarchy of these values because they differ from person to person. Here are the seven:

  • The relative importance of your physical experience: sensuality value
  • The relative importance of feeling connected with others: empathy value
  • The relative importance of tangible wealth: wealth value
  • The relative importance of being in charge, gaining recognition and prestige: power value
  • The relative importance of beauty, balance, symmetry, and organization: aesthetic value
  • The relative importance of doing what is right and having a mission or cause: commitment value
  • The relative importance of learning, discovery, and knowing: knowledge value

For ease of memory, you can use the first letter of each value to form the acronym: SEW PACK. Think of the little sewing kits that are made for travel, and imagine there are seven different colors of thread: Sensuality, Empathy, Wealth, Power, Aesthetics, Commitment and Knowledge.

Motivating with values means learning to observe the values as each person expresses them through their choices, tastes, actions, and priorities – then connecting your incentives, rewards, and appeals to the individual’s priority values. You can see the patterns in people when you know to watch for these values.

If a person places high priority on the feel of clothing over the look or quality of it, they are showing the sensuality value. The person who is more excited about a backstage VIP meet-and-greet than the performance on stage is expressing the power value. One with a high empathy value will be more drawn to spending time with their friends than by a trophy in their honor. The commitment value shows when a person is moved by the cause or “the why” behind an action (for example, when they can see a higher purpose to their work). Profit is a motivator to the wealth value but so is high quality (e.g., an item with great resale or investment value). People who love to learn are expressing the knowledge value. A visually appealing and well-organized presentation will go a long way to impress one with high aesthetic value.

If you sell automobiles, for example, the prestige of the brand and performance will appeal most to the power value. Resale and residual to the wealth value. Comfort and drivability to the sensuality value. Economy and responsible energy use to the commitment value. Looks and system design to the aesthetic value. Understandable and impressive technology to the knowledge value. And the effect or appeal of the vehicle to passengers will be a priority to the empathy value.

This can even guide you in selecting gifts for special occasions or designing incentives for people:

  • Sensuality: a physical experience or something pleasant to the touch or taste.
  • Empathy: an interpersonal experience or something that has meaning to others they care about.
  • Wealth: a valuable item such as a gold coin, insider tips for growing wealth, or a luxury item that will endure.
  • Power: a special experience or privilege. Something others wouldn’t have or be able to do. A position or special recognition.
  • Aesthetics: an item of beauty or an experience that appeals to their visual and auditory sense.
  • Commitment: the ability to make a difference, or a way to show their contribution to something they care about.
  • Knowledge: a learning experience or private coaching, gaining access to a mentor or master.

Values are moving targets. It’s not like behavioral styles, where you can readily observe one pattern over another. This one takes more observation. Tune in to the ways people make decisions and invest their time and money. Notice what they react to strongly and what they are indifferent about. You’ll start seeing value choices everywhere. Once these patterns become clear to you then you will know more about how to motivate others – and even yourself.  

Jim Cathcart, CSP, CPAE is the original author of Relationship Selling and one of the world’s leading professional speakers. Jim is a regular contributor to Selling Power and a certified Mindset Trainer. Contact Jim at You can read more about the principles outlined in this blog post in his book, The Acorn Principle: Know Yourself, Grow Yourself.