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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

What Aristotle Can Teach You About Sales

Aristotle and Sales

If you’re in sales, there’s a good chance that you will soon close another deal.

But why? Why do clients buy what you have to sell, and then, why don’t they buy?

First, you need to follow a logical process; ours is the Sales Accelerator, but today we’re going to look to Ancient Greece and what Aristotle believed were four main causes of how things come to be. In this case, how your sales or lack of it came to be.

Aristotle, like us, wanted to understand what causes change in the world. If you convince someone to buy something from you, that’s change. Unless they were already buying from you, that’s a renewal.

Aristotle's Four Causes Relating To The Sales Process

1. Material Cause

This is the material thing you can touch, taste, or feel. In the sales process, the material cause is your company’s resources and capabilities.

If you’re in media, it’s the inventory, the ads that you sell. If you sell other B2B products, it’s that. The tangible thing that the client buys from you.

The material cause is important, but for decades we’ve warned our clients not to lead with your product. Read on and see how your product works with the next three causes.

2. Formal Cause

Think more “form” here. It’s how you package together your resources and capabilities.

The form of your plan that turns your different products’ potential into a solution. It sells the client the right thing at the right time. It sells them enough to make your solution work.

All of those same resources and capabilities (material causes) could become something else. Or they could become a waste of the client’s investment if you don’t get the form right.

3. Efficient Cause

You should like the efficient cause, because it’s YOU!

It’s the agent that makes the “something” come about. It’s your research to identify and select a prospect you can help. It’s your insights and valid business reason that help you get the appointment, and leads to a productive discover and advise phase.

You bring the empathy, expertise, and problem solving to the equation. You add the value to the material and formal causes.

4. Final Cause

Aristotle would say this is the end purpose or fulfillment. In sales, we refer to this as the client’s desired business results.

Ultimately, the sale is comprised of the first three causes, but the real reason a client signs the contract, and you close the deal, is because of expectations that the solution will address the final cause, the results the client wants.

Understanding what the client really wants to happen is key. And it’s often not what they say, at least at first. It takes a well-thought-out needs analysis process to be sure you are working on the right assignment.

Let’s review these quickly, so you can apply them to your own sales process:

  • Material Cause – Your company’s resources and capabilities. The tangible thing that the client buys.

  • Formal Cause – How you package together your resources and capabilities into a solution.

  • Efficient Cause – It’s YOU! The agent that adds the value to the material and the formal causes.

  • Final Cause – The client’s desired business result. Discovered in a well-thought-out needs analysis.

Still in the mood for some ancient wisdom on sales and sales management? Then check these out!


Topics: sales process