“To sell is human” is the title of a book by one of the most successful salesmen, Daniel Pink. Even if we’re unaware of it, we’re always selling something, be it a literal sale of something, or maybe we’re “selling” a performance, for example on a job interview, or in school. Maybe we’re selling someone else on an idea, like that your boss should give you a raise, because you’ve been such a good employee. Whatever it is that you might be selling, there are certain ways on how to improve it.
Some of these tricks may be more on the nose than others. Everyone knows about the fake discounts and “rock-bottom prices”, but we won’t talk about those. We’re here to teach you the more subtle and nuanced psychological principles of buying/selling, building trust and using what we know from psychology about customer behaviour to actually offer them what they need.
The psychological principles of selling can actually be summed up in the popular saying “don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.” Just put yourself in the customer’s shoes. No one wants another to impose on them what they don’t need, or to underestimate their intellectual abilities, or to pressure them.
On the contrary, everyone wants the other person to actively listen to them, to understand their needs and to genuinely want to help them. Psychology has also looked at this through the lens of numbers and studies and presents these 10 principles of buying and selling that really work in the world we live in. But these ones will take a bit more work than just yelling “We’re the best!” as loud as possible.
1. Be human
When you say the word “salesperson”, most people will probably imagine some intrusive man in a suit, ringing their doorbell and forcing them to buy some totally random thing that almost no-one would buy. That is, of course, an exaggeration, but it might not be *that* far off with some door-to-door salesmen.
What’s more, the numbers are clear: only 17% of salespeople consider themselves intrusive, while 50% of potential customers say the opposite. How do you avoid falling into this stereotype?
Be yourself. Be human.
This may sound weird, you are a human after all (right?). All it means that you should not put the business code and corporate speech hide the fact that you are, in fact, a human.
Here’s why: customers want to buy from someone who is open, honest and authentic.
- 86% of consumers cite authenticity as a key factor in deciding which brands they like and support.
- 56% of consumers remain loyal to brands that ‘get’ them.
- 89% of consumers are loyal to brands that share their values.
Authenticity and humanity make you more trustworthy. And being trustworthy and authentic is a useful sales tactic. Especially when you give your customers something they want. In short, if you jump at your customer with a prepared script full of overly complex words and business terms, they’re probably just going to close the door on you.
And if you are a mother that just started learning how to not only be a human, but also how to teach someone else being a human, you might be interested in this article about comparing employment to freelance work.
2. Tell a story
When you have a product that you are very proud of, it can be tempting to include every detail describing that amazing product. However, a list of features is far less compelling to most people than a story that hits your audience’s emotions and ties to the product.
It may seem preposterous to some of you, but people generally don’t want you to just sit there list all of the things your product can do. Because however exciting your facts may be, people will start loosing attention. But if you want to tell them these facts, why not tell a story involving them? It doesn’t even have to entirely based on truth, because if you’re compelling enough, people might just glance over some flaws.
When we hear a story, our brains work differently, all the neurons light up and connect the information together, making us remember more. We know from sales psychology and neuroscience that we are programmed to respond to stories in which we can imagine ourselves. When you make your customer the hero of your brand’s story, it helps them imagine using and benefiting from your product. Storytelling is an art that sells.
If you are someone who likes telling stories, you have the potential to become an excellent employee. Mostly because a talent like that really can’t be learned that well, because it’s dependent on your fantasy, which some people just don’t have. So if you DO have that talent, you should really cherish it as much as you can.
Writing a sales page is a great opportunity to start building that connection. One of the best ways to tap into your customers’ emotions is to tell a story – and make your customers the main character in the process.
3. Use proof from others
Humans are herd animals, after all, even if they’d prefer not to be. With many products, it’s hard to know in advance how we’ll benefit from them and whether they’ll actually meet all our expectations. In some cases, we have no choice but to believe that a product really works because its effect is hard to observe (for example, with toothpaste). And studies show that the best proof is the living proof.
This can be best seen in the “9 out of 10 dentists approve” type of advertisements that some brands (mostly toothpaste ones) use. If you tell someone that “the others” have already tried it and are satisfied, they will be much more inclined to at least try it, and that’s where you want them.
Feel free to include these testimonials on your website and in case of personal meetings, mention successful projects where your product has helped. But don’t forget to include someone your target audience can relate to – normal people usually have a hard time relating to people who are either living in a different country, or are living a much better life than them. If you only include testimonies from billionaires, your ordinary average Joe might find it difficult to put himself into their shoes.
4. Appeal to emotions
Emotions are a fundamental component of life, what drives us and what largely goes into the decision-making process. This is despite the fact that we think of ourselves as rational and logical creatures.
A study by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio found that emotions are a central part of virtually every human decision, including shopping decisions. Here’s an interesting fact: Did you know that customers who feel emotionally connected to a brand are 306% more likely to stay with the brand for life?
Customers usually buy products because they want to feel a certain way, they want to fulfill an idea, a vision, an ideal. Find out what the potential customer’s intrinsic motivation is and help them make it a reality.
Remember, emotions don’t always have to be positive. Even though we sometimes don’t want to admit it, the strongest emotions are usually the bad ones – anger, jealosy, even lust make for some of the most effective emotional targets out there (it’s surprising how many people can be angered by a spimle spelling error).
5. Appeal to the senses
Most salespeople focus on only one human sense according to the product they are selling. But we don’t have only one sense, do we? In fact, we have several, be it sight, smell, hearing, touch or taste, you should work on implementing as many of them as possible into your product. The result is that the client is better able to imagine the situation in which they will use the product. As the idea becomes more realistic for him, he is also more willing to buy.
If you are selling a course in typing with all ten fingers, tell the client what it will be like when they hear the regular clacking of the keys and feel their fingers running over the keyboard practically by themselves. He will only be able to look at the monitor or he will be able to converse with his customer while writing down what he is saying (4 senses, only taste is missing – i don’t know if it’s a good idea to tell someone to taste their screen, or worse, their client).
6. Offer a limited options and time
Believe it or not, less is more when it comes to sales. If you try to give your potential customer too many different options, it will only make it harder for them to decide what they actually want.
You also want to create a sense that what you have won’t be here for too long. This is also called “Fear of missing out” (shortened to FoMo), and it can be a really great way to hook your customers.
If your potential customers think that they are wasting their time with the decision-making process, they will most likely get frustrated and then walk away and not buy. This phenomenon is also known as “decision paralysis”. The best way to avoid this issue is to not let your customer decide – most people usually don’t make the best decisions when under pressure. Use that undecisiveness for your profit.
If your company sells a large assortment of products, offer your client only those that are relevant to them. And do so firmly and clearly so that the client has no doubt that this product or service is the right one. Instead of showing all products at once, divide them into categories to simplify the offer. Or ask the client exactly what they need and only present solutions that match their needs.
This can be excellently done with online shops, in which you can implement little time boxes, that ever so slowly tick down to zero. You might not even specify what they are for, even the simple though of “oh my god, i’m going to miss out on this deal” is enough to get people going.
7. Create reference points
We are all constantly comparing. This is an undeniable fact. We can’t determine the value of things without comparing them. Heureka.cz and other online comparison sites grew out of the need to compare prices. When we want to borrow money, we compare loans. Conversely, when we want to invest, we compare investment opportunities and platforms.
This strategy is probably most known from dish-washer ads, which constantly use the inferior “other store” variant. This, even though most likely false, works a treat to attract customers, because they are shown a comparison, and they will want the better one.
When a customer is looking to invest or shop, they compare products from different providers. This means that it is not necessarily about the intrinsic value of each product, but whether this product works better than the other. Be prepared to present your product in comparison to competing products.
This comparison also works between your own products. If you create multiple similar products for the customer to choose from, you help create a reference point that makes it easier for them to figure out what they really need.
This doesn’t even have to be used only in shopping. If you are developing some software, making a streaming service, even selling lemonade in a small wooden stand – it’s always good to list the things that you have that others don’t
8. Trial closing the deal
This technique is essentially an attempt to discern whether the client is ready to close the deal or to identify where the main problems are arising.
The goal is to have a dialogue where you get important information from the customer. Trial closing techniques are often questions that help the client get comfortable with the idea of buying, but at the same time do not force the client to close the deal.
If you force someone on a deal, it might trigger their fight or flight response, similar to the one we have when under immediate threat. And this response, whichever way it goes, will then result in your client walking out of the deal – either they’re going to “fight”, and become agitated, or they will “fly”, at which point they’ll try to get away from you/your product.
Asking clients questions is a key sign that you care not only about the sale, but also about the client’s satisfaction after the purchase. This is needed, especially when dealing with larger sums. At the same time, you are helping the client to take the stress and anxiety out of the purchase.
Here are some examples of questions to ask at the close of the trial period:
- “Does this product match your initial expectations?”
- “Do you agree that the product could help you or are you looking for something else?”
- “Do you understand all the details or can I explain something?”
9. Surprise your customers
Many psychological studies have shown that the human brain is constantly trying to guess what will happen, anticipating the words the other person will say, calculating what will happen next. And if something familiar changes, it triggers surprise and curiosity. And people remember the thing that surprised them a lot better.
If you use this technique in your advertisement or slogan, it will surely stick in the minds of your potential customers. Similarly, you can surprise your customers in a personal contact by showing genuine interest or using humor. Or perhaps by speaking honestly about the value you bring and what you’re working on.
You can surprise someone in many different ways, but unless they have some memory problems, people aren’t usually surprised by the same thing more than once. Remember that to be surprising, you have to be different.
But some surprises are different than the others, for example, here we have an article about surprising questions at a job interview.
10. Initiate reciprocity
Provide a nice setting or make a kind gesture. Show that you genuinely care about your customer and are sincerely concerned about their well-being. Psychology has long shown that people tend to reciprocate with the same coin. And just like in any other environment, people respond positively to positive behavior.
People will usually not be mean to someone who talks to them in a positive manner, whatever their real motive may be. If you behave yourself and have nice manners, the worst you’ll get is a polite decline. If you just stroll to someones house and insult them in every other sentence, you’re basically only asking for a beating.
A trick that almost everyone already knows about, yet still works, is to offer mints along with the bill. Customers then tend to leave larger tips. Only in this case, it’s a cheap trick. Try something more genuine, offer genuine concern and an effort to help, the customer will reciprocate with genuine trust and give you important information that will allow you to offer them what they need and be happy with.