Using psychology in sales

Many of us grossly underestimate the effort, skill and persistence it takes to sell something. The theory of “Build it and they will come” applies to a small percentage of products and is usually serendipitous.

A sale is an exchange of value. It is also a persuasion. You are influencing someone to make a decision to buy your product. Since it involves people and emotions, psychology is therefore involved. Understanding the psychology of compliance (someone is complying by buying your product) should provide a distinct advantage in your sales process.

Recently, I read this book “Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini” He is both a Distinguished Professor of Marketing and Regent’s Professor of Psychology in Arizona State University.

He lays down the “Weapons of Influence” as the following

1. Reciprocation
2. Commitment and Consistency
3. Social Proof
4. Liking
5. Authority
6. Scarcity

In reciprocation, there is a give and take. A small give is offered by the influencer as a strategy to take from the buyer. The author cites the now defunct practice of Hare Krishna devotees “giving away” flowers to strangers at public places to incentivize them to donate to their cause. The author states that the impressive aspect of the rule for reciprocation and the sense of obligation that goes with it is its pervasiveness in human culture.

In today’s digital and social world, influencers actively build a following by actively liking pages, tweets, and blogs of other people. In the physical world, a dinner, a golf outing etc. create opportunities for using reciprocation.

Another variation of reciprocation is reciprocal concessions. This is when the influencer steps back from an initial request that gets rejected to a backup request that has a higher chance of compliance. An example would be when your push for an Enterprise or Premium Edition of a product gets rejected and you come back to sell the Pro Version of the product. This needs to be structured well to be successful.

In Commitment and Consistency, the psychology being used is that Human beings want to stay true to their commitments. Psychologists see that consistency as a powerful principle, according to the author. So, if you are able get an early commitment from someone, it is a wonderful thing. The odds are that they are going to keep that commitment. In a public setting, it is even more powerful. When fund raising, CEOs should try to get commitments really quickly from individuals, however soft.

Social Proof is a powerful tool used by influencers to get people to comply. The laugh track in TV sitcoms is cited repeatedly as a tactic to get audience to comply. It seems highly effective. The principle applied here is that we determine what is correct by finding out what other people think is correct. Modern media has used this effectively by publicly displaying product reviews, likes, shares, comments and much more. There are some really astounding case studies of influence of one’s behavior based on observation of other people’s in similar settings.

It has been proven time and again that people tend to comply with requests from people they like. The Liking principle is used by Sales Professionals to enhance their likability factor with customers. Acting on referrals from friends is one classic example. Endorsements and recommendations from people that you like influence you to repeat their actions.

Authority or “directed deference” is a powerful tool used by advertisers. Companies spend a ton of money on celebrity endorsements, because it has been proven to work. We have all at various points of time complied easily with authority. As a sales professional, it would help a great deal if you can identify and get endorsements from specific authorities or entities.

As the final weapon, scarcity relies on the psychological principle that if something is thought to be scarce, it is deemed very valuable to possess. There is lots of case studies for this.

As a sales professional, it is very important to understand the psychology of your buyer. Some of these techniques can be abused, so one has got to use them ethically. It should be realized that the other person may be aware of the persuasion principles and is actively resisting you by saying no.

Overall, I found this book to be a very good read, chock full of case studies and real life examples. It can be a fast read as some of the many studies can be skipped.

Happy Selling!

Featured Image Credit: study.com

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