Understanding human behavior is at the heart of good salesmanship. The unending wave of books with titles like Blink, Drive, and Influence explore how humans make decisions, what motivates us, and the psychological underpinnings of business. Their popularity shows what an important foundation these topics are for selling.
Start by appealing to that emotion, whether through the selection of stories you share or the experience you create, and you’ll be well on your way to making the sale.
But how do you move beyond the theory of psychology, and into the realm of practical strategies and tactics that you can employ today to increase sales and urge your prospects to take action? Here are four strategies, backed up by hard-core psychology and time tested salesmanship, that can set you on the right path.
1. Appeal first to emotion, and then back it up with logic:
Most purchases begin with a desire to feel a specific emotion. We buy the red sports car to feel like a hotshot. We buy expensive, well-tailored clothes to feel young and attractive. Our real estate purchases in neighborhoods that we just barely afford make us feel affluent and connected to the right parts of society. As consumers we may not be fully cognizant of what feeling we’re seeking, but purchases are driven by a desire to connect with a feeling through the experience or association of your product. Can you define how your customer wants to feel in relationship to your product or service? Start by appealing to that emotion, whether through the selection of stories you share or the experience you create, and you’ll be well on your way to making more sales.
Once a buyer makes the emotional connection, we then move to the next stage: justifying the purchase with logic. In the case of the sports car, we start looking at factors like fuel efficiency, safety ratings, and reliability that we can discuss with our spouses as we explain what a good purchase this is. Our real estate purchases are justified by factors like good schools, properties that retain their value, and so forth. Immediately follow your emotional appeal with data, features, and benefits that can help your prospect intellectually justify that his emotional urge to buy is a smart one.
2. Provide contrast – value is relative:
Pricing strategy is a psychologically complex discipline, but one thing is true across the field. Our perception of value is relative. For example, we would be very excited to learn we won a free trip around the world on a coach class ticket. But what if we then learned that another winner gets the same trip, but with a first class ticket? Our perception of value plummets.
Nobody wants to be a laggard – but in truth what Rogers illustrates is that people follow the crowd.
A quick search online reveals numerous case studies that show experiments where a merchant selling an item, like shampoo, in a four pack for $20 immediately increases sales by X% when they sell a single bottle for $10. Paying $5 per piece in the $20 set looks like a fantastic bargain when it’s contrasted against a $10 item. Look for creative ways to demonstrate the value of your pricing model, while looking for hidden value cues that might inadvertently decrease the perceived value of what you’re offering.
3. Social proof – people follow the crowd:
In the book Diffusion of Innovations, Everett Rogers explores how successive groups of consumers adopt new products and technologies. Innovators lead the curve, comprising about 2.5% of the population, and are then followed by early adopters at 13.5%, early majority at 34%, late majority at 34%, and finally the laggards at 16%. Nobody wants to be a laggard – but in truth what Rogers illustrates is that people follow the crowd.
By using convincing social proof, you can help speed up the adoption process and move people more quickly up the chain. There are several ways to demonstrate social proof. Testimonials and case studies of customers, especially ones that are video or feature the client’s actual name and photograph, help build trust. You can leverage authority by getting trusted brands and thought leaders to endorse your efforts. Finally, displaying numbers associated with your business – whether that’s 1,000 happy customers or 100,000 people subscribed to your newsletter – also lends you credibility.
4. Use scarcity and exclusivity selectively:
Scarcity and exclusivity can increase the appeal of an item. Scarcity refers to a situation where limited numbers are available, while exclusivity means access to objects or experiences that are limited to a select few. This technique has been overused in a spammy way, where marketers with obviously unlimited copies of a given object arbitrarily close the door at a certain time. Savvy customers can quickly become frustrated and get turned off by this tactic.
But scarcity and exclusivity can be used to both increase the urgency and appeal of a product. Think in terms of additional bonuses, such as for the first X purchases, each customer gets a 30-minute consulting session with you. This obviously makes the most sense when you are talking about a high value item. But whatever you are selling, you can find an angle that makes sense. Creating a feeling of exclusivity can be as easy as instituting an application process; let’s say for example that you’re running a mastermind group or putting on an event. Instead of allowing anyone to register, invite interested people to submit an application. It’s up to you what filters you use, but those who make the cut will be delighted to be part of a “select” group. Again, the plausibility of this technique is all in the execution, but can work very well with specific types of products.
Whatever your sales goals, by implementing a few key techniques – understand the emotional appeal of your product; provide data to back up the logic of the purchase; carefully manage perceptions of value; share social proof; and selectively use scarcity and exclusivity – you’ll be well on your way to increasing sales and improving conversions. What’s one activity that you can do today to implement one of these tactics and improve your bottom line?
Geoff Winthrop is the executive vice president of Acquirent, a Chicago sales outsourcing company