The Psychology of Selling: 10 Brain Tricks to Improve Your Sales
The trick to making more sales is knowing that there are several tricks. There is no sure-fire way (without going Mad Queen) to force people to purchase your products. You can launch a sale, redesign your online store, or advertise the heck out of your business, but that can only go so far. Most of the time, success of a particular store or brand is the result of an accumulation of efforts - and not just one factor.
One thing you can do is realize that we’re all human and tend to respond to certain things in a similar way from a psychological perspective. You can use this to your advantage if you know how. By tapping into the inner workings of the brain, you can learn small tips that make your products irresistible to your customers.
Below, we’ll show you 10 of these ‘brain tricks’ to convince potential clients and improve your sales numbers.
01. Make it about them
Sales strategist and best-selling author, Marc Wayshack says that prospects ask themselves the following two questions when interacting with a salesperson:
Is this conversation going to be worth my time?
Is this salesperson’s solution going to help me solve a problem that I care about?
As a business owner, you know a lot about your products and/or services. That’s a given. Still, that doesn’t mean your potential customers want to know everything you know about it. Actually, making the sale is about making it all about them. Close it by showing how your service can make their life easier and sprinkle your expertise throughout without marketing jargon.
At the end of the day, people are egocentric and want to know what they are getting out of a deal. If that’s not explicitly explained, or worse, goes unanswered, you’ve lost them. Reversely, if you spend more time focusing on enriching the lives of your customer, it will sound less like a pitch and more like a conversation, which they will appreciate.
02. Scarcity sells
There’s nothing like going to Amazon to digital window shop, only to find something you really want. After failing to justify to yourself you actually need it in your life, you decide to click away. Then you see it. There are only three left in stock. Your desire to have the product skyrockets, even though the necessity of owning it doesn’t. Ridiculous “what ifs” flood your mind as you convince yourself that buying this thing right here and now is the smartest, most practical thing to do.
Scarcity got you. This tactic is very much by design and is often used by many online stores. Showing the number of items in stock, especially when it hits a low record, creates a sense of urgency and action.
Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, makes scarcity one of the seven primary principles of persuasion, saying that people can even feel powerless to resist what is less available:
“It is easy enough to feel properly warned against scarcity pressures; but it is substantially more difficult to act on that warning. Part of the problem is that our typical reaction to scarcity hinders our ability to think. When we watch something we want become less available, a physical agitation sets in.”
When a large online retailer like Amazon says, “selling fast” or “few in stock,” one could assume that a “few” could well be 75 items. Now, when it explicitly says there are only 2 left of an item in stock, increased anxiety about possibly not getting it in time can occur. Instant questions about when the stock will be replenished will come to mind, and if it’s a popular item, how quickly will those sell, making the option to buy now justified. Scarcity can induce action, as it triggers the FOMO, or "Fear Of Missing Out" feelings (more on that below), though the tactic to achieve it is different.
Scarcity isn’t just about limited quantity, but limited time as well. Limited-time or seasonal items are the epitome of scarcity. The pumpkin spice latte with Starbucks, a fall-favorite, only lasts a few short months. Those who love it know that if they want to enjoy it, they have to have it while they can.
03. Get emotional
If you really want to strike a chord with your customers, play to their emotions. Whether you’re aiming for happy tears, hysterical laughs or heartwarming moments, this is a tactic that will go a very long way. A study by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio says that emotions are a central part of virtually every decision humans make, including shopping behavior, and it’s something marketers have known and used for some time.
When it comes down to advertising, there’s only one thing that matters: Being remembered. There are so many ads being thrown into the faces of people today — so much so that they’ve essentially built a mental shell around their brains to ignore them. This prevents a whole other challenge for the marketer, but grabbing them with emotion can soften that exoskeleton around the brain and can let customers in with less resistance.
We humans are motivated by emotions, and an effective ad playing to them can make an audience feel like they belong, that they’re unique, and they’re smarter than the rest. This type of motivation to customers only bodes well for your brand. Positive emotions promote connection.
Ads aren’t all sunshine and rainbows. No, many ads are there to shock the user, which demands their attention. These often memorable ads can sometimes be indelible, for better or for worse. Be careful when homing in on negative emotions, as they can easily backfire.
Case study: In (Google) search for love
Big companies know how to pull on heartstrings. Just take a look at this ad from Google.
The ad is simple enough for anyone to understand, and is told through Google’s product itself, namely: its search engine. An exchange student falls for a girl in Paris. The queries he types in his browser follow translations of, “you’re very cute”, which eventually leads to searches for additional flights, jobs, and churches to or in Paris. The last query ends on a heart-warming note: “how to assemble a crib”.
The video works so well since Google’s search engine is for most users just a means of information and little else. Still, it’s in the background, and you’re left following the story of two people falling in love, getting married, and having a child. Given the audience for Google is basically everyone, the story and emotional tone are on the fairly general side, but it hits the right notes pretty much across the board.
04. Show, don’t tell
Your product or service is an answer to a customer problem. Instead of telling them how amazing you are, show them. Whether it’s through a live demo, YouTube videos or some other format, demonstrating how you can solve their burning issues will resonate. Psychologically, it allows the viewer to visualize themselves using the product in their daily (or as needed) lives, and that speaks volumes more than an ad that tells them that your product fills a void.
A customer actually seeing your product in action will resonate more than it being in a box with a label saying, “it works!” Remember, actions speak louder than words.
Try it yourself
If seeing is believing, then experiencing is transcendent. To further appeal to a customer, and you have the opportunity to do so, let them experience it for themselves. If you're offering a physical product, let them touch it and use their senses. The term “try before you buy” is convenient for both the buyer and the seller, as the customer gets to build a real, working relationship with a product without obligation to buy will create a sense of ownership. Taking a try-before-you-buy approach or offering a free trial is a great way to draw hesitant customers into the marketing funnel and convince them to purchase.
05. Reaffirm your product with social proof
If someone doesn’t know how to respond in a certain situation, they tend to see how others cope with it. The same goes for buying decisions: When a customer is in the market for a particular item, but is unaware of what to choose, they will look to others to help make the decision for them. This marketing strategy is known as "social proof," a term coined by professor of marketing and psychology, Robert Cialdini.
To put this into practice and to sway customers, back your product and your brand up with testimonials from other satisfied buyers. Your potential clients will more than likely be doing research on similar products, and reviews are a great way to find out how it is to really use something. Take the grunt work out of the equation and show them the social proof they are looking for by adding testimonials to your website.
This type of social proof will help affirm in the minds of the prospective buyer that they have the right idea and they’re buying a product that has the approval of many others, so it’s a safe bet. Need another way to prove this? Amazon’s Best Sellers section allows you to see what others think of as the top products made available. While this is a great way to see reviews and get insight for product research, people tend to like what others like. Adding a best sellers page or collection to your online store can add the social “umph” a customer needs to pull the trigger.
06. Make FOMO happen
People love deals and people love their money. Fact. To spur instant action, many businesses hold flash sales that will only be available for a couple days to a few hours. This triggers a response from existing and potential customers — that if there was a time to buy, it must be now.
So, what does emotion have to do with this? Well, fear is an emotion, and a pretty strong one. Marketers have been channeling fear to create a sense of urgency in the purchasing process — something close to what psychologists called FOMO, for “Fear Of Missing Out”, which largely developed over the last decade, with our addiction to social media and our fear to miss the hottest news.
How to apply it to your own business? Create a sense of fear that they’ll miss out on this sale if they don’t act now — that they can’t afford to miss this sale.
Always give a deadline when you’re offering a sale.
Have limited-time or seasonal offerings, such as during holiday marketing campaigns.
Offer a “First # of customers receive a free gift” incentive.
Show social proof with customer and expert reviews to confirm they’re missing out.
07. Make enemies
In his book Brainfluence, Roger Dooley details that sometimes aligning your brand against another one can have a positive effect. Look at Apple’s Mac vs. PC ads with Justin Long and John Hodgman that were so popular in the early 2000s. Ultimately, the commercials are about the rivalry between the two operating systems, but they focused on the customers and the types of people who used them. Apple was cool, hip, and relaxed Justin Long, where Windows, represented by John Hodgeman, was a dorky, uptight, businessman. The ads attempt to define the people who use each operating system, with Apple’s in a much better light, obviously.
When it comes to the two leading computer operating systems in the world, it’s easy to find your adversary, but if you’re in a market with a ton of competition, it could be a bit harder.
You’ll need to “know thy enemy” well and find out what makes you different. Find a big enough difference to drive your wedge and capitalize on. It’s not really about having a challenger but having an audience that agrees with your rivalry. Just like Apple did, your audience can connect with other like-minded individuals through your brand, building a true community. Those scorned (in their eyes) by your enemy may also flock to your brand just by aligning yours against it, echoing the second Art of War sentiment in this section: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Defining an enemy tells your audience who you’re not, which will help them see if they align with what you’re about. People have an urge to belong and pick sides if given the opportunity and an enemy can help do just that.
08. Flip the familiar
On an episode of the 60-Second Science podcast, Steve Mirsky details how the brain tries to anticipate words before they’re fully spoken out loud. This is a prime example of our brains always being at work. Even as you read this blog or listen to someone speak, your cerebrum is attempting to predict the word that will be spoken or typed next. So, when something familiar is changed slightly, people can be surprised and it will be more easily remembered.
Dime a baker’s dozen.
Beating around the shrubbery.
Cry over spilled cranberry juice.
This is a technique that can be used in your advertising or slogan so you can plant your seed in the minds of your customers. Show them your brand is different by flipping the script on the familiar.
09. Bold your fine print
Nothing is going to annoy people more than having red tape and fine print on a deal you’re offering. If you want to build a loyal customer base, be honest with them. If restrictions apply, make sure they’re easily known or available without grunt work on the client’s end. The key to acquiring returning customer is to build trust with them. It can take time, but it’s ultimately worth the investment you make. Being as transparent as possible in all aspects of your business is going to be a direct path to there.
For example, if you have specific terms that must be adhered to in order to qualify for something, be sure to make it known, up front. Let’s say you’re advertising a “Buy one, get one” sale on anything that’s $50 or more. If you don’t hammer in the price range that the sale qualifies for, or worse, don’t advertise the restriction at all, it won’t inspire loyalty to your brand. If you’re not good to your customers, why would they think to be good to you?
10. Stop being over-eager
Marc Wayshack suggests that when speaking to your customers, leave out the fluff and enthusiasm. If you’re advertising your business in a way that might as well be accosting your potential buyers, you’re doing it wrong. Very wrong. If all that comes across from you to your customer is that you’re loud and excited, they probably won’t even get the message and won’t consider purchasing anything you have to offer.
Strip away all this “extraness” and stop drinking your own kool-aid. It’s not cute. Instead, be self-aware and straightforward. Doing this gets rid of a layer between you and your customer.
While there’s nothing wrong with being proud of your business, too much enthusiasm can come off as inauthentic. Couple this with the fact that us humans are naturally resistant to anything they perceive as forceful change - something known in psychology as reactance, “an unpleasant motivational arousal that emerges when people experience a threat to or loss of their free behaviors.” As a marketer or business owner, you need to help them overcome this feeling. Calming your approach and turning to a smooth message is a way to make this change more acceptable.
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By Blake Stimac
Wix Blog Writer