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Use these science-backed psychology principles to make more sales

Sales isn't just an art, it's a science. Study up on these principles to score more clients.

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6 min read

The art of persuasion is at the heart of every sales pitch. Before you close a deal, you first have to convince prospects that your service is right for them. Luckily, a wealth of psychology knowledge makes it easier than ever to practice persuasive selling.

In 1984, American psychologist and academic Dr. Robert B. Cialdini published a book called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. In it, he details the six core elements that have come to be known as the building blocks of persuasion. Nearly four decades later, these principles have withstood the test of time as they made their way into the internet marketing world.

Converting prospects is all about the art of persuasion after all. Whether you tell a compelling story or induce a state of FOMO (fear of missing out), persuasion techniques are central to these efforts. Here’s how you can use Cialdini’s science-backed principles of persuasion to score more clients..

Use Cialdini’s principles to increase perceived value

When one of our Wix Partners asked others in our Facebook Community page how much they would charge for a build with 3-5 landing pages and a questionnaire that displays customer responses, some Wix Partners quoted $400 while others said $2000. The difference in prices highlights an underlying truth: people don’t buy based on price or quality, they buy based on perceived value.

The good news is that “value” is subjective, and can be elevated using Ciadini’s principles of persuasion. Did you know that 72% of people would choose a humorous brand over a more serious competitor according to a new research report by Oracle?

Here’s how you can use Ciadini’s six principles of persuasion to raise your prices.

01. Be the first backscratcher

The Principle of Reciprocity states that people feel compelled to give back when receiving a favor of any sort. If the age-old adage “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” is anything to go by, then being the metaphorical first backscratcher is in your best interest. It’s best explained by a simple truth: no one likes to feel indebted to others.

Say you start churning out free content that offers your audience actionable insights to scale their business. En masse, this content may very well become the reason parts of your audience turn into clients.

Many business owners are initially nervous of this strategy, questioning whether they’ll have anything left to sell by giving their knowledge away in free or cheap videos, courses and articles. The reality is you should always have paid content too, and giving away your knowledge is quite possibly the most profitable marketing method in today’s world.

The same holds true for web design. Consider which CTAs you include above the fold (don’t ask for too much information before offering value first), and bake your free content right into your landing page. Educate your audience not only to enlighten them, but to demonstrate your expertise.

02. Talk the walk

In 1961, Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted a study designed to measure obedience to authority. Milgram tested participants’ willingness to administer a series of electric shocks across a room to other, unseen participants as instructed by a seeming authority figure. Though they had never met prior, the authority figure managed to persuade participants to perform actions in direct conflict with their personal conscience, delivering fatal levels of electric shock to unknowingly fake participants that would have otherwise killed a real person.

While we actively condone the use of manipulative tactics designed to trick users, the power of authority in persuasion is undeniable. The real kicker in Milgram’s experiment came not in the fact that he was able to get people to act against their own moral compass, but in realizing that wearing a lab coat was all it took to convince participants to follow these ‘authority figures.’

Authority is inherently persuasive because it demonstrates confidence and expertise; reassuring qualities for a prospective client.

In the modern agency context, you can demonstrate your authority with a dedicated thought leadership strategy and by featuring case studies and trend reports on your website and newsletter.

You should also include a leadership section on your website to showcase your unique backgrounds, skill sets and years of experience. Be sure to quantify achievements where possible.

03. Your social proof is in the pudding

Cialdini defines social proof as “people doing what they observe others doing.” In other words, social proof is a sort of safety in conformity.

In 1962 (and then again in 2011), the Bethany Lutheran College conducted a study on social conformity to determine how easily people can be swayed. They set up the experiment using a hidden camera stunt in which undercover actors all faced backwards in an elevator on its way down. As it stopped on descending floors, new passengers entered the elevator and were taken aback by the group of strangers facing the wrong way, and most decided to join the strangers in standing in reverse as the elevator made its way down.

Today, social media is a prime example of social proof in action: people with larger followings gain followers more quickly, as others are more readily convinced of their impact and importance. While we know follower count is a vanity metric (engagement and conversions are more relevant, after all), large audiences still tend to yield positive returns for agencies who cultivate and sustain them over time.

An effective strategy for gaining traction on social media fast is to collaborate with other experts in your field. Create guest posts to tap their audiences, and feature them as guests in your channels as well. Not only does this look better for you on the surface, it also improves your SEO by increasing the amount of backlinks that point to your website.

Adding testimonials to your website is a no-brainer that’s easy to implement. Lastly, ProveSource Social Proof is an app you can use to send push notifications to others on your website every time you get a sales, registration or visitor on your website. It’s been shown to increase trust, compel action and increase your conversions.

04. Strive for consistency

People have a deep need to be seen as consistent, according to Cialdini. It’s why we’re more likely to go through with things we’ve committed to publicly vs privately for instance, or why people prefer following social media accounts that post regularly.

In online marketing, you can implement this principle by designing exit-intent or welcome-back pop-ups, triggers on thank-you pages that point to additional services, and an option to save favorites in eCommerce for later. If you sell products like e-books or reports, or you’re designing a website for a client, you can create email activations that remind users of what was in their shopping carts.

You can also consider the principle of consistency as a snowball effect that starts with a small commitment and scales over time. Similar to upselling at 3 months, you can offer shorter retainers that the client can choose to elongate once the time is up, or trials to premium content subscriptions. The idea is that people begin to associate their efforts with your brand, and grow increasingly inclined to purchase more with you over time.

05. Be your most likable self

It stands to reason that the more you like someone, the more you’ll be persuaded by them. Therefore, to be more relatable, you have to be more agreeable.

This can be tricky if you’re growing your thought leadership; experts often have controversial viewpoints that sit well with some and steer others away. The key is to walk the tightrope between being agreeable to your audience without polarizing the camp that disagrees with your ideas. This means capturing your target audience’s voice in your brand messaging, and aligning your core values with theirs, without dismissing or slandering competing philosophies. Lead with a strong mission statement that resonates with your current clients to find others like them, and always ask for referrals where possible.

A well-designed ‘about us’ page also goes a long way in forming strong first impressions. Here are some examples you can take as inspiration.

06. Make supply just short of demand

When you believe something is in short supply, you want it more. Scarcity is a powerful way to increase revenue, and the language you use can create a real FOMO effect that compels clients to buy before they no longer can.

Use countdown timers on your websites to build excitement for an event, launch or promotion. You can even customize the timer to reset for each new visitor, and automatically repeat the countdown timer so you don’t have to reset it yourself. Paired with a limited-time offer, you’ll surely see an uptick in conversions.

A word of warning though, avoid fake scarcities. People will see right through bogus claims of limited supplies. Conversely, it’s been shown that 94% of customers are likely to show loyalty to a brand that offers complete transparency.

The most important person to persuade is yourself

More than anything, pricing higher requires you to fight imposter syndrome. Sales is not about selling; it’s about helping people solve a problem, and most people are willing to pay for services that truly help them. Once you’ve convinced yourself you can deliver, all that’s left to do is to persuade your prospective clients.


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