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6 ways science can help you sell more


written by Natalie Davies

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Is there really a science behind every move we make as consumers when we’re making a purchase? Have salespeople got their tactics so perfected that they can manipulate their customers into signing on the dotted line?

That’s what a recent article from the BBC states anyway. That the simplest facets within our cognitive makeup as consumers can be bent, melded and twisted into making purchase decisions with a few simple tips and tricks.

Some salespeople may brush these off and say that a good salesperson is a good salesperson, with no need for mind games. But it does make you wonder if selling can really be made easier with a basic understanding of human psychology. Read on and we’ll give you our take on these subtle tricks that might make you think twice the next time you’re selling or being sold to.

1. Make false comparisons

This was the first point the BBC made, that establishing a base rate of comparison was the key to making sales. They use the example of an expensive and a cheaper coffee machine sat side by side in a store. Were the salesperson to tell the buyer that the cheaper option was just as good as the pricier model, the potential customer would supposedly be more likely to thing that they were getting a good deal.

I can see where this point is coming from, but I’m sure the majority of us do at least some research before we purchase a high-ticket item. And what’s to say that both coffee machines aren’t overpriced in the first place so the salesperson has a bit of wiggle room with prices?

I don’t agree that shoppers aren’t aware of the intrinsic value of products. The real value of any product comes after we’ve taken it home and got it out of the box. If you’ll use the coffee machine every day instead of nipping to Starbucks on your way to work, then you’ll get far more value out of it than someone who will leave it on their kitchen side to gather dust. Value just isn’t that black and white.

Top tip: We can take something from this idea though. Simply take the time to understand how your prospective buyer will use your product and position your pitch around that, demonstrating how your product will add value to their current situation.

2. Emphasize social similarities

Now this point makes more sense. Here, the article emphasizes that we’re “more likely to buy from people who we trust and like.” It’s quite fascinating to read that we’re apparently nearly twice as likely to part with our cash if someone shares the same name or even birthday as us!

Of course, it’s an icebreaker; it eases some tension when you engage in discussions with your buyer. This icebreaker can often be the difference between closing and losing a deal, your prospect should feel at ease with you. Not only will this allow them to feel comfortable when asking questions or even for a discount, but it should help you to better understand your buyer and what makes them tick.

Top tip: If you share a similar social profile to your buyer, use this to your advantage. Talk about last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, or your favorite hobbies to break the ice and become a trusted advisor rather than a salesperson. Or if you were once struggling with the same problems they are, talk about the concerns you used to have and how your offering relieved them.

3. Create an illusion of demand

Another one that makes perfect sense, it’s why we all rush out for the Boxing Day/Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales and convince ourselves we’ll miss out if we don’t buy right now. As the BBC article goes onto explain, simply changing a call to action on an advert from “Operators are waiting, call now!” to “If operators are busy, please call again” led to a marked increase in call volume.

Us marketing lot have cottoned onto most consumers’ need for instant gratification. If we think we’ll miss out, often we’ll buy or act there and then. “50% off – ends today”, “last day to get X free with your purchase” or even “one time offer” can be enough for us as consumers to part with our money.

Top tip: Get your marketing team on the case to create a targeted offer for your customers. Whether you offer them a freebie, special discount or BOGOF deal, put a time limit on it. Incentivize your customers to act fast.

4. Spread benefits, bundle costs

This one quite surprised me. I would have thought that bundling benefits and spreading the cost would be more buyer-friendly. However it appears that spreading the “gains” over a period of time is best, and that as consumers we “prefer to experience our losses all at once,” according to the BBC article.

It does make sense, think about when you’re buying a new car and the salesperson offers you mats for an extra £100/$150; you’re already spending thousands, so what difference will a bit more money make?

Top tip: If you’re already on course to make a sale with your buyer, can you bundle anything else into the deal to make it a bit more valuable? Think about added extras, complementary products, free training and be sure to explain the end benefit to your buyer, don’t force it on them.

5. Induce a feeling of obligation

This one is quite an interesting one. The fact that if we, as consumers, receive a favour from someone, that we feel obliged to reciprocate. We’re, for the most part, polite individuals and if someone goes out of their way to help us, we feel a need to give something back. Research has shown that there is a social phenomenon called the “norm of reciprocity” that encourages this obligation to return a favour.

I can vouch for this. Big time. I’m a sucker for salespeople offering a freebie with a routine purchase or “let me see what we can do on that price for you”…I feel like they’ve made an exception for me as a loyal customer. A clear example is the last time I trotted up to a department store beauty counter. I’m there to buy one thing, but the salesperson’s offer of a free makeover or a new product sample is enough for me to open my purse and empty the contents. 9 times out of 10, if they give me something for free, I’ll buy something else – my “Can I also get X?” has cost me dearly many, many times.

Unbeknown to me, they probably do that for every customer. It’s one of those things though, if someone puts themselves out, we feel a need to give something back, usually in the form of money. In a sales environment, someone going out of his or her way to get a better price, to put together a better deal or even throw in a freebie or two is often encouragement enough to sign on the dotted line.

Top tip: Don’t be afraid to go the extra mile for your buyers. If you’re sure that there is a probable sale there, do your utmost to close them. Offer them a discount, an affordable payment plan or even a freebie.

Not only will it encourage them to buy, they’ll also appreciate the gesture and will be likely to recommend your company to their friends for the good treatment.

6. Think emotional triggers

Emotions play a huge part when we are buying so it’s not surprising that research has found that we’re likely to spend more money when emotions are involved. Apparently we can spend up to 30% more after we’ve seen something that pulls on our emotions.

Any good salesperson will be able to effectively use emotional triggers to sell. When in a B2B sales situation, raise current business issues that may be causing your buyer some turmoil. Are they wasting time writing reports? Or are they still using paper and pen invoicing systems? Identify the business issues that really cause your buyer a lot of stress and show them how your product will help.

Top tip: Take the time to research your customer, their needs and the challenges within their industry. With this knowledge, you can tailor your sales process around these problems, and design a pitch to tug on their emotions and encourage a sale.

Do you think that every salesperson needs to use a few mind games to get that elusive ‘Yes’ from their customer? Or is a good salesperson a good salesperson with no need for mind games? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Written By -

I'm another marketing bod here at sales-i (that is marketing exec come social secretary, branded wardrobe, stationary cupboard, fixer of the printer and chief maker of a terrible cup of tea). I get to work with the two delights that are Chris and Steve who have taken it upon themselves to educate me on all things football and Star Wars. I’m a Villa or Birmingham City fan depending on which of them you ask. I really rather enjoy reading and writing (I'm not that great at the maths thing, as Chris will tell you). What I lack in Star Wars and football knowledge, I make up for with a keen eye for a good wine and a great impression of a Wookie.

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