Gone are the days of pushy, foot-in-the-door salespersons. The time when sales was a numbers game – the more cold prospects you piled into the funnel, the better your chance of sales success. To those days, we say “good riddance!”
The modern salesperson’s goal is more about building rapport and relationships with willing prospects. And to craft successful sales relationships, you need to know a bit about sales psychology.
Psychology is, of course, a massive topic. So rather than immersing you in the whole subject, we’ve picked out a snackable buffet of sales psychology wisdom so you can explore some fresh, guilt-free approaches to selling.
Sales Psychology: 10 Brainy Tips to Increase Conversions
Understand the 7 Key Result Areas of Sales
Before you pick up the phone with any prospect, it pays to know your strengths and weaknesses as a salesperson. In his book “The Psychology of Selling“, business guru Brian Tracy identified 7 “key result areas” of selling. Tracy posits that self-awareness and mastery of these 7 skills will make you a better salesperson:
- Prospecting: The ability and strategy to bring in highly qualified, interested leads.
- Relationship Building: The ability to build professional relationships based on rapport, trust, and credibility.
- Identifying Needs: The ability to ask the right questions to uncover prospects’ needs and priorities.
- Presenting: The ability to make persuasive presentations that get the buyer ready to convert.
- Overcoming Objections: The ability to proactively respond to prospect concerns, questions, and hesitations.
- Closing The Sale: The ability to confidently ask for the sale when the time is right.
- Getting Resales & Referrals: The ability to leave such a good impression that the client buys from you again and recommends you to their contacts.
These points are pretty universal sales concepts to nail down – we cover most of them in our Complete Guide on How to Sell.
Discover the Power of Influence
- Reciprocity: We naturally feel obliged to return favours and like to feel that we don’t owe anyone anything.
- Commitment & Consistency: When we’ve committed to something – especially publicly – we’re more likely to see it through and are more open to suggestions that are extensions of that original commitment.
- Social Proof: If other people – especially people like us – are doing something, we feel persuaded to do it too.
- Liking: If you like someone or are like someone, you’re more likely to be influenced by them.
- Authority: We have a tendency to obey and comply with the advice of authority figures – not just those in positions of power, but those we see as authoritative experts too.
- Scarcity: When we believe that something is only available for a limited time or is in short supply, we feel compelled to obtain it.
Focus on Their Problem, Not Your Solution
Remember that prospects aren’t coming to you for a salesy spiel – they’re coming to you to help them solve a problem. So… help them.
Really get to know your prospect and empathise with their issue. What sticking points did they identify that caused them to reach out? Is there a compelling event forcing their hand? Why exactly did they choose to speak to you over your competitors? And if they are also speaking with competitors, which ones did they choose and why?
Dig deep and get to the root of their problem. This is where an innate knowledge of your product or service comes into play – what can you offer that most directly solves that issue? Does their problem have any unique wrinkles that make it a great fit for your solution? Is there a part of the problem that you know you can handle better than the competition?
Never Swamp Buyers with Options
On the surface, having a lot of options available seems like a great prospect, but the more options you are given, the more overwhelming the decision itself becomes. Similarly, asking your buyer to choose from a vast, complex range of solutions may feel like you are giving them freedom, but could end up driving them towards “decision paralysis” or “analysis paralysis”: an easily avoidable state of sales psychology that might turn them away for good.
So if you have a large product or service range, aim to simplify it. Rather than presenting your solutions as a gargantuan catalogue of different options, break things down into digestible categories or chunk them by benefits. Start by understanding the core problem behind each prospect’s enquiry (as above) and coach them through the specific options that address that issue. Help them hone in on which solution is the best for their needs.
Know Each Buyer’s “Type”
We’re not talking about romantic matches here! In “The Psychology of Selling” Brian Tracy puts forward that there are 6 types of buyers that each need to be sold to differently:
- Apathetic: This buyer isn’t really bothered – save your energy for someone who has more drive to purchase from you.
- Self-Actualising: These focused prospects know precisely what they want. These buyers are great to have, so don’t waste time trying to sell them on anything else – just give them what they’re after!
- Analytical: These buyers are slow, deliberate, and detail-oriented. Don’t rush them and make sure you can back up any claims you make. Be patient, precise, and generous.
- Relater: These buyers are very relationship-oriented, so focus on providing social proof and relating their needs to prior customer success stories. Again, be patient and generous.
- Driver: These buyers are the polar opposite of the previous two. They tend to be busy, time poor, and can be impatient, so cut to the chase and respond to queries and requests quickly.
- Socialised: These buyers are focused on goals and getting things done. Deal with them in a prompt, business-like manner at all times.
We feel that in real life buyers are often a mixture of these archetypes – and occasionally, you’ll find one that doesn’t fit into any of these camps. However, having some kind of framework to understand your prospect base is a great way to get off on the right foot.
Remember the Interplay Between Logic and Emotions
We’re all well aware that buying is an emotional process. You need to get your prospects on side emotionally before they will be willing to buy.
But there’s more to sales psychology than that. People buy emotionally but justify those purchases logically. Sales expert Liz Wendling says it quite succinctly: “Logic makes people think. Emotions make people act.”
So relying too strongly on emotional cues fails to provide the logical backing that is needed to truly justify the purchase in the buyer’s mind. But relying too much on facts and figures lacks the emotional impetus that gets people to buy. Wendling posits that good salespeople need to bridge that gap between logic and emotion; you effectively need to actively learn how to take people from “Hmm… I can see how this product/service would be useful” to “Crikey, I need this now!”
Salespeople: Know the Difference You Make
Both sales managers and sales teams take note: in order to succeed, any sales team needs to see the genuine, meaningful good in the product they’re selling. We all need purpose in our work, and helping to distribute something that legitimately helps others is a great source of purpose.
Selling something you don’t believe in is soul-crushing. It’s hard to feign earnest enthusiasm day after day for a product you just can’t get behind. And if a salesperson can’t get excited about selling the product, they’re probably going to struggle to sell it. Therefore, a lacklustre product translates into lacklustre sales for more reasons than just product quality.
But when you create a product or service that is really worth writing home about, one that delights customers every single day, it instils genuine purpose and drive in the sales team.
Use FOMO to Your Advantage
Loss aversion is a psychological phenomenon popularised by psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. We hate to miss out on a good thing – whether that’s an event, an experience, or a product. So salespeople can use FOMO – the Fear of Missing Out – to their advantage.
So give the buyer a massively discounted price if they buy within a limited time, or give them a taste of what they could enjoy with your solution in their lives. Limited-time free trials are great for this – once you’ve enjoyed the perks of a product and made it “yours”, you’re less likely to give it up.
Only Call Prospects When You Have Permission
Cold calls are annoying. They’re irritating for decision-makers (a huge no-no); they’re easily deflected by gatekeepers, and it’s just not a sustainable strategy in the long term. Cold calling can be a black hole for talented salespeople’s time and effort and isn’t really in the spirit of recent privacy legislation like GDPR and APP (even though over a fifth of companies were still doing it as of 2020 – naughty naughty!).
Sales and marketing teams should work together to draw prospects to you – preferably in a way that they are encouraged to share their contact details. Then, before you reach out (even if it is unannounced) you can use the information willingly submitted by the prospect to do a little research. Scan the company’s website or the individual’s LinkedIn profile to find some common ground.
There are potentially two elements of Cialdini’s Influence at play here. Firstly, you are finding things in common – and we buy from people we like or are like. Secondly, if they shared their details to gain access to a piece of gated content like a lead magnet (which hopefully they found useful), they may feel they need to do you a favour in return.
Have Social Proof at the Ready
We’re inherently social critters with a touch of herd mentality. So when faced with a sales message, we seek out others who have successfully taken the same path. Therefore, it’s important for salespeople to have meaningful case studies and reviews at the ready.
Hesitant buyers can be brought around with success stories concerning other buyers in similar markets and with similar problems. As you work with a prospect and you establish what their priorities are, try to pair them with a Sales Psychology case study that most resonates with their situation. You may not need to use it, but it can give you an ace up your sleeve with an unsure buyer.
Even small things like a reminder of your company’s 5-star rating in an email footer can help reinforce social proof.
One of the most important sales tips we can offer is to arm yourself with the right tools. You can’t keep all prospect information in your head – so try a CRM! Sign up for our 14-day free trial today to discover the productivity and convenience that Really Simple Systems CRM can provide.