Viktoria Fischer-Werth

The Psychology of Sales
3 ways to persuade others (part I)

By Viktoria Fischer-Werth
September, 2020

Psychology and sales – how do they fit together? If you think about it, sales is all about humans. Behind each prospect, there is an individual with their own thoughts, opinions and perceptions. It is crucial to understand why your prospects behave the way they do, what they are thinking, and how you can get them to act in a certain way. If you don't, your sales pitch will merely be a line of words, without any meaning or influence on others.

If you apply psychology to your sales process, you will see that the way you connect to your prospects will change. Using psychology is way more persuasive than anything else. So stop focusing on yourself and your product and start understanding the psychology of sales.

Three Ways to Persuade Others

Two overlapping circles, one with purple colour, the second one showing a picture of hands on a table during a conference

During your sales process (or in everyday life) there will always be a moment where you wish you could just easily influence the other person's mind and let them act in a certain way. But don't worry, you don't need to be a magician to do so, psychology is more powerful than you might think.
Here is the first part of three simple, yet very effective ways to persuade
better – and close any sale faster.

1. Set an anchor to influence sales

When we are confronted with a new situation and don't know what to expect we often look around for cues that help us figure out how to act.

Psychologists found that these cues influence our decision-making process way more than we might expect. They made an experiment where participants had to spin a wheel to select a number between 0 and 100. After spinning the wheel, the participants were asked “How many African countries are there in the U.N.?" – a question many people wouldn't know the answer to.

Participants who spun a high number gave higher estimates, while those who spun a lower number gave lower estimates. In both cases, the participants took the number they spun as a cue (even though it was a random number) and adjusted it up or down. They used their initial number as an anchor to base their guess on. But why would anyone orientate themselves on a number that has nothing to do with the question itself?

Even though we might not like to think of ourselves as irrational beings, the anchoring effect shows otherwise:
icon of an anchor
People tend to attach more weight to the first piece of information they get than to anything that follows. Initial information works as an anchor and influences us when considering a decision: we assign value to the second option relative to the first information we got.
Anchors don't only influence us when we have to take a guess on a question we might not know the answer to. On the contrary: they influence many of our decision-making processes and how we interpret and see things around us.

So how can this be useful for your sales?

Price perception
People compare prices when valuing products and the anchor price allows you to influence this. If you're offering a specific product, you can make its price seem cheaper by introducing a higher-priced alternative before you present the lower priced item
Original price vs discount price
If you put the original price first, this acts as an anchor which represents the true value of the item. Any discount price that follows will be perceived as a bargain because you have already anchored the initial price into people's minds

2. Ask for a small request, before asking for a bigger one

How would you approach someone when you want to ask them for a big favour? Simply by asking straight away? Psychologically seen, this is often not the best approach. Using the "foot-in-the-door" technique will be way more powerful and help you get what you want.

The principle behind the foot-in-the-door technique is simple: start by asking someone for something small. Get the foot in the door. If they accept the small request, they will be more likely to agree to the second and bigger request and you can open the door completely.

It sounds almost too easy, so why does it work?
icon of a door
People have a natural need for consistency, in order to feel good about themselves. When accepting an initial small request, they want to keep this consistency with agreeing to the following bigger request as well.
Here is how you can use this technique for your future sales:
Ask for a smaller request first ...
determine an appropriate small thing to ask. This should be something which your prospect is likely to agree to, for example giving you his or her email address or agreeing to a second call next week
... to later ask for something bigger.
create a way to introduce the bigger request. This can happen right after the smaller demand. For example, after receiving your prospect's contact details you can send a follow up e-mail asking to activate a trial or asking to organize a call with decision-makers
The foot-in-the-door principle is a method of "compliance without pressure" and often leads to more positively perceived results than directly asking your prospect for a big favour. And the great thing is: you can always use it without seeming rude or intrusive.

3. Don’t present too many choices

You probably know the feeling of being overwhelmed by too many choices when entering a huge supermarket. The number of options we have nowadays is almost infinite: we can choose between dozens of different types of pasta sauce, jams, yoghurts and often end up buying the same brand as always. There is an endless amount of products we can choose from. But is having many choices necessarily a good thing?

Psychological research shows that more isn't always better. It might sound counterintuitive, but many studies prove that giving people too many options can lead to a decrease in sales. Episerver found that almost 50% of customers have failed to complete a purchase online because they were overwhelmed by too many choices.

icon of two people with a conversation bubble, which has a question mark inside
People tend to get overwhelmed and have trouble making a decision when too many equivalent choices are available. Sometimes they even end up buying nothing, because they feel intimated by all the possibilities and don't know what the best choice would be.
You should always pay attention to how many choices you present your customers and help them during the decision-making process:
Limit customer's options
make three suggestions that align with your individual customer's needs and don't overwhelm your customer with too many different options
Keep things simple
don't overload your email or your website with text and loads of pictures, but keep it simple so your customer can win a quick overview of everything
Focus on what is important
present the most important characteristics of your product. Not every detail might be important, but distract your customer
Find out what's important to your customer with our 66 questions to navigate a sales process and close any sale fast.

Final Words

Every time we interact with others, psychology comes into play. Especially in sales it's important to imagine yourself in the position of your prospects to understand their thoughts and needs. And most importantly, to understand how you should sell your product. Knowing certain persuasion techniques will help you to influence attitudes, beliefs and decisions. Everyone is susceptible to being persuaded. Try it for yourself and see how powerful psychology can be.

Stay tuned for the second part to learn many more psychological techniques which will help you to persuade better!
Are you interested in more sales insights? Then have a look at our monthly series of 5 sales insights which will help you to take your sales process to the next level:

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