5 psychological selling techniques you can try
What most sales leads really want is to be engaged in a conversation about what’s important to them. As you work through these five psychological selling techniques, remember that salespeople who ask insightful questions and listen actively to the answers create a more empathetic and mutually profitable buying environment.
1. Leveraging cognitive biases
When you truly believe your product or service will solve your customers’ problems, using cognitive biases like the ones described here will help them believe in your solution as well.
- Confirmation Bias: We’re all more likely to value information that supports what we believe and ignore the data that doesn’t. This is a prime example of how doing your homework on a new prospect and then tailoring your presentation can bump up your sales.
- Reciprocity: This foot-in-the-door technique is based on the concept that, when someone gives something to us, we usually feel compelled to give something back. Bringing product samples or refreshments to sales meetings, for example, can put potential clients in a more open frame of mind.
- Anchoring Bias: It’s common to look for a reference point or anchor to help gauge the value of a potential purchase—and we often take our cue from the first product we look at.
- Social Proof: As social beings, we tend to lean toward things that other people already like. So make sure you have plenty of relevant customer reviews and testimonials at hand when you call, email or meet with new leads.
- Functional Fixedness: Because we tend to link specific objects with a single function, psychological selling is an opportunity to help prospects think outside the box. Showing how your product can help them in ways they may not have thought of will demonstrate your knowledge and enhance your credibility.
- FOMO (fear of missing out): Fear of regret is often what drives us to buy when we discover that supplies are running out or a significant number of other people have already gotten in on the deal. A hesitant prospect will be far less likely to turn down a great opportunity if you can show them what they’ll be missing out on should they say “no”. One way to do this is by providing examples of similar businesses that have taken advantage of your product and the positive forward strides they’ve made as a result.
There are many ways to use cognitive biases as an ethical means of influence when you need to overcome a client’s natural buying objections.
Just remember that, as any selling guide will confirm, convincing a buyer to follow through on a purchase that doesn’t meet their needs will likely result in a negative experience that could impact your sales success going forward.
2. Making first impressions count
Effective sales communication is essential no matter your sales goal—and that includes both verbal and non-verbal interactions. To gain an easy psychological “in” with new prospects, make first impressions count every time by refining the following:
- What you say and how you say it
- The attitude you present
- The way you hold yourself physically
What you say and how you say it. Conversational receptiveness is the practice of using language to signal your interest in someone else’s perspective. Behavioral research suggests that not only will coming across as receptive in your sales conversations make you more persuasive, but your prospect will also like you more and be more interested in partnering with you.
The key to conversational receptiveness lies in using words of acknowledgment and positive, rather than negative terms.
You’ll build stronger connections sooner, and avoid common sales conversation mistakes, if you plan your first phone, video or in-person encounter around listening to and acknowledging what your prospect is saying.
The attitude you present. Sales psychology tells us that both needing to be liked and coming across as overly confident can be big turnoffs for buyers. That doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t always strive to be likable.
Avoid starting your sales calls or meetings by criticizing the competition. Not only do people tend to attribute the negative traits we describe in others to us (a phenomenon known as spontaneous trait transference), research shows that a positive attitude helps sales professionals perform better.
In his impactful study carried out at Metropolitan Life Insurance in 1985, positive psychologist Martin Seligman demonstrated that optimism played a bigger role in sales success than selling proficiency.
New sales rep candidates who had failed Met Life’s aptitude test, but scored well on the optimism test Seligman included, sold 57% more than their pessimistic counterparts within their first two years.
You can read more about Seligman’s study in his book “Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life”.
The way you hold yourself physically. Because humans are highly visual, non-verbal communication is extremely important in sales. In fact, according to master selling guide Brian Tracy, your sales message is about 55% body language, 38% tone of voice and 7% the words you choose.
One phone sales psychology tip worth noting is that standing up while you make your cold calls could give you better results. Many sales consultants and coaches recommend giving standing a try for several good reasons:
- It encourages a more accessible posture that will come across in the tone, pitch and pace of your voice
- It opens up your breathing, helping to keep you relaxed
- It allows for freedom of movement, promoting more expressive communication
Research suggests that our posture is linked to our mood. Adopting an upright seated posture when you’re feeling stressed, for example, can help your self-esteem and increase your positive mood. The simple act of standing, meanwhile, is often enough to trick you into feeling taller, and more confident as a result.
3. Building connections
There are many ways you can use psychological selling to build a connection with prospective customers. To start, you should begin every new sales relationship by:
- Getting to know the company, your contact and their market
- Always having your product information and other sales materials ready to go
- Being prepared to share exactly what your prospect can expect to achieve
Bear in mind that it’s easier for us to feel connected to ideas, products and people when they promote a sense of safety or familiarity.
Your prospects will feel less inclined to shy away from new information presented online, over the phone or face to face if you avoid scary technical jargon and stay focused on verifiable results.
Take advantage of social media
Connecting over social media is a great way to build connections through brand affinity. And since social proof tells us that people (including potential buyers) tend to prefer things that other people already like, getting your audience to like your social content is especially important.
Here’s how to do it:
- Determine who your social media audience is from a sales lead perspective
- Publish shareable content that breeds appreciation (like how-to guides, quizzes or exclusive interviews)
- Strive for a positive emotional connection by finding or creating content that reflects, emphasizes and honors your customers’ values
Don’t forget to ask the people who’ve already liked your content to share it with family, friends and coworkers. Due to a cognitive bias called the “Benjamin Franklin effect”, asking for and receiving a favor from someone makes them like you even more.
Give out free samples
As we saw in the reciprocity bias, giving something to a potential customer does more than just make them feel good about your brand. It instills a sense of obligation to do something for you in return—like try out or purchase your product.
In addition to handing out product samples in person, you could consider:
- Offering a discount on first-time sales
- Providing a free gift with purchase
- Setting up a no-charge demo of your product or offering a free trial period
By both introducing your product and allowing potential customers to try it with no obligation, free samples can have both an immediate and a sustained effect on your sales.
This tactic can be especially effective with leads who are careful with their budgets, or during an economic downturn like the one caused by Covid-19—as almost everyone is being careful with their budgets.