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The Psychology of Sales: Closing Deals and Influencing People

Sales are the driving force behind any business, and they are the single most important metric of success for many companies. If you are selling enough, you are doing well, and if you are not selling enough, you are not doing well (even though there are plenty of other metrics which can be used to measure business performance). The scope of sales doesn’t stop with this traditional definition. Just think about it: everyone is a salesperson in one way or another. Whether we are trying to convince our kids to eat their vegetables, a co-worker to choose a specific restaurant to go to for lunch, (or the police about why we should be let off with a warning, just this once!) we are always trying to seal a deal or make a pitch for something in some way. The mind is a powerful tool; it makes decisions using specific factors. If we study these factors and learn how the mind processes them, we can ‘alter’ the mind in various ways. If you ever have to wear your salesperson’s hat, whether for a job interview, to pitch a project to the board of directors, or for anything else, what tool would be more valuable than the ability to influence the decisions of your audience in the direction you want? With this in mind, let’s look at some of the ways we can predictably convince people to act, respond, or make decisions in a specific way. CREATE CONTRAST: Things don’t matter themselves as much as they do when placed against similar alternatives. As an example, if you see a line of microwave ovens priced at $150 sitting next to an overpriced $300 microwave that essentially does the same thing as the cheaper models, the cheaper ones will look like an amazing deal. Pro-tip: Even if the comparison is not based in fact, the mind is wired to compare numbers it sees and decide on that. Come up with any simple comparison related to the work you have at hand, one that is reasonable and one that is outrageous, and your audience will more likely than not go for the reasonable one.

CREATE URGENCY AROUND THE DECISION: Instead of telling someone that they can download a free e-book at any point in time, they are more likely to respond if there is a deadline for responding (meaning they may miss their chance to do so). Alternatively, saying that only the first 50 responders will receive the e-book in their email will have the same effect, even though they actually use or utility of the e-book may be the same to the responder regardless of how it is pitched to them. Limited supply triggers our sense of scarcity, so we jump on the chance to buy or register for something instead of missing out. Pro-tip: Create a sense that the customer is getting a good deal. Saying that something is available at a reduced price (or that an intern is willing to work commitment-free for 6 months with no strings attached as a trial to prove themselves) will also encourage the decision maker to go for the offer being made.

GIVE SOMETHING FIRST: Studies have shown that when people receive something first they feel obligated to reciprocate and return the favor. This can be as simple as going out of your way for someone before asking them to do something, or spending a lot of time and effort on something you know is important or helpful to them before bringing up whatever it is that you have to discuss with them. It creates a warm friendly relationship with people you may be trying to influence. Pro-tip: Salespeople have perfected the art of creating a sense of obligation, and you have probably experienced them going an extra mile for you while showing you a car or device or furniture. People generally feel want to return the favor when you go the extra mile and demonstrate you care and understand them.

SET YOURSELF APART: How or why are you different from everyone else? Saying “I’m a hard worker, and I’ve won many awards” on your CV won’t really get you as far as saying that you have a unique skill or ability. Make sure you cater to what your audience needs, and emphasize those points instead of speaking in generalities. Pro-tip: Offer less, not more. A product, service, or even an employee that is really, really good at only one thing may be worth a lot more than something that claims to do it all. Also, offering too many options can lead to analysis paralysis, where the audience, the client, or the customer end up getting stuck on deciding, instead of going ahead and deciding. Simplify things for them and focus on key strengths or offerings. By making their job of deciding easier for them, you’ll improve your chances of having them decide in your favor.

CREATE EXCLUSIVITY: “I’m sorry, this item is too expensive for you.” Ouch! We are by no means recommending that you say something as callous as this to your clients or customers, but by creating a sense that what you have to offer is just beyond their reach, they will want to reach for it – if for nothing else then to prove to themselves that they can in fact buy or book or register whatever it is you are pitching.

SUMMARY The psychology behind how to sell is not a new area of study, and implementing it is really a combination of science and art. By incorporating some of these techniques in your everyday life – from work, sales meetings, phone calls, and interpersonal engagements – you can be a more successful, and more convincing, deal broker. Good luck! Feel free to comment below and let us know which tricks work best for you. We’re excited to see your results!


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