July 3rd, 2020

15 Psychology Sales Hacks

15 Psychology Hacks to Improve Your Sales and Closing Today. Personality cues, proven psychology tricks, and simple non-verbal hacks to close more deals.
Sales Manager

Often overlooked is the fact that marketing and psychology go hand-in-hand. 

Informing yourself on some basic psychological tips, tricks, and hacks can help you read your client better. Knowing more about the psychology of your client = higher likelihood of closing the deal. Every single one of your customers is different, you can’t always use a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to selling a product. Different types of personalities require different kinds of attention. 

Some techniques work across a broad spectrum of customers, others don’t. So here it is, psychology 101 blended with sales hacks. Addressed first will be the main hacks on reading your clients and understanding the different types of personalities and buyers you might come across. Then specific tactics and hacks to use on these clients will be addressed in the following order:

  1. Tricks to interact/build rapport with your customers
  2. Sales techniques that get you closer to the actual sale of your product or service

Depiction of brain

(Link between mind and marketing. Image from: CS Designworks, 2016)

Knowing WHO you are selling to: 2 Psychology Tools for Sales 

1. Understand the Merrill-Reid method

The Merrill-Reid method is an efficient way of profiling someone, in this case, your customer. 

This behavioral model identifies four key identifiable personality types: 

  • Expressive
  • Amiable
  • Driver
  • Analytical

Merrill&Reids Method

(4 different personality types from the Merrill-Reid method. Image from: Learn Mast, 2016)

Being able to pick up on cues to identify what type of personality you are selling to allows you to adapt your sales techniques. Optimizing your chances of converting a lead into a buyer is the name of the game. To sum up the personality-themed tactic;  understand the four types of buyers and shape your pitch as you go.

Expressive personalities: Don’t be a salesperson, be a friend 

Expressive personalities are very out there with both their words and with their ideas. To win them over, you need to be zealous and match their enthusiasm. 

Tapping into their emotions is more important than showing an array of stats for this customer. Expressive personalities really care about what you, the seller, thinks, too. This means be as empathetic as possible and try to personally connect with this category of client as much as possible.

Amiable personalities: Focus on making them feel comfortable 

These types of buyers are calmer and more anchored, and with this type of person you need to make sure to be patient. 

Trying to seal the deal too soon with someone like this can pressure them and push them away. Instead, constantly try to make sure you are both on the same page. Do this by asking questions, reassuring them, mentioning reviews from other customers etc. 

Driver personalities: Don’t waste their time, just sell

Driver personalities will convey a desire to hone in on one thing only: the transaction to be made. Efficiency is key here, meaning no dillydallying – answer questions they may have, but get straight to the point. Driver personality types focus mostly on their own satisfaction. This means when selling your product, make it abundantly clear how their level of satisfaction will rise - mentioning other people’s happiness will, for the most part, be disregarded. If you do mention prior clients, focus on profits yielded as opposed to emotional satisfaction. 

Analytical personalities: Know your product inside out to sell to them

This kind of customer tends to be methodical and cautious. To try to win over this type of personality, you need to make sure you have all your facts straight. Be ready to answer any questions, with attention to detail.

Why does this sales tactic work?

Being able to identify different personality types allows you to customize customer experiences and optimize communication.

As straightforward as it sounds, being verbose and dawdling with a customer who is more of a driver personality could potentially cost you the whole deal.

Why wouldn’t you try it? 

Different personalities

(Different personality types. Image from: Euronews, 2018)

Key take-aways using framing via the Merrill-Reid method:

  1. Listen to your customer’s wishes
  2. Appreciate what kind of customer you are selling to
  3. Adapt your sales strategies accordingly

2. Labelling: Put your prospect into buckets

Another way to approach your client is by trying to identify what type of buyer they are. 

Research emanating from neuroeconomics identifies three main types of buyers:

  • Tightwads
  • Spendthrifts
  • Average spenders

Tightwads: Focus on the price

They’ll do anything but spend money – it’s save, save, save for these kinds of clients. 

According to research, almost one in four customers you will approach fits into this category. With these kinds of buyers, the key is to present them facts and figures – using empathy and eye contact is going to do little with someone this reluctant to give up their money.  Persuasion will happen through hitting clients with the facts.

Spendthrifts: Impulsive Buyers

Spendthrifts are the definition of impulsive buyers. Whereas tightwads are all about that save, save, save, spendthrifts want to spend, spend, spend. 

Almost the exact opposite advice applies to these kinds of buyers – make that eye contact, nod, engage, use anecdotes – anything to appeal to emotion. Unfortunately, the number of people that fit into this category is only about 15% of buyers.

Average spenders: Somewhere in the middle

This is the majority of the population (approximately over 60%). 

Average spenders will usually have a rough idea of a budget, but not as loose as a spendthrift and not as tight as a tightwad. You have to mix it up with these kinds of buyers.  Present both facts and figures at the same time as showing empathy and emotion in general. Knowing these three kinds of buyers will tell you roughly what ballpark you’re playing in, and can affect your marketing strategies for the better.

Why does labeling your prospects work?

Don Draper quote

(Don Draper quote. Image from: MagicalQuote, 2020)

As the infamous character Don Draper said, “it’s easy to overlook who you are speaking to because of your own presumptions.” 

Your customer will almost always indicate to you what type of client they are. But it is easy to ignore it as a seller; fight the urge to steamroll through your pitch. Don’t project what you want them to think. Let them show you who they are. This can be crucial! Different types of customers will respond differently to your various sales techniques

Understanding what kind of client they are - tightwad, spendthrift, or average spender - will be essential for pragmatic marketing approaches.

2 basic tactics that barely require you to open your mouth

1. Mirroring: All About Body Language

Mirroring is when someone imitates or copies your body language. Mirroring sends the signal that you and your customer are on the same wavelength.

The synchronicity of some movements subconsciously makes your customer view you in a more friendly manner because you ‘act’ the same. 

Examples of body language you can mirror:

  • Leaning back/forward 
  • Putting your arms behind the head or on the table
  • Legs crossed during a meeting
  • Turning slightly to side 

Mirroring

(Source: Giphy)

Your counterpart is actually syncing up with your non-verbal messaging to try and align with your communication. Mirroring also works for verbal communication, such as picking up on similar words or expressions, meaning you can implement this technique even on a phone call. This will be touched on later in the section on echoing

If someone starts using the same hand gestures as you, it means they’re making an effort to acclimate to your needs. This is a GREAT sign!  

Why does mirroring work?

The effect of mirroring is that the customer feels as though you, the seller, are more likeable and like-minded

This simple tactic makes the prospect of investing in your product more attainable, with the customer feeling more connected to you, and, thereby, the product. Building a rapport with your customer is just as important as actually trying to sell the product. Only through building a connection with the customer does the sale become more likely.

Obama and Cameron mirroring

(An example of mirroring body language. Image from The White Barn, 2020)

2. Active listening

One method to both understand your client’s wishes and explicitly show that you understand their needs, is active listening.

Here are the main guiding points to remember:

  1. Let your client speak without interrupting
  2. Encourage them through nodding and other forms of positive body language
  3. Show them you heard what they said through repeating key pieces of information in your response

Active listening shows your customer that, not only are you taking their needs seriously, but that you are also empathetic to these needs and wishes. This listening method might also teach you more about your client than you already thought you knew. Whilst it may be hard to not make comments here and there when a potential customer is bringing points up, remain silent (but engaged). Active listening is crucial to actually comprehending and appreciating a client’s potential concerns or thoughts.

Active listening in 6 steps

(Active listening in 6 steps. Image from: Center for Creative Leadership, 2020)

Why does listening to your customer work?

Hearing and listening must be differentiated. Hearing is passive, and listening is active. 

Listening is an effective means of understanding your client because it does two things:

  1. Active listening ensures you truly understand your client’s desires, intentions, and potential concerns
  2. Active listening helps build a rapport with your client, potentially converting them into repeat customers

3 techniques that require basic information

1. Social poof

Flaunt absolutely any proof showing that your product or service is liked by others. 

This tactic is beneficial for a number of obvious reasons.

  • Clearly what you are offering is approved by others 
  • It encourages both new and repeat customers
  • It reassures your customers

Customer satisfaction

(Source: Giphy)

Another benefit of social proof is that customers may subconsciously put your product on a pedestal over your competition. If you provide proof that people approve of your product or service, but your competition doesn’t provide any such evidence, this can give you a one-up. Regardless of whether the product you’re offering your client is ‘better’ than your competition, thumbs-ups from customers can help convert leads into buyers.

Why does flashing your reviews work?

It works because it gives the client confidence that they, too, will thumbs up the product like everyone else. 

For example, imagine you go on Amazon to buy a new fridge, and you are faced with two fridges for exactly the same price. BUT, one of them has on average one-star reviews and the other four stars. Intuitively, it makes much more sense to be drawn to the fridge with four stars – evidence of likability is fuel for buying

In the example below, both products are roughly the same price. BUT, the first has roughly one star less than the second, in addition to much fewer reviews.

This makes the second fridge automatically more appealing, without even reading about the details of each. 

2. Echoing

Echoing is picking up phrases, analogies, metaphors, and repeating them back without being cued up to do so. Echoing is similar to mirroring, but limited to verbal communication. 

An example would be using a specific analogy like "farming" to describe a process and the customer continues using the same metaphor. For example, if you say: "it's like field rotation for growing crops", and your customer later uses the expression: "planting seeds".  They may even copy your words verbatim, like using generic phrases, such as "interesting" or "fascinating" or "brilliant”. Maybe your customer will even mimic entire sentences! According to academic research, this is a GOOD sign that your customer is comprehending what you’re saying. Echoing can work both ways, i.e. a customer can pick up on your phrases, or you can pick up on your customer’s expressions. Both are cues of a healthy rapport flourishing between the two of you, based on strong communication. 

Why does verbal mimicking work?

Verbal mimicking happens almost innately, and it is a signal that you and the person you are speaking to are on the same wavelength. Empathy is an important factor here, as speaking in a similar manner to your customer indicates to them that you understand them and their needs. It is intuitive that you get along better with people when there is less of a social disparage, making it easier to get along and openly discuss matters - in this case, your product. 

Depiction of echoing through megaphones

(Depiction of echoing in conversation. Image from: Freepik, 2020)

3. Construct reference points

Comparison is a fundamental and undeniable practice that almost everyone is guilty of – a lot of the time. 

This comparison can be utilized in marketing through creating reference points, placing what you’re selling at the centre. When a customer is looking to invest or purchase, they place the products from each provider in relation to each other, i.e. it is not necessarily about the inherent value of each product, but determining how that product performs better than the other. As a seller, then, it is crucial to know exactly how your product or service outperforms your competition’s. Customers want you to tell them why your product is unique or ‘better than the rest’.

Why does comparison work?

Comparison allows you, as a seller, to focus on marketing strategies that highlight exactly those areas where your product is unique or outperforms others. It’s all relative

For example, one of the biggest supermarkets in the UK is Sainsbury’s. In response to aggressive price comparison campaigns by Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s launched a “same price, different values” campaign. In this campaign there was a strong focus on the higher quality sources of food at Sainsbury’s.               

This campaign highlighted key unique areas wherein Sainsbury’s outperformed Tesco’s, such as better fair trade practices.

2 tactics to be both the angel and devil on your client’s shoulders

1. Empathy + empathy mapping

To really understand who you’re selling to, you need to be one thing above anything else – empathetic. 

By actively trying to understand why a prospect customer is seeking a product or service, you have a better chance of selling that product. Empathy mapping operationalises this concept of empathy by constructing four quadrants within which one can evaluate customer experiences

The quadrants pertain to what the customer said, did, thought, and felt (as shown in the figure below). The purpose of evaluating all of these four different aspects is to deduce why, sometimes, expressed interest in a product does not always lead to the purchase of said product. 

What a client tells you can fundamentally differ from what they are feeling – empathy mapping aims to unravel these unexpressed conflicts. It is crucial to understand that, as a seller, you are the middleman between the client and product.The closer you can get to the client, i.e. the more empathetic you can be, the closer you get to converting that lead into a buyer.

 

Why does being so perceptive work? 

Being empathetic is an effective method because empathy can help buying a product feel less like an impersonal transaction for the customer, and more like a productive interaction – with the successful purchase of your product. Empathy mapping also means that, as a seller, you are more perceptive of how your client’s feelings may juxtapose to their actions. This means you are more likely to be able to act upon certain situations with more efficiency and insightful, potentially resulting in less of these clashes between silent intentions and expressed actions. 

Depiction of empathy mapping

(Empathy Mapping quadrant pertaining to what a customer says, does, thinks, and feels. Image from: Interaction Design Foundation, 2020)

2. Uncertainty Reduction Theory

Uncertainty Reduction Theory claims that uncertainty and risk associated with someone is reduced when more information is acquired on this hypothetical person. 

Uncertainty Reduction arrows

(Effects of increasing comfort on level of uncertainty. Image from: Business 2 Community, 2011)

Once people have more information on each other, predictability arises with regard to behavior - this acts as a reassurance mechanism. Exactly the same sentiment can be transferred to a product: the more information a customer has on a product, the less uncertainty there is. This means the customer can trust the product’s claims match reality

Playing devil’s advocate is one way of making sure your customer has all the information they need on a certain product. This does not mean you have to incessantly question everything your client says. Instead, raise fair and valid points when a legitimate query is raised – it is the ultimate reassurance tool.

If a client has a worry, dispel it. Tell them why it doesn’t have to be an issue – use stats, previous examples, anything to eliminate that uncertainty. Even when customers don’t raise a query or signal concern, anticipate what a concern might be, and address it. 

This shows that you’ve thought about the client, linking back to the importance of being empathetic.         

Why does providing information work?

Providing as much information as possible reassures clients that what you can supply them is worth it. At the same time, playing devil’s advocate also dispels any concerns they may have. 

Putting theory into practice: 6 sales hacks using all this psychology 101

1. Trial closing

Trial closing is about testing the waters with the client and making sure they are comfortable. Essentially, it’s a litmus test to discern whether the client is ready to seal the deal or not, and where the main issues arise. 

 

That’s why listening is so integral to this sales technique. Trial closing is a subtle way of driving the dialogue to a point of sale, whilst getting verbal consent from the customer the entire time. Trial closing techniques are often framed as questions – this ensures the clients are given a front seat with the seller, with one foot on the pedal the whole time. 

Trial closing is the epitome of two-way dialogue: you ask a question, and wait for a reply. This also pushes the client to ask more questions and get more comfortable with the idea being sold. Patience is the key here.

Asking questions

(Asking your customer questions to sell better. Image from: Lynda.com, 2018)

Why does trial closing work?

Trial closing is an effective technique because the client doesn’t feel like they are being pushed to close. 

Sealing the deal can scare a buyer away because it can come off as aggressive. On the other hand, trial closing allows for a smoother process wherein the client feels more in control. Asking your client questions is a key indication that you care not just about the purchase of the product itself, but also about the satisfaction of your client after the purchase has taken place. 

Here are some examples of trial closing questions/statements:

  • “Is this something along the lines of what you were thinking?”
  • “Do you agree with this?”
  • “Is there anything you want to add?”
  • “Does this sound OK to you?”
  • “Is there anything else you would like to know?”

Clearly, trial closing can help you and your customer get on the same wavelength. Don’t you agree? 

2. Curiosity gap

A classic and effective tool to engage a customer and to find out more about them is generating an information gap of some form.

To sell a product, you need the client to know what that product is...but leaving a little to the imagination can help. Generating an information gap stimulates and prompts customers to get in touch and ask questions. It is this curiosity that you can grasp as a seller to ensure higher sales. This technique can work for both sales on- and offline. 

Dataoverload

Another approach to this:

A product is more than the product itself – there’s also the effects of buying that product. So if a prospect buyer already knows everything about your product, don’t keep telling them facts they already know. Talk to them about how their experience would be using the product - something they wouldn’t necessarily know from reading product descriptions. This links back to constructing reference points – tell the customer how your product is unique, or creates unique opportunities and experiences: your unique selling point (USP).  

Why does generating a curiosity gap work?

An information gap leads to a curiosity gap. This means that offering a tantalizing piece of information, without giving everything away, will make a customer want to find out more. A clear example of this in practice is the use of alluring headlines to pull in readers.

3. Trigger the lizard brain

Lizard brain refers to the section of your brain that activates primal instincts, aka fight or flight. 

According to research in neuroscience, this part of the brain (triune) has the power to command the other parts (limbic and cortex, to be specific). One emotion works best at activating the lizard brain: fea. This is not advice to go and literally scare your customers, but to make sure they understand what they’d be missing out on if they didn’t invest in your product. Nudge them in the direction of fear, make them realise potential problems they’d encounter by not buying your service – but make sure to balance this. 

This means scare your customers, but don’t petrify them, and gear them a little towards pain, but not torture. If you are too subtle with this tactic, your customer won’t pick up on the signals. If you’re too overt, you’ll push them away. 

Why does fear work?

This tactic really makes your customer focus on the costs of not investing in your product. 

This subconsciously pushes your clients towards avoiding the pain of not investing = customers will be much more tempted to buy your product.

This phenomenon is known as loss aversion.  

An obvious example of triggering the lizard brain is using tools such as countdowns on your website, such as a countdown of time until a sale ends. 

This creates a clear sense of urgency, increasing the chances of converting leads into buyers. 

Boohoo.com countdown banner

(Countdown runner on boohoo.com. Image from: Digital Marketing Magazine, 2017)

4. Foot in the door (FITD) technique 

Buying a car can seem like one massive expense and scare a customer away. Leasing a car, not so much.

The foot in the door technique utilities this kind of thinking by starting with one seemingly small expense (leasing a car) and building up to the big purchase (buying the car).

This sales method is effective for a number of reasons:

  • Firstly, it reduces the blow of the expense for the customer, or at least the customer perceives it as less of a blow
  • Secondly, it’s useful for building a rapport with your client if you implement this technique in person

Simply engaging in more conversation with who you are selling to can bring that person closer to the thought of buying the product. Closer than if you had just hit them with the hard sell.

Why does FITD work?

FITD is all about making your customers feel like they owe you, the seller, something. 

For example, an email subscription request is something seemingly small that can increase the chances of persuading customers to invest in your products at a later stage. 

By asking for an email, you are directly engaging your customers, prompting them to comply with a potential larger request (the purchase of your product) after. 

Pop up email subscription

(Example of a pop-up email subscription request. Image from: OptiMonk, 2018)

5. Door in the face (DITF) technique  

So there’s the foot in the door technique, but there’s also the door in the face technique. 

Psychologically-speaking, making an initial unreasonably large request increases the chances of a second, smaller, request being accepted. 

Observe. Imagine you own a mobile company and a customer asks you, the seller, for assistance in purchasing a new phone. You: “Hi there, are you interested in purchasing the new X10000-360 supersonic gold encrusted mobile? It’s only $5000 upfront”.......That’ll be a solid no.

BUT WAIT!! Follow up with this:

“No problem, but have you maybe considered the recent X100 2.0 model of the mobile? This one is only $500 upfront”.......You see what was done there?

Why does making an initial large request increase the likelihood of a second, smaller, request being accepted?

The DITF technique works due to a nifty psychological principle called compliance

The feeling of needing to comply stems from that initial denial of the irrationally large first request. 

Denying the first request induces a feeling of guilt in prospect customers, significantly increasing the odds that they’ll feel too embarrassed to say no a second time. 

 

 

It’s instinct to want to be viewed in a positive light by others. Saying no two times can be seen as compromising this positive perception. This means the urge to agree to the second request will be strong, much stronger than if there hadn’t been that initial, large request. 

6. Rule of reciprocity

It’s basic human instinct to want to give something back in return for something given to you. 

This means that offering your client something concrete will compel them into feeling they owe it to you to invest in what you’re selling. 

This is a similar sentiment to the foot in the door technique, as discussed above. 

What you offer your customer can be something as simple as a free trial, a reduction in price, a loyalty programme, a free guide – it depends on the product you are selling. 

Listed below are some concrete examples of reciprocity:

    • Free guides
    • Free trials
    • Loyalty programmes
    • Free samples
    • Offering a discount for referrals (i.e. the more people your customer can bring to your company, the more said customer is awarded through discounts, for example)
    • AND MORE, AND MORE, AND MORE, AND MORE!

Giving your customer something small is an incredibly simple method that will make your customer view you in a more generous light. This small gesture will incentive your customers to purchase what you’re selling. Saying that, reciprocity only works if you make it clear that you expect nothing in return. The whole premise is to make your client feel comfortable and view you, the seller, as generous.  

Why does giving your customer something small work?

Offering a product for free or at a discounted rate subconsciously encourages customers to want to repay you by buying your product. 

A great example of this sales technique is offering a free guide. Check out the example below! 

Klint Marketing free guide

(Screenshot from Klint Marketing, 2020)

By offering something as simple as a free guide, customers will be more likely to frame you, the seller, in a considerate light. And what does this lead to? The purchase of your product.

Summary

15 psychology hacks to convert more leads into buyers. That’s what this post was about. Just wanted to remind you. 

To recap:

There are different types of customers. You should try to label their personalities and their spending habits to customize your selling techniques.

  • Personality types:
    • Expressive - “WOW, I love the look of this”
    • Amiable - “this is along the lines of what I was thinking. Tell me more”
    • Driver - “how quickly can you get this shipped to me?”
    • Analytical - “but I’ve heard company xyz has a cheaper version of your product”
  • Spending habits:
    • Tightwads - save, save, save
    • Spendthrifts - spend, spend, spend
    • Average spenders - meh...somewhat flexible but you have to convince them

BUT, labeling or categorizing a customer doesn’t quite go far enough to ensure the sale is made. What you also need to do is adapt your actions and sales techniques. 

The #1 strategy (also the easiest), no matter the customer, is LISTENING. Always listen to you customer:

  • What do they say they want?
  • What do they say they need?
  • What are their concerns?
  • What do they need as reassurance?

Listening ties together a bunch of the psychology hacks and tactics discussed in this post. 

Listening allows you to:

  • Play devil’s advocate because you know what potential concerns of your customer are
  • Conduct empathy mapping because you can discern what you customer is feeling 
  • Echo some key phrases to reassure your customer you’re on the same page
  • Construct reference points because you appreciate where you stand in relation to your competition based on what your customer has said 
  • Conduct an efficient trial close because you have guided your customer through targeted questions 

What’s left then? Some basic hacks to push your seller to buy:

  • Mirroring: if your customer starts nodding, you should nod too to show you’re on the same page
  • Social proof: flash those five-star reviews
  • Generating a curiosity gap: make your customers ask YOU questions 
  • Use fear: “this offer will only last another 24 hours, make sure not to miss out!”
  • FITD technique: something as small as an email subscription request can work for this
  • Rule of reciprocity: give your customer a lil something to show them how much they mean to you

And what do ALLLLL of these strategies have in common? ,They bring you closer to your goal of selling a service or product. And that’s the main goal at the end of the day, right? 

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