3 min read
min read
August 11, 2023

Using Sales Psychology to Create a More Effective Sales Cycle

Using Sales Psychology to Create a More Effective Sales Cycle

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An effective sales process can make or break your business. But as much as you can prepare a brilliant pitch deck, a killer demo script, or a well-trained sales team, there’s another element you can’t control. Your customer.

That’s why understanding the psychology of sales pitches and your potential customers can help you close more deals. 

I’ve got years of experience in sales and partnerships roles, including helping set up the sales playbook for a successful tech startup. In this article, I’ll explain the importance of understanding sales psychology and integrating it into your sales strategy for maximum impact.

What is sales psychology?

Sales psychology helps sales professionals understand what’s going on in the minds of their prospective customers. In doing so, it can shape the techniques they use to persuade and influence the buyer. Communication, marketing, sales meetings, and relationship building: all of these can become more effective when you understand sales psychology.

At the end of the day, human beings are motivated by largely similar things. We are driven by physical need and emotional desire. However, we also have shared cognitive biases that can lead us to behave in certain, often predictable, ways. For example, when we see other people behave in certain ways, we often want to emulate them in order to fit into our society.

There are many elements to sales psychology, but expert Robert Cialdini identified six key principles. Embracing these principles can really boost your sales performance. 

The 6 principles of sales psychology

1. Reciprocity

Reciprocity could be considered an innate human trait. When someone does something nice for us, or gives us something, we feel like we should return the favor. This helps build community bonds which are essential for human survival. 

In a sales sense, encouraging buyers to return a favor can obviously be advantageous. It can influence people to make a commitment or purchase when they feel something has been given to them. 

2. Commitment and consistency

When people have made a statement or decision, they will often feel obligated to act in line with this commitment. This need to stay consistent can be a powerful motivator. This is useful in a sales situation as, when people have made even a small commitment earlier in the process, it can make them more likely to purchase.

3. Social proof

As human beings, we love to feel like part of the group. Social proof — when we see that others are doing or participating in something — helps us feel motivated to do it too. Something that lots of others have can also seem more desirable and valuable by the same principle. This is a powerful bias that plays on our need to be part of the social group.

This has clear benefits for the sales process; inducing this motivation to be part of the group can make your product much more appealing.

4. Authority

It’s natural to listen to people in positions of authority. That can be experts, leaders, or those with more experience. Authority generates trust and can be powerfully influential. By positioning yourself or your company as an authority, you can create more of a drive for your customers to purchase from you.

5. Liking

When we like people, we are more inclined to agree with them! Rapport and relationship-building can be foundational elements of the art of persuasion. In all parts of the sales cycle, inducing your potential customers to like you, and creating a positive relationship, can make them much more likely to buy.

6. Scarcity

When we see that something is limited or scarce, it can make it seem more valuable, simply because it’s harder to get. Humans experience loss aversion, otherwise known as the fear of missing out. If something feels time limited, it can create a real sense of urgency. 

This bias towards avoiding loss can make people more likely to close a deal before time runs out — leading to more, and quicker, sales.

How to apply sales psychology principles

Taking these principles on board can help you and your sales reps build effective sales pitches that will increase your conversion rate. Use them to add a few carefully chosen sales psychology tactics to your arsenal so you can level up your sales calls, for example. By understanding psychology, you can predict (and therefore pre-empt) how your buyers might act and help nudge them towards certain behaviors, making a sale more likely.

These techniques can be used at all levels of the sales funnel, from initial marketing to finally closing your deal. In particular, understanding the psychology of sales pitches can supercharge the crucial conversations that lead to purchase.

Don’t forget that technology can be a great help in applying some of these techniques. The new wave of AI writing tools, like Wordtune, can make it much quicker and easier to generate and manipulate text. This means your sales reps can spend less time preparing written collateral like slide decks, sales reports, and blogs, and more time on actual conversations.

These sales techniques can be used in a variety of ways, but you might consider some of the following examples and suggestions.

Arouse and trigger curiosity

Curiosity is a natural human instinct. You can create a strong desire to find out more by teasing or hinting to potential clients or customers. This sense of intrigue can lead them all the way to the sale. 

You can build this through:

  • Using thought-provoking questions in your email outreaches and pitches. For example, asking if your potential customer has considered what life would be like without a particular problem; asking if they know why competitors are getting ahead; or asking them to imagine the impact of change.
  • Telling a compelling story throughout your pitch that sweeps the audience along to the point of sale. For example, setting out the problem/current pain point and illustrating how your product will solve it.
  • Giving sneak-peeks or first looks at new features. 
  • Identifying gaps in your target audience’s knowledge, and offering to fill these. 

Offer something to incite reciprocity

The reciprocity principle says we want to give back when someone offers us something. So, it makes sense that when we give something during the sales cycle, our prospective customers feel obligated to respond in kind. I.e., they will feel more compelled to buy, rebuy, or give a testimonial. 

Of course, you don’t want to give away too much, too soon. But, you do want to create a positive feeling of gratitude. You might consider offering:

  • Value-added content: You might have some research from your consumer base to share, a guide to something the customer needs to do, or resources they can share with their employees. An AI tool like Wordtune can be a massive time-saver here. Wordtune Read can summarize lengthy articles in seconds, so you can create well-researched reports with less effort.
  • A free sample or trial: This can be an effective tactic to make your potential clients feel like they’ve got something valuable from you before they make a bigger commitment. 
  • Personalized insights: Perhaps you noticed something on your customer’s website, or ran an analysis of their blog performance. Giving your audience a highly personal piece of valuable information can be a powerful tool for driving conversion.

It’s important that such offers, gifts, or freebies are given with genuinely positive motives. Poor quality gifts will probably create a negative impression of your brand and may be viewed with suspicion. Additionally, you should recognize that some leads might just take the value piece and walk away! There should never be an absolute obligation to reciprocate. 

Showcase social proof

Social proof helps us recognize that something is desirable or valuable, just because others are doing it or buying it, too. So, showcasing how existing customers are using your product or service, or how much someone likes you, is a great idea. 

You can build social proof by:

  • Publishing testimonials and/or customer reviews. These can be added to your website, blog, pitch deck, or social media pages. Quotes, longer articles, and videos are great ways to convey how people are loving your brand. 
  • Creating case studies. Relatable customer success stories are a really effective way to add social proof to your toolkit. 
  • Employing influencers. Social proof can be even stronger when it’s someone we look up to. Influencers or celebrities publicizing how they use your product or service is a fantastic way to reach your target market.
  • Applying for awards or accreditation. Recognized bodies can give you credibility within your industry and show that you’re a high-quality choice.

Remember that effective social proof should be highly relevant to your target audience. If it can appeal to your target customer’s specific needs and wants, even better. Testimonials and case studies also need to be (and come across as) genuine. 

Flaunt your expertise to build credibility

With the principle of authority in mind, it’s important to establish your company as knowledgeable experts or leaders in the field. This will increase trust and boost your credibility, which can make prospects more likely to engage in a sales conversation.

You can cultivate authority through:

  • Offering insights into key areas of the industry, such as research, reports, or solutions to particular pain points. 
  • Collaborating with other respected leaders in the field. This can give you an advantage in sales, especially if you are a newer brand yet to build your own credibility. When people see you working with existing experts, they will consider you to be at the same level as your collaborator.
  • Providing evidence or proof of your claims. This could include stats from your existing users, research from scientific bodies, or results from trials. 
  • Obtaining accreditation and other professional credentials. Certification is a powerful way to show you have met or exceeded industry standards. It can also demonstrate your high standing amongst other experts and leaders.
  • Developing yourself or your brand as thought leaders through publishing and presenting valuable content. This could be in industry publications, on social media, or at conferences. 

Often, cultivating authority will need to go beyond one sales representative. Everyone in your company, from senior leadership down to marketing, can contribute through social media posts, speaking opportunities, and research, to name just a few ideas. 

Bring out the fear of missing out

Human behavior is often centered around loss aversion, also known as the fear of missing out, so playing on this fear can be a key sales tactic. You can exploit this by:

  • Creating a sense of urgency with limited-time offers. For example, a certain price only available for three weeks, or a product becoming discontinued in time.
  • Emphasizing what customers will miss out on if they don’t use your product. This could be tangible (monetary benefit, weight loss, improvement in energy levels) or something more indirect (pleasurable experiences).
  • Using case studies to drive home what they won’t get if they don’t buy soon. For example, demonstrating the benefit that a product can have in a short space of time (e.g. a month) can prompt the prospect to buy quickly. 

This is one of the sales psychology tactics that needs to be used most sensitively. For example, if limited-time-offers aren’t really limited-time, prospects may feel misled. Case studies also need to be genuine and authentic — this will create emotional resonance and generate more trust in your company.

Use storytelling to make an impact

Storytelling is a crucial component of any successful sales pitch. By taking your sales leads on a journey, you can effectively bring them towards a purchasing decision while building positive rapport.

Think about the story archetypes you already know. Identify a main character (this could be a constructed person, or perhaps your prospect themselves) and a problem they are facing. Describe how the protagonist overcomes their challenges by using your product or service. 

You can also bring other sales psychology techniques into your story. For example, you can introduce case studies and testimonials to demonstrate how others have been on the same journey. You can also create a sense of urgency and fear of missing out by illustrating how others are benefiting from your product.

Storytelling can also support your efforts to create “liking.” When we hear a relatable story, it can increase feelings of rapport. This is especially important when making a cold sales pitch, where you can’t draw on existing bonds. For example, you might tell a story about how you have faced similar problems to your prospect, and how you overcame them. 

An AI writing tool can help you to craft compelling stories to include in your pitches and calls. For example, when you enter the bare bones of your story into Wordtune, you can then expand the script with just a few clicks, even adding interesting examples, arguments, and rhetorical devices to make it more interesting. You can also use this material on your website or social media.

Give fewer options

When it comes to buying decisions, having too many options can be overwhelming and could lead to customers losing interest. Cognitive overload (when it’s too difficult to think) and paradox of choice (too much choice leading to decision paralysis) can be really detrimental to your sales process. 

Giving fewer options to choose between makes it less taxing for your lead to decide. It can also make the options seem higher-value (see the scarcity principle). Additionally, your messaging can be more streamlined when you only need to focus on a few main ideas. For example, just presenting the top three features of your product instead of 20. With just a few options to highlight, each one will get the attention it deserves and can leave more of a lasting impression.

Conclusion

Understanding human behavior, biases, and desires can unlock a range of powerful motivators to add to your sales materials and pitches. Simple sales psychology tips like increasing a feeling of scarcity, adding social proof, and developing your authority, can really boost your success through more effective sales pitches.

Your next steps as a sales team could be to review the key principles of sales psychology, and think about how they could apply to your sales cycle. Rather than adding in every technique at once, trial one at a time to help your sales reps refine their practice. 

In time, you’ll be able to employ a range of sales psychology techniques to reach the next level of sales success.

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