Sales Tips

How to Master the Psychology of Selling

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Dan Virgillito

You might’ve heard it about certain colleagues: “they don’t close sales; they open relationships.”

You’ve even seen them sell the simplest of products that had no branding.

But how did they get to that stage?

Is the ability to excel at sales a natural gift that you have to be born with?

No, it isn’t. Almost anyone can become a great salesperson if they master the psychology of selling.

Think about the last time you shopped impulsively. Why did you get that new phone, those $100 polos, or the hardcover edition of Dan Brown’s new novel (even though you had the digital version on your Kindle)?

It was an emotional decision invoked by a trigger switched on your brain that caused you to swipe your credit card. Repeatedly.

In fact, when you apply psychology to your sales approach, you can gain a better understanding of your audience, which is key to closing more deals.

Master the psychology of selling in three steps.

1. Invoke reciprocity.

This is the simple idea that if you do something nice for someone, they’ll feel compelled to do something nice for you in return.

Have you ever visited Walmart and made an unplanned cookie purchase—only because you felt obliged to buy after tasting a free sample? That was the psychological trigger of reciprocity in action.

Studies have revealed that the simple act of offering something for nothing can increase sales by 25-30%.

Wow. We spend hours on cold calls just to gain a 1% incremental advantage; it’s incredible that offering a can of coke or a free consultation can do so much more.

Here’s what sales consultant and author of Psychology of Achievement Brian Tracy has to say about reciprocity:

So how can you incorporate reciprocity into your sales process?

One of the most effective ways is to provide unsolicited ideas to your prospects.

As an example, let’s say you’re a salesperson at a window cleaning company.

During outreach, you come across someone who is fascinated by smart window shades.

Even though you’re selling window cleaning services, you could strike up a conversation on wireless window shades, point the prospect toward a company (assuming you’ve done research) that stocks them, and even offer a few ideas for what rooms to install them in.

Of course, make sure any ideas you offer are personal and come with no strings attached.

That is, don’t mention your product/service after you give prospects advice. Let them know you’re there for them if they need you, but that you intend to let them make their own decisions.

This can leave them intrigued, and they may reciprocate your generosity by giving you their business in return.

However, be careful when implementing this tactic.

Multiple efforts to trigger reciprocity could be taken as a sign of desperation.

Make sure you aren’t offering the same ideas to a specific prospect that your co-worker offered yesterday (and vice-versa).

Pro-tip: Use the insights delivered by your CRM to help you.

copper crm insights view

CRMs can give you insight into every customer moment so you can take charge from where your co-worker left off.

This gives you the knowledge of what’s happening with each deal, and makes sure that you don’t attempt to trigger reciprocity in the same way that your colleague already did.

2. Prioritize fear of loss.

Let’s do a quick thought experiment. Which offer interests you more?

  1. You could save 20 hours per week by using our accounting software.
  2. You’re losing 20 hours per week by not using our accounting software.

Was it the second one? The fear of loss (aka. FOMO or fear of missing out) triggers your thought process a little more than the excitement of freeing up time.

From a rational perspective, it makes no sense. An hour is an hour. But, as humans, we’re not that rational. Our brains are hardwired to be emotional.

And when it comes to time, an hour we could avoid losing is more cherished than an hour we could gain through using a product. All of this is backed by science.

But what does it have to do with the psychology of selling?

This means that people respond more to pitches and cold calls that tell them what they’re losing out on, rather than the ones that tell them what advantages they could gain... because losses stand taller than gains.

You can also apply this psychological trigger in your sales process to bump up your win rate. Just put together an intriguing offer that’s somehow time-limited and exclusive.

Here’s an example:

ad example



The copy indicates that the discount is exclusive to products bought at Exclusive Books’ stores. Consequently, it creates FOMO by revealing that it is only applicable to purchases made between Feb 25th and March 15th.

The best thing is you can induce FOMO through live chat, email follow-ups, cold calls, and more.

For example, if your company has a Slack channel, you could make it open for customers to join for a limited time only! The offer can be conveyed at the end of a live chat conversation, or in an email follow-up.

Another effective, if a bit manipulative, technique is to let your prospects see what everyone else is buying.

You can create a type of competition (and a resulting fear of loss) by highlighting stats on how many people are currently using your solution as Booking.com does on its website.

how booking.com induces fomo (fear of missing out)

Regardless of how you apply it to your sales process, telling prospects that they’re in competition with others for access to your product is one of the most useful tactics in your arsenal.

3. Highlight a social cause.

You’ve probably come across videos that show plants and trees dying with sad music playing in the background. Then, at the end of the video, you’re asked to send donations to help support and protect these natural resources.

The reason these videos are so impactful is not only because of their ability to trigger your emotions—but also because they portray a cause that’s supposed to improve the world.

How does it relate to the psychology of selling?

Short answer: your prospects are humans, before anything else.

And since humans are driven by emotions, when they see someone supporting a cause they believe in, they’re compelled to offer a helping hand.

Championing a cause that potential customers can help you with is an ideal psychological trigger for improving your sales performance.

In fact, certain demographics, like millennials, want brands to support the causes they care about.

Fortunately, you don’t have to record trees being cut or showcase animal cruelty.

Your company can start with something as simple as tying your offering to a cause your customers are likely to believe in.

For example, kids designer backpack company Bixbee started a "One here. One there" program that supports a social cause.

Here’s how it works: For every backpack a customer buys, Bixbee donates one schoolbag along with school supplies to a child in need. Simple.

By highlighting a cause that aligns to the model of your business or something that your organization believes in, you’ll be able to provide your customers with insight into how responsible your organization truly is.

Plus, it can be a great way to kick-start a mutually rewarding partnership with your customers (they support you by making purchases, you do more for the cause they believe in), which is almost a necessity for any company that wants to thrive in the Relationship Era.

Psychology to the rescue!

Sales is a tough gig—and it’s only getting tougher.

Whether you sell sofas, cars, or software, there’s cut-throat competition and prospects are becoming harder and harder to convince.

In this economy, it’s crucial that you find that little something extra that can make you stand out from the competition.

By embracing the psychology of selling, you’d be able to communicate value more effectively while getting to know your audience and building confidence for the future.