5 Psychology strategies used to increase sales

5 Psychology strategies used to increase sales

Success in sales is not just about getting the other person to like you, and trust you, although that helps.

It is about how you employ human psychology.

Robert Cialdini articulated 6 rules in his seminal work ‘Influence‘ in 1993, Reciprocity, Social proof, Commitment and Consistency, Liking, Authority, and Scarcity.

Imagine you gave someone $30 for completing a task, and then because it was completed satisfactorily, you gave them another $20. Compare that to someone to whom you offered $70 to complete a task with an impossible deadline, and then took $20 away because they missed the deadline, although completing the task satisfactorily in all other aspects.

Which of the two would be happier? In this case, you have framed the situation to ensure that one saw the outcome in a positive light, rather than a negative one.

This sort of basic psychology is at work every time you negotiate in any way, it just happens. Thinking about the process with a little sensitivity the basic psychology can make you considerably more successful.

Some simple examples.

Part of a group.

Humans are herd animals. We tend to do what those around us do, to follow the lead of the group. Suggesting that others with whom they relate are doing ‘A’ will increase the likelihood that they will do the same, as demonstrated in Cialdini’s research in 2008 articulating his 7th principal of influence, the Unity principal. This leads us to be influenced by others the more we relate to them. This was the subject of his famous towels in a hotel project, where he demonstrated that guests could be significantly influenced simply by the persuasive power of telling them what others were doing.

Foot in the door.

This is not the old fashioned door to door technique of not stopping until you call the police, it is far less intimidating, and is a widely used tactic in digital marketing. The offer to try a product free for a month before paying for it is a foot in the door, as is the one that offers a free book, you just pay for the freight, or the one-time .97 cent offer, to get to the first level of a normally more expensive course, or club. The psychology is that once your hand has gone in your pocket once, you have made the purchase decision the first time, the second time is way easier.

Create a decoy

Potential customers seek value, defined in all sorts of ways, but when making a choice, they always look at the options available and ascribe a value to each, then make the choice. By making your preferred item look great compared to the alternatives you offer, you can significantly influence the outcome, Again this is used extensively in digital sales. On almost every sales page for a software product, there will be lists of comparative tools you are given for different amounts per month. Usually it will be three options, as option overload leads to confusion, and potential customers walking away, choosing to buy none, but when there are three, there will be the first with a few tools available, for free, or a small price, then there will be the $29/month with an extensive list of options, and a third with the same extensive list and a few more that might be important to a few, for $59/month. The vast majority will look at the value delivered by the $29 option, and opt there, as it offers the best value, the few who opt for the expensive one, well, they are the cream, and those that take the freebie or very cheap version are ripe to be upsold at a later time.

Sell time.

We all understand the old adage, ‘Time is money’ so saving time with a purchase, time that can be used in other ways that will benefit the purchaser, is a powerful motivator. This technique is used extensively when selling services. Most of the so called ‘Business coaches’ out there use this technique, weaving pictures of how great it would be for small business owners to have the time to play golf every day, or run their businesses from the beach between diving expeditions on the reef.

It is also used in reverse, putting a time limit on the availability of a product. ‘Available only at this price until 5 pm tomorrow’ often accompanied by a clock running in reverse is similarly a strong motivator.

Quality = Price

In a market where the knowledge of many buyers is limited, like wine, consumers have over time recognised that price is a fair indicator of quality. When you understand the perception levels of a category in a consumers mind, they can be significantly influenced in a purchase decision by the ticket price.

The foundation of all this is of course that you have a very clear picture of your ideal customer, so can anticipate which of the techniques, and they are often used in tandem, will work, in your set of circumstances.

It also remains true that people love to buy, but hate to be sold to, so selling is really the wrong word, it is more about persuasion, and we all understand that psychology plays a huge role in persuasion.

PS this post was put up yesterday with a different headline, and redefined the dead cat bounce. I thought it was better than that, so polished it up a bit, to see what happens.



Are you solving the customers real problem?

Are you solving the customers real problem?

Marketers spend huge amounts of effort and money trying to define the problems they solve for their customers and potential customers. Often they fail simply because they do not understand their customers motivations sufficiently well, or they are overwhelmed by the great, world beating features the engineers have built in.

Customers do not care about your features, they only care about the outcomes for them that come with use.

There is a process that leads from the prospect being identified through to the initial transaction, then the development of a mutually beneficial relationship

At each point in that journey, in order to build the relationship, marketers have learnt that stories are by far the best way to go about it.

There appears to be three types of stories, and these are prevalent not just in marketing, but everywhere we look that stories are told. Books, movies, the theatre, and even advertisements.

External: These are the superficial obvious pieces of the narrative, but do not go to the heart of  the reasons why things are happening. The role the external story plays is that it provides the context for the real messages being delivered.

Internal: The internal parts of a story is usually all about how the protagonists feel about themselves, and those with whom they interact, how they behave under different circumstances.

Philosophical: This about the basic motivators of human behaviour, and the roles being played. Good vs Evil, Envy vs generosity,  Us vs Them, and Right Vs Wrong.

Consider the original Star Wars movie. The external story is about the development of Luke from a boy to a trainee Jedi, and the trials that are encountered as he and his acquired companions try to keep out of the clutches of the Empire.

The Internal story is about the angst and confusion felt by a boy suddenly thrust into a strange world that is trying to kill him and his companions.

The philosophical story is about the battle between good and evil, which comes to a head in the climatic fight scene.

When considering the elements that make up your brand story, remember that customers buy solutions to internal and philosophical problems, not the external ones, as they do not really matter beyond a question of price.

In other words, do not bother selling the features, sell the beneficial outcomes of use.

This works for simple products as well as it does for a complex one.

One of my clients provides a specialist engineering service to large scale manufacturing plants and infrastructure. The external story is that they do a really great job in a potentially dangerous and  highly regulated area. The internal story is about the absolute confidence that clients can have in the technical and project management skills they deliver. The philosophical story is about the need to retain some of these key skills in Australia, as once gone, like the Tassie tiger, will not come back, and the impact of that is long term and painful to us all.


Why the accepted notion of ‘Brand Loyalty’ is rubbish

Why the accepted notion of ‘Brand Loyalty’ is rubbish

Brand loyalty, and one step further, finding those few  users of the brand who will use no other, and demand their networks do the same, is the holy grail of most marketing. It comes up in almost every marketing brief ever written.

However, there is almost always a flaw in the logic I see used.

Heavy and exclusive use of a brand is interpreted as brand loyalty, and occasional users are disregarded except as a possible opportunity to increase usage, if they are even picked up in the data. Consumers usually have a small pool of acceptable brands, and expect to be satisfied by the product they buy, whatever the usage, or they do not return. The brand is just one of the the filtering mechanisms of varying strength they use to make the choice easier.

While loyalty and heavy usage may be in a very few cases generated by the brand, it may also be that the heavy usage is just habit, availability, convenience, the shape of the package, or many other factors other than a behaviour changing loyalty to the brand.

Heavy usage and brand loyalty do not always have a cause and effect relationship. There is certainly a strong correlation, not necessarily causation.

My father would only use one brand of mustard powder, a blindingly hot concoction he used sparingly on an occasional sandwich. The stuff was only purchased once every blue moon, as he was the only one in the household who would go near it. Far from heavy use, but very loyal.

Conversely, if you look in my sisters fridge, there is only ever one brand of natural yogurt, and she consumes a kilo or more a week, in a number of ways. However, the choice is driven not by  the brand, although it is entirely satisfactory, but by the fact that the small supermarket she stops at every couple of days on the way home because  of the easy parking and friendly environment, to buy her milk, and a few other staples, only carries that one brand. Convenience drives the purchase, not loyalty.

Anyway, the nonsense that gets touted around by snake-oil sellers about consumers wanting to have a relationship with their brand is just so much crap it makes me sick. Brand loyalty is a rare thing, and is always, always given as a part of a whole package of value that is delivered consistently by the product to the consumer.

Consumers want a lot of things from  their favoured brands, but only a very few with some sort of emotional incapacity see a brand as a substitute for a human relationship, so lets stop talking about it as if it were.

My thanks again to Tom Fishburne.https://marketoonist.com/ When I went looking for a visual for this post, this cartoon says it perfectly.


Does ‘Know, Like, & Trust’ still hold?

Does ‘Know, Like, & Trust’ still hold?

The only way businesses survive is to generate revenue in excess of their costs, consistently.

Common sense.

One of the oldest adages in revenue generation is that people do business with those they know like and trust.

It was correct, and to an extent it still is, but with a huge, game-changing wrinkle.

Most of us by now have done some sort of transaction electronically.

You have most likely moved to that transaction without ever meeting the person on the other side, so you certainly do not know them, and have no idea if you would like them, but you trust them to complete their side of the transaction.

One out of three now seems to be good enough?

Not really when you think about it.

In most cases there has been some interaction that you as the purchaser have undertaken that the seller knows nothing about.

You have looked at their website for technical specifications, prices, service promises, you may have downloaded some of the free stuff from their site, often to a junk email address so you do not get bothered with the following auto-marketing.  Depending on the product you may also have checked out the various product forums, and review sites, and you have compared all this to the competitive offerings.

The summary of all this is that when you get to the point of initiating a transaction, you have come to value and trust those you do not know, sufficiently to decide to do business with them.

Value and trust. Key words.

Trust is mutual and earned by performance over time, value is delivered.

The challenge now in revenue generation is therefore to reach out to those who do not know you, but who may have some problem you can solve, some irritation you can remove, and demonstrate your value to the point where they trust you sufficiently to do business with you.

A complete turnaround from the days where you did business with people you got to know like and trust while walking the golf course.

Case study: The pros and cons of PR in a B2B market.

Case study: The pros and cons of PR in a B2B market.

PR can be a remarkably effective tool in the marketing arsenal, but most of it is just wasted, simply because it is not delivering any message of value to anyone who cares.

What can you expect when you have a combination of PR agencies who get paid by the word, various supposedly credentialed dills with a barrow to push who like to see their names in print, and politicians who will respond to the smallest of pressure groups who make a big noise?

The latest target of the word churners is sugar, specifically sugar in soft drinks,  but more broadly, sugar in everything.

Tax it and the problem will go away.


While it is true that in economics 101 I learned that when you increase the price of anything, you sell less of it, this is a logical outcome based on an assumption of rational behaviour.

If I have learnt anything about consumer behaviour in the 45 years I have been in the marketing game, it is that it is rarely just rational, and unlikely to be altered by well meaning press releases, full of adjectives and promises of better days, written by those with a dog in the fight.

I was recently asked by a former client who supplies high value but very low usage ingredients that have the  potential to replace some of the functionality of sugar in food products for an opinion on a couple of different PR approaches they were considering in response to the discussion about a sugar tax.

Following is the reasoning I offered on PR as a marketing tool in this situation, sanitised for more general consumption.

  • There is a political problem, we are all too fat, therefore there is pressure on governments to regulate. Some of this regulation is warranted, such as the disclosure of the calorific value of products, in this case soft drinks, some is just nonsense.
  • We all (should by now) know that soft drinks are full of sugar, and drinking them to excess makes you fat, as well as having other health impacts. Therefore ensuring that label regulations are clear and understandable to laymen is a good thing, resisted by the beverage companies, as they do not want to scare the horses.
  • We cannot expect (in my view) governments to regulate for our behaviour, to be the gate keepers on our fridges. However, the tendency seems to be to seek to regulate to protect people from themselves. This is the guts of the move to have a tax on sugar, but underneath, there is a revenue measure for government that they will not talk about, but remains.

For a business to successfully leverage the public discussion for their commercial purposes requires some sort of strategy, and what I often see is a strategic vacuum, into which a PR release is sent. Some thoughts on the value of PR in these circumstances to a business that has some sort of vested interest in product formulation in the beverage market :

  • The target market for information is the marketing and technical people in beverage manufacturers, and they require different messages entirely. If it was me, I would have a plan with a few simple elements, and execute on the plan.
  • Create a list of the beverage manufacturers in each market, along with the relevant information about their ownership, location of factories, brands, strategies, etc, all you can reasonably glean from the combination of public documents and what your sales force knows. This is part of what marketing departments in businesses  with these sorts of interests should be doing.
  • As part of the above, ensure there was a list of the personnel in each business, their role in an organisation chart, and more importantly their role in the marketing, procurement, and product formulation decision making.
  • Develop ‘content’ with credibility to support all sides of the debate, and make all the data available, not just the bits that may support your commercial objectives. Research by the likes of Tate and Lyal, and CSR will be viewed with suspicion, irrespective of the science of it, because they have a vested interest, unless they discuss all the data and both sides of the debate.
  • Use the lists developed above to target selectively the people you need to speak to with the commercially agnostic data (content) you have developed. Do this digitally to create MQL’s (marketing qualified Leads) which are then passed to Sales and Technical services to follow up in person to make your formulation and commercial arguments.
  • Pick a small number of real target companies and devote resources specifically to the task of selling to them.  I would pick the challenger brands in each market, the ones you can sell to without the regional head office being involved, those who do not  have the big marketing budgets and brands, so they have less to risk. Once you convert a small number, and they have success in the market, the rest will follow.

This is pretty basic marketing 101.

Recognise that your target market is specific, and sales intensive, not marketing intensive. You are not selling toothpaste to a consumer with a low transaction value and regular small transactions, where marketing is vital. You are selling high value ingredient to customers where there is a high degree of specification, complication, and a long term relationship at stake. The challenge is different. Wasting time and effort, as well as money on consumer PR is useless in this context except as a strategy for keeping the wallies who do not understand the basics of the sales and marketing of their businesses quiet.


To cut through the digital clutter:  Tell stories.

To cut through the digital clutter:  Tell stories.

Stories are personal, they resonate, you see the real people behind the business, not some nameless corporation, the people who do the work, and are accountable for  the decisions and outcomes.

Facts never change anything, but stories can.

Martin Luther King did not recite a list of the facts surrounding the deprivations and discrimination of the American negro in his 1963 speech, he told us of his dreams, and changed the world.

Facts are boring, stores are listened to, part of our DNA, we listen to stories and relate to them into old age.

 As a kid Dad read to us from what became known as ‘The weekend book’. A book he had been given as a kid, of the Greek legends. I saw that book again for the first time in probably 40 years last weekend. My sister had it carefully stored, as it is now falling apart from almost 100 years of love and use. She has kept the family tradition alive by reading the stories to my niece, who is as familiar and engaged with them as I was at her age. As I turned the pages, every page, story and picture was as familiar as if 55 years had not passed and I was 10 again, listening to my dad reading them.

Stories allow you to differentiate in an emotive and highly engaging way. Your story is yours, not your competitions, yours. They can be used to give potential customers a reason to go nowhere else, they give you a personality that cannot be erased with a cheaper price, or a hyperbolic sales pitch.

Tell stories

I am currently working with a medium sized printer, a 60 year old business founded by the current MD’s father in the mid 50’s. In a recent move of premises, sitting in the corner was the original little printing press that he had used to start the business,  about to be sent to the tip. Aloud, I wondered at the stories it could tell if it could talk. That press now holds pride of place in the foyer of the new premises.

We trust those we know, and we get to know people by hearing, understanding and relating to their stories. Facts simply do not  build trust, they bring enlightenment, and understanding, but not trust.

Tell your stories, you may be surprised at who is interested.