Be warned: once you know these, you’ll see them EVERYWHERE!!!
As someone who has worked in various sales roles for over a decade- and worked alongside plenty of salesmen- I can assure you their sleazy reputation is well-founded. But despise them as you might, you have to respect their craft.
And I don’t mean the downright dishonest ones. I’m talking about the cunning salesmen who subtly manipulate you to make you desperately need something now. You don’t realise it’s happening, but these Mozarts of the mind are wandering through your brain and pulling at strings until money falls out.
Beware of the internet, for here be monsters
It’s not just face-to-face salespeople you have to worry about. Actually, they’re the least of your problems. Any stroll through the internet gets you bombarded with these techniques. Amazon especially delivers an absolute perfection in getting people to spend money. Every page boasts a mastery of neuro linguistic programming and cognitive biases working together to bend your mind and empty your bank account.
Whichever side you sit on- whether you’re a budding salesman looking for some sales tips, or a frequent victim looking to arm themselves against the weapons of the enemy- I hope you enjoy my insider’s insight.
Here are the best and most common psychological tips salesmen and companies use to get their hands in your wallet.
1. Price framing/anchoring
Let’s begin with the most common, and the easiest to spot.
“It’s usually £30, now it’s only £25. Ooooh that’s £5 off! Let’s get it now!”
“I got the bed for £4,500, but it was supposed to be £6,000 so I got a bargain!”
Sound familiar? Thought so.
The higher price they show is called a ‘Price Anchor’. It anchors the price of the product in your mind at the higher point, so that when you buy it at their ‘discounted’ price, it feels cheap.
The spiraling cost of Freddos is the best way to explain this.
They started at 10p.
Then they were 25p.
And now, they’ve gone up to 35p.
When I was growing up, a Freddo was 10p. So when the price went up to 25p, I thought that was expensive, because my price anchor was 10p. But to the children who bought them at 25p, 35p is expensive, because their price anchor is 25p. And to me, it’s absolutely extortionate at almost quadruple the price.
It’s exactly the same chocolate bar, for exactly the same price, but with three different perceptions of cost, because of the three different price ‘anchors’.
So don’t be fooled by the price ‘it used to be’. They’re trying to anchor you.
2. Time limit/scarcity
Amazon and other online retailers use this sales technique to rush you into buying.
“OK, let’s get it. But not now, let’s come back later”, says the rational, decision-making side of your brain.
But then the countdown clock starts to niggle at the back of your mind. No, don’t do that. There’s only a few left. It’s on a really good promotional offer at the moment. What if it sells out? And so you get rushed into buying it, in case you lose the chance.
“Only 4 left at this price”
“Offer ends in 4 hours, 39 minutes”
FOMO is a real thing, and they’re using it against you.
3. “Most people…”
Most people do what most people do. If you see six cars in front of you go through a red light, you assume it’s broken and go through as well.
Because as a species we’ve evolved to subconsciously take our lead based on what other people are doing, as it’s generally safer to comply than it is to branch out from the herd. This is one of many cognitive biases that salesmen and companies use it to get you to make decisions in their interest.
“Most people who bought this also bought this”.
“Most people who watched this also watch this”
“Most people upgrade to the full protection package”
4. Assumptive close
This is a classic sleazy sales technique.
“Shall I call you on Wednesday or Thursday?”
“How many packs of batteries would you like? One or two?”
The question is phrased so that saying no isn’t an obvious option. And the language is such that the idea of you not wanting it isn’t even a consideration. Subconsciously you think not wanting it must be weird, otherwise why wouldn’t that be one of the options they offer you?
So that’s what most people must do, right? And you want to do what most people do.
5. Multiple choice
Let’s say you have a Coke machine, and then you put a Pepsi machine next to it. You’d think the sales of Coke would go down, right? No. Believe it or not, they both see huge increases in sales. Because the choice in your mind stops being, “should I get a drink?”, and turns into, “do I want Coke or Pepsi?”
If you’re being sold insurance, they’ll ask if you want the best one with the extended 3 years warranty, or just the basic one that covers you for a year. So you’re not trying to decide whether you want the cover, you’re picking which cover to buy.
6. Decoy pricing
The best example of this is cinema soft drinks.
The medium is £6, the large is £7. And no one goes medium. Because if you’re spending £6 on the medium, you may as well chuck in an extra quid and go large. They don’t expect anyone to buy medium, it’s a decoy to get you to buy large!
This works so well because they’re using two of the above techniques at once. Having multiple choices stops you trying to decide whether or not you want a drink, and concentrate instead on what size of drink you want. Then your price anchor is set by the cost of the medium drink, so you go large because you think you’re getting a great deal.
7. The universal benefits – The big daddy of sales techniques
People buy with emotion, and then justify the purchase to themselves with reason. Emotional side of your brain makes a decision, then asks the other side of your brain for permission. A good salesperson will walk your brain through this process.
They’ll begin by focusing on one or more emotional benefits:
- Fun/joy (“you’re going to have so much fun”)
- Peace of mind (“you can relax, knowing your family are safe”
- Luxury (“imagine sinking into the soft feather pillow)
- Prestige (“your neighbours will be jealous”)
- Ease/convenience (“this will make your life so much easier”)
They appeal to how their product or service will emotionally affect you, so you really want it in your life on an emotional level.
And then they give you an opportunity to justify it to yourself. You deserve it. It’s a good investment. You would’ve spent the money anyway. Whatever the justification is, that’s how they get you. Make you want it, then spoon-feed you a way of justifying it to yourself so the rational side of your brain doesn’t talk the emotional side of your brain out of it.
8. ‘Imagine’ and ‘If’
I’ll finish with my favourite.
NLP techniques like this are used by the most accomplished of salesmen. The words used in the sales pitch actually change the way your brain thinks about the product. If you’ve been duped by one of these, don’t be too hard on yourself.
“If you were going to drive out in this car today, what colour would you go for?”
You’re imagining yourself driving out. You’re picking the colour. In your mind, it’s now yours.
Once you’re imagining yourself owning the product, they’ve got you right where they want you. Crossing that mental barrier of seeing something you want, and imagining yourself owning it is a very difficult barrier to go back across. Because it’s a scientific fact that once you own something, you place a far greater value on it than you ever did before.
If you’ve ever watched Marriage or Mortgage, you’ll know the exquisitely talented estate agent will ‘stage’ certain rooms to suit the clients. She’ll dress a room like a nursery for a couple trying for a baby, decorate a room like an office for an aspiring entrepreneur. Basically, she’ll do anything she can to get the clients to imagine themselves living there. Because once they’ve got that image in their head, they don’t want to lose it. It’s called the Endowment Effect and it’s absolute gold.
“Imagine you could give up work forever, what would that be like?”
“What if your children could see you as a hero. How would that feel?”
Difficult to do without being cheesy, but my god is it powerful when done right.
So are all salesmen psychological terrorists?
No, only the bad ones.
As a blogger and copywriter, I am effectively a salesman with a keyboard. But the most important thing I’ve learned over the years is that selling anything should be the blissful marriage between a need and a solution. Between pain and remedy.
I specialise in writing SEO-optimised blogs that tap into your customers’ needs and present your services in a way that makes them see you as the solution to their problem. No lies, or tricks.
(OK, so maybe a few cheeky tricks here and there, but hey, everyone else is doing it!)
If you’ve enjoyed this blog and would like me to work with you and help take your business forward, please get in touch today. We’ll have a free, no-obligation chat and discuss how I can help.
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