6 Psychology Techniques and How to Apply them in Sales

The Covid-19 pandemic and the impending global downturn have put sales teams in a bind as they seek to stand out amid the deluge of content thrown at customers. But companies needn’t fret while selling remote. With some basic understanding of the role played by psychology in sales, sales teams should be able to engage with customers in a way that is both sensitive and effective, helping set their companies apart from the competition. Here are a few tips:

1. Reciprocity

Have you ever ended up purchasing a scoop of ice cream despite not liking the options because you felt uncomfortable leaving empty-handed after sampling the flavors?

If you have, you have witnessed the principle of reciprocity in action.

In social psychology, reciprocity is a social norm where if someone gives you something, you feel obligated to return the favor.

Reciprocity psychology in sales

While free trials, discounts, and consultation sessions effectively trigger reciprocity, this can also be done by things as simple as sending prospects a roundup of the latest trends in their industry. 

In practice, if you are selling something to sales leaders, you can send them the crux of a select few sales-related webinars or whitepapers and e-books that talk about the trends in their industry. 

Sending them timely information will genuinely add value to prospective customers and, therefore, help trigger reciprocity. They will feel obligated to respond to your emails, establish a connection with you, or at least take a look at your website.

However, for this to work, prospects have to feel like you have made some effort to send them valuable information and insights and not just clicked on a ‘start campaign’ button. A little personalization goes a long way.

2. Active listening

Dr. Carl Rogers, one of the founders of humanistic psychology, first came up with active listening as a therapeutic technique designed to promote positive change in clients. Now, its influence extends far beyond client-centered therapy to management and sales. 

Active listening requires that a listener entirely concentrates, understands, responds to, and remembers what is being said by the speaker. You can build rapport, avoid miscommunication, and communication gaps while helping you get more out of any conversation.

These three components are central to it:

Listener orientation 

Remaining neutral and non-judgmental while genuinely focusing on the conversation is essential.

This means that you need to avoid stepping into discussions with preconceived notions, taking sides during the conversation, or merely listening because you are looking for your cue to speak.

For example, if your prospect is using a competitor’s product, you should understand why they chose it and how they are using it, before piling your opinion on how your product fits the bill.

What not to do

Prospect: “We are presently using ****.”

You: “Ah. Freshworks wins over **** in three areas, primarily. We are easier to implement, have better UI, and are more competitively priced.”

What to do

Prospect: “We are presently using ****.”

You: “Great to hear that! What kind of requirements are you presently fulfilling with ****?”

Reflective listening 

This technique involves genuinely seeking to understand a prospect’s idea and then offering it back to them to confirm if you have understood them correctly.

Paraphrasing or restating what has been conveyed to you can make the prospect feel heard, which is essential to any good conversation in addition to helping reduce miscommunication.

For example, while on a call with a prospect, you can summarize what their role is in the organization and their need after letting them speak initially and only then pitch your product.

For example, while on a discovery call, when you are trying to qualify leads with BANT (budget, authority, need, and timing), you should hear your prospects, restate their needs, and then weave in your product. 

You: “I handle sales for the ____ region for ______. If you could shed some light on your role in the business and priorities for this quarter, it would be great.”

Alex: “I have been with the company for __ years. I handle digital transformation for my business. My current focus is on lead management, and I would like to explore solutions that can improve productivity in that area. We are not using any solution currently, and excel sheets are bogging down our sales teams.” 

You: “Great to hear that, Alex. Improving productivity by bringing in automation and helping you manage and engage with your leads better is something that we can help you with.”

remote selling

Questioning 

To gauge a prospect’s needs, ask questions that can draw out the information you need. Questioning is a key component of active listening. Open-ended questions geared toward understanding their priorities and challenges might be better than close-ended queries that tend to constrict thinking.

For example, while on a discovery call, asking, “What are your key priorities in — area?” might be better compared to “Is — a priority?” as the first question would help you access a larger story that might prove beneficial.

The key is to help prospects find solutions to their problems as well as let them know how your product solves their challenges. 

3. Loss aversion

“Losses loom larger than gains.” (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979)

The tendency to prefer avoiding losses when compared to acquiring equivalent gains is a basic fact of human nature. From a logical standpoint, this might seem to make no sense, but if there is one thing that psychology and behavioral economics have taught us, it is that humans are not rational beings. The same holds when you apply psychology in sales.

Whenever possible, tailor your pitch to get your prospects to think about what they will miss out on by turning down your offer. 

This can sometimes nudge them into action more quickly and effectively as compared to just highlighting the benefits that they will gain from your offering.

For instance, you could use estimates to say something to this effect:

“You could lose up to $XX million in revenue by misplacing client information. In contrast, by using a CRM, you can organize your customer data, avoid manual entering of data, and make your prospecting more efficient.”

4. Door-in-the-face technique

The door-in-the-face technique is a compliance method where you attempt to get prospects to comply by starting with a large request that they will most likely turn down. You then make the request that you originally had in mind. 

In theory, a prospect is more likely to agree to the second intended request because it appears more reasonable in comparison to the first one. They might also be uncomfortable with turning down two requests consecutively. 

One example in applying psychology in sales like below, is inviting prospects to speak in a webinar that your company is organizing. Once this request is turned down, you can ask for what you originally wanted—a 15-minute call. The prospect is now more likely to give you a time slot as this seems quite small compared to your original request.

psychology in sales

5. Foot-in-the-door technique

This is a tried and tested technique based on getting someone to agree to something small before asking for something bigger. 

This technique works because we naturally need consistency and prefer not to contradict ourselves, and after agreeing to an initial request, it would be inconsistent to refuse a second one.

Companies often let prospects use their solutions for free before having their sales representative approach them. This is an example of the foot-in-the-door technique.

6. Triune brain theory

According to the Triune Brain model conceptualized by neuroscientist Paul D. MacLean, the brain can be categorized into three parts that influence each other but have specialized functions: the new brain thinks; the middle brain feels; and the old brain decides. 

truine brain psychology in sales

The old brain takes into account input from the other two brains and ultimately acts as the main switch in determining what input will go to the new brain and what decisions will be accepted. Therefore, it makes sense for people in the business of persuasion to understand and target it.

Christophe Morin and Patrick Renvoise, in their 2007 book titled Neuromarketing, highlight some ways in which you can speak to the old brain and apply psychology in sales. Here are some examples that you can follow while pitching to prospects:

  • Personalize all messaging. The old brain is responsive to anything pertaining to the self.
  • Instead of using neutral statements that speak the value of the solutions you are selling—“We are one of the leading providers of –”—you should use —“The youngest company on the Gartner Magic Quadrant/G2 exclusive industry recognition.”” You can also add simple, concrete ideas such as “fastest implementation” and “improved efficiency”.
  • People tend to pay more attention to information presented in the beginning and at the end, often overlooking what is given in the middle. You should, therefore, offer the crux of whatever you would like to convey in the beginning and at the end.
  • The visual processing capability of our brain is near the speed of neuronal transmission. By using visual stimuli, ensure that you tap into the processing bias that the brain has developed over thousands of years. A personalized presentation, for instance, is, therefore, more likely to elicit a response compared to a personalized message.

These psychology concepts have been tested over time and have worked well for salespeople across industries. 

To sell well, you first need to understand that prospects are also people just like us and just as prone to cognitive biases. The more you apply psychology in sales, you will begin to understand prospects and their psyche better. 

These theories, when put into practice, will help you use these biases, influence decisions in your favor, and cut through the clutter.

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