Persuasion Psychology: How to Sell More of Your Stuff

How To Get Under People’s Skin So They Almost Beg You to Buy Your Stuff. Part 1

Many years ago I had a sales mentor by the name of Larry Thompson. One of the things I remember about him was his extraordinary ability to persuade people to his point of view. He could do it in a one on one environment and he could do it in front of 1,000 people and more.

He was a master at the game of persuasion and influence. He had influence because he was already very successful, so when he spoke people took notice of him.

But he took the whole persuasion thing to another level by influencing his sales troops to do things that ordinarily they would NEVER do, if left to their own devices. Such is the power of persuasion – having the ability to move people from position A to position B, and do it in such a way that they think it’s a good idea.

Larry once told me that he loved to hone his persuasion skills. For example if he was staying at a hotel he would practice it on hotel staff by getting them to do extra things for him – things that he didn’t really want, but he just wanted to keep polishing his skills.

So persuasion is about moving people to your point of view. But it must be done I in such a way that it doesn’t threaten the prospect’s fragile ego. (Some of the best persuaders do it in such a way that the prospect thinks it was his/her idea.)

Most business owners are not ‘sales types’. And even if they are, they’re more likely to be of the order taking variety than that of a true sales maker. A sales maker is not only someone who chases business – when he gets the business the order value will typically be much greater than it is for the order taker.

One of the reasons for this is that the sales maker is a great problem solver. By taking this approach he naturally draws prospects towards him so they WANT to do business with him/her.

But more than this……

The sales maker is also adept at expanding the vision of the prospect. This often results in her purchasing the high end version of the cheaper product that she may have been considering previously.

To become effective at winning more sales at much higher value, it is vital to have an intimate understanding of persuasion psychology, which is a topic that I have been studying and practicing for decades.

When I say ‘studying’ I’m not just talking about reading books – I’ve been honing my skills in the marketplace based on what I’ve learned from mentors and others who have helped me along the way.

So What Is Persuasion Psychology?

Persuasion psychology is essentially the process of understanding the key buying motivators of prospects; why people buy things – and why they don’t.

There are two sides of the same coin – persuasion and influence.
If we become more effective in the influence game we’ll automatically be more persuasive.

Persuasion psychology is really about understanding how people tick and why they do things in a certain way. Rather than waste time on a theoretical exercise I’m going to give you some examples of persuasion psychology in action in the real world. Take a look:

  1. It’s about feelings more than it is about facts.
  2. It’s about benefits more than it is about features.
  3. It’s about posture so that prospects respect you and naturally gravitate towards you.
  4. It’s about disturbing people when they need it, so they are compelled to seek a solution to their problem.
  5. It’s about showing empathy when needed.
  6. It’s about selling concepts more than it is about selling products (sell them on the concept and the product sale will follow seamlessly from there)
  7. It’s about social proof which helps to validate your proposition.
  8. It’s about understanding that people need to know that you care about them, and not just their money.
  9. It’s about you being the alpha leader so they feel comfortable about following you.
  10. It’s about understanding that the fear of loss is a more powerful motivator than desire for gain.
  11. It’s about expanding people’s vision so they step up and buy the best product solution for them, even if it costs more than they had originally intended (ethical considerations need to apply here)

Robert Cialdini’s Six Principles

Robert Cialdini’s Six Principles

At this point I think it helpful to look at the work of a leading commentator on the topic of influence and persuasion.

The Six Principles of Influence (also known as the Six Weapons of Influence) were conceived by Robert Cialdini who is Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University. He published them in his best seller book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”, in 1984.

Principle #1: Reciprocation

“Give something: give information, give free samples, give a positive experience to people and they will want to give you something in return.” Robert Cialdini

The Law of Reciprocity works on the basis that if I do something nice to you, you will feel an obligation to return the favor. Best advice? Be a go giver more than you are a go getter.

Principle #2: Social Proof

‘If Joe is doing it, it must be good’

People look for validation from others; that the decision they are contemplating making is a wise one. So bring on your testimonials, your endorsements, and your case histories.

Principle #3: Commitment and Consistency

‘When people make commitments they get results’

It is a fact that if you can get a prospective customer to make a commitment, even a non financial commitment, they are much more likely to follow through and make the purchase.

Principle #4: Liking

“People prefer to say ‘yes’ to those they know and like”

A bit of a no brainer this one. How to become more likable? Well if you’re in sales you should already know it, but showing empathy is one of the ways, and looking for things in common with your prospect is another. It helps to be friendly, sincere and transparent too.

Most of these qualities can be displayed in the online world as well as in the offline world of face to face sales.

Principle #5: Authority

“Giving the appearance of authority actually increases the likelihood that others will comply with requests – even if their authority is illegitimate.”

The author reported the results of experiments that powerfully concluded that the human guinea pigs were subjected to the influence of authority figures. In this example they were men in lab coats posing as experts. So the conclusion is that even the perception of authority will have the same effect on people as actual authority has.

Principle #6: Scarcity Principle

“When a product is scarce the perception of value will tend to be higher”

When something is in short supply, the more valuable it will become and – often – the more people will want it. It’s a law of the universe.

Direct marketers use scarcity effective and internet marketers have taken the scarcity tactic to a whole new level – witness the fake scarcity ploy of marketers selling digital products, products that in reality will never be scarce.

The Best Seller by D. Forbes Ley

d forbes ley the best seller

For my money this book is the greatest book written about selling – ever. It’s a work of genius, and although some of the language is a bit outdated now, the core of it as relevant today as it was in 1984 when it was released.

The thrust of Ley’s method is that you must sell to a prospect’s hurt or pain. But you must do it in an invisible way – if it becomes obvious to the prospect that you are manipulating him/her they will run a mile.

Of course a prospect will not move forward on a purchase if they can’t justify logically, but the fact is that by finding their hurt or pain point the number of sales that get closed will exponentially increase (the order value will likely increase as well).

Even in the online environment this approach works. For instance using an email to remind people of their pain will often get a much better response than one that doesn’t. Same comments apply to the sales page.

I always bring out the hurt early to capture the prospect’s attention. Once they are reminded of their pain, they will surely then be open to a solution. If it’s done correctly many people will be hungry for the solution.

You can grab a new or second hand copy of The Best Seller at Amazon – well worth it.

Why We Do What We Do – Theories of Influence and Persuasion

The Changing Minds website gives some useful information about the theories of influence and persuasion and much else besides. Dave Straker is the guy behind the site and in reference to persuasion he talks about our inner system and the external factors that influence the way we act. The Inner system includes values, attitudes, beliefs and goals.

He also says that ‘Inner systems are often held as networks of connected beliefs, etc. Persuasion often acts to break and redirect those interconnections.’

In the non business world we see evidence of influence and persuasion all the time. For instance someone who wants to change her external environment may seek to gain influence by joining a cause (including a political party) that is in synch with her views. As she builds a reputation her influence grows and hence her ability to persuade others to her point of view.

The more influence she has the more likely it is she will persuade others to fall into line and follow her proscriptions.

Persuasion In the Online Space

If you’re an internet marketer or have a traditional business and want a greater web presence you can use influence and persuasion techniques to sell more stuff. I already gave an indication that persuasion techniques can be effectively used in sales pages and when communicating by email.

For example a well structured sales page will use key elements such as:

  • Pain and Hurt. Remind people of their pain early in the presentation. Start off by asking a question such as ‘Is This You?’ Then list the pain point. 
  • Empathy. Let people know that you’ve walked in their shoes too – ‘I know exactly how you feel, because just a few years ago I had the same problem etc’.
  • Story Telling. Tell your story and other people’s stories in a simple but compelling way.
  • Authority. If you can cite industry names that will endorse you, use them. If not, assume the posture of leader in your writing. It works!
  • Social Proof. You need a few stories of others who have used the product or service. Video testimonials work the best.
  • Liking. Even with something as relatively passive as the written word (compared to a phone or face to face conversation) you can still get people to like you. Using empathy is one way to do it. Another way is to convey a friendly and warm hearted persona.
  • Value Building. You’ve highlighted the problem and made your prospect feel the pain. Now you must present your product as the solution to the problem. Integral to this step is to build the value. Do it right and people will think your product is the bargain of the year.
  • Closing. As always ask for the order. Do it many times.

A Caveat – Use Persuasion Strategies Ethically

Used properly persuasion strategies are powerful. However, it is vital that they be used ethically. Failure to do so will likely result in the prospect having unrealistic expectations about your product or service. Disappointment will surely follow – as sure as night follows day. The last thing you want is an unhappy customer who is looking for recompense, or who gives you bad word of mouth.

2 thoughts on “Persuasion Psychology: How to Sell More of Your Stuff”

  1. That was psychology at its best and yes these tactics of pain, and then flipping to value building is so true and yet it gets results. People buy based on emotional involvement involuntarily whether it was intended or not.

    Thanks again..

    1. Thanks for your kind words Crystal!

      Yes you are right – people do buy on emotion, but they then justify with logic too.

      It’s a balancing act

      Thanks again Crystal!

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