Many salespeople say that selling is an art. And perhaps for those who know how to improve sales through experience and practice it really is.
In objective reality, though, selling comes down to an understanding of something that goes beyond “fake it till you make it”: consumer behavior science.
It works because people share a great number of psychological similarities in how they act. By understanding the people, you can capitalize on this knowledge to improve sales.
Here we take a look at some of the most interesting proven-by-psychology tips that you can use to improve your sales
1. Analysis paralysis
Let’s start with the common belief that the more variation you have to offer, the easier it is to make a sale. True? No, not necessarily. The tricky part is offering just the right amount of variety for the target audience because having too many choices causes indecision and that can damage your sales according to a study done by Iyengar and Lepper.
An example of how to cause choice paralysis (courtesy of BodyJewelryShop.com).
They tested this with jam, offering 24 jars in one experiment and 6 jars of the most popular flavors in another. What they found was that the 6 jars of jam had a conversion rate 10 times that of the other experiment.
Keep your selection organized and don’t offer too much visually—be reasonable. And, as the KISS acronym goes, “keep it simple stupid.”
You may already know that when you order something from an online store, sometimes you receive an unexpected gift with a personal message. This is known as surprise reciprocity (see trigger #2), and it is driven by the human need to give back for having received something, no matter whether it’s something physical or material.
Including something nice with your order or doing something else unexpected for your customer (e.g., expedited shipping) is a great way to create loyalty because they’ll now feel compelled to shop with you again as a way to return the gesture.
3. Pricing similarity
If you’re trying to sell a group of things that are similar and you’ve decided on pricing them the same, you may want to rethink that because research from Yale has revealed a trick for you: price them differently for increased sales (even if not by a lot) to avoid action paralysis.
An example of price and item similarity to avoid (courtesy of TheToyShop.com)
The study specifically took a look at what rates people buy gum when two gum packs are priced the same versus when they are priced different by, say, 2 cents (62 cents vs 64 cents). The results? 54% chose not to buy the gum in the first case compared to just 23% in the second case.
You can prevent indecision and inaction by offering different price points for things that are similar, but remember that not everything needs to have a different price tag (e.g., garment colors).
4. Psychological pricing
You may have seen either online or in-store several cases of price tags where there is a 9 in there (e.g., $29.95 or $79). Here’s the reason: it’s a psychological trick to increase the likelihood that you’ll buy the product, and it really does work according to research (here and here).
In one of the studies, an item priced for $39 outperformed another item priced at $35 by 24% on average. This technique is useful to supercharge sales events. Here’s an example: you can "cross out" the previous price and write the new price next to it as in “Was $52, now only $35.99.” It must be noted, though, that the effect isn’t as strong.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that simple pricing is better for more expensive items. This is backed up by research that showed that the longer the price itself (using commas and periods), the more expensive it seems (e.g., $349.99 vs $349).
Pricing your goods appropriately to include 9s and odd numbers, especially on endings, increases demand and decreases the psychological barriers for buying what you have.
An example bundle of multiple items for one price (courtesy of MikeTheMason.com)
Here’s an interesting psychological fact: buying activates the brain’s pain center when making a purchase, but you can reduce this pain, according to a study, by offering products together.
By doing it this way, you reduce the number of purchases made (multiple purchases = multiple pain points); that’s what luxury automakers do (i.e., they offer packages rather than individual feature prices).
Because the brain is not very good at evaluating individual item prices when bundled, offering multiple goods at one price makes it less painful for the to-be buyer.
6. Social proof
Ask yourself: when someone makes a product recommendation, would you be more inclined to buy it? The answer in most cases is “yes,” and it’s known as “social proof.”
An example of social proof is to use customer’s photos (courtesy of StartupVitamins.com)
This psychological trick is rooted in the Solomon Asch Conformity Experiment where a person turns to others to make a decision. Simply put, reviews and testimonials go a long way in convincing people that what you’re selling is trustable. According to BrightLocal, 89% of 35- to 54-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
You should ask your customers to send you a review or a testimonial on what they bought so that you can use their quotation as italicized text in the product description or as a screenshot on the product page to help convince others.
7. Human faces
Showing products by themselves is good (especially with many pictures and angles), but we’re all psychologically wired to emotionally connect with each other.
An example of human faces to help a buyer “connect” (courtesy of BuddhaPowerStore.com)
According to VWO (Visual Website Optimizer)’s article and research therein, human images increase conversion rates and, for first impressions, increase trust in the site by a significant margin.
Putting a human face on your site can increase sales numbers, provided it's appropriate (e.g., showing someone using a product, showing your face as the maker/creator of something, etc.).
An example of how several elements create urgency (courtesy of TouchOfModern.com)
Every person needs something, but they also need to be urged to have sufficient motivation to take action. That’s the part of psychology that you can influence.
People are naturally averse to losing (“fear of missing out” or FOMO), and the knowledge of that can make them act. That’s where you can take advantage of this: create the urgency and potential loss that they’ll experience by using words of scarcity (“only X left”), calls to action (“I want one!” or “Get it now!”), timers (“order before X PM to have it ship today”), and offerings of limited gifts with their order.
When creating a need for your products, be clear about what your potential buyer should do to alleviate this urgency—just remember to be genuine about it.
While getting conversion rates up can be challenging, it doesn’t have to be if you know how people think. Because sales are more about psychology and less about art.
Also, most of these tips work because people are emotional, not rational. If people were perfectly rational, they would consider only the features and benefits of your product alone, and aesthetics and design (e.g., not using photos of humans holding your product) would have no bearing on their decision to buy.
So, now that you know this, give these eight tips a shot to see how much they help you increase your sales!