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Sales Psychology – Why and How People Buy


You don’t have to be trained in psychology to know that selling is rooted in psychology. For a seller, understanding how and why people buy is an advantage. Knowing what motivates people, how people make decisions, and the way people think doesn’t make sellers manipulative. It makes them capable. That’s why I recommend books like How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer, Drive by Daniel Pink, and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman - sales psychology must-reads for selling professionals.

It may seem obvious to say that people buy because they want or need something. But, as obvious as that may be, sellers do seem to lose sight of this fundamental principle. Sellers focus instead on the fact that they want to sell something, so they waste time talking to people who don’t want or need to buy. Just think about how much time you could save if you started out only spending time with people who wanted or needed what you have to sell.

In addition to this reminder, sellers should consider these five sales psychology fundamentals, too:

 People like to buy.

There’s a reason we have terms like “retail therapy” and “conspicuous consumption.” It feels good to get stuff. We like to buy… But we don’t like to be sold. There’s a fine (but clear!) line between helping someone to buy something they want or need and pushing something on a hapless prospect.

As a seller, you are a facilitator. To facilitate means to help someone progress or to make something easier. You can make it easier for a buyer to buy. Or you can get in your own way and make it more difficult by reciting irrelevant features, complicating the sales process, not addressing buyer needs or pushing too hard. Focus on making the process fun, easy and engaging for the buyer.

 People buy on value.

Value is inherently personal. Everyone buys on value but not everyone values the same thing. When you know what the buyer values, you can position what you’re selling as the way to gain that value. For example, a car being sold to two different buyers should be sold in two different ways. For the buyer who has a priority value on luxury and image, the seller would emphasize certain features of the car. For another buyer, one who has a priority value on safety, the seller would emphasize entirely different features of the same car. Each buyer would respond favorably when what matters most to them is showcased.

When sellers give the full menu of features without regard to what an individual buyer values, they dilute the features that matter most. Expecting the buyer to pay attention and wade through all the rest in order to zero in on the safety features that matter is unrealistic. Instead, the seller should ask engaging questions to learn what matters and then deliver information about the priority value.

 People are skeptical about seller’s motivations.

Blame the stereotypes and sellers who have come before you. Not all sellers are interested in meeting a buyer’s needs. Those other sellers focus instead on what they want to sell and how much commission they can make. They trick people into buying and may be downright dishonest when disclosing what their products can do and how much the product will cost. Those other sellers are here today, gone tomorrow when there is a need for service or when it’s time to be accountable for the misrepresentation of the product or terms.

Unfortunately, there’s been enough of these behaviors perpetuated by enough sellers to cause most buyers to proceed with caution when working with any seller. It isn’t fair, but it’s how buyers have been conditioned. Sellers have to accept it, be sensitive to it, and work to overcome this perception. Each seller has to establish rapport and build trust with a buyer because that trust won’t be given freely.

How does a seller build trust with a buyer? The foundation of trust in a business relationship is in doing what you say you will do. Follow up when you say you will. Deliver the products and services you say you will deliver when you say you will deliver them and at the price and terms you promise. Additionally, trust is inspired by confidence. A seller’s confidence and self-control will help buyers to trust him or her. To demonstrate control, demonstrate patience and interest in the buyer rather than racing ahead to try and make a sale. Sellers who are self-controlled and confident don’t rely on smooth pitches and patter. They don’t get defensive when they hear an objection. They aren’t intimidated by the words “no” or “not now.” Instead, they engage in conversations and ask questions about the buyer. They build the sale by getting to know the buyer rather than viewing all buyers as nameless, faceless leads.

 People are more likely to buy something when they can imagine what it’s like to use it.

There’s a reason that the seller on the car lot wants to get you behind the wheel of the car for a test drive. It’s much easier to buy something that you have experienced. Turning an idea into a tangible experience is a powerful selling technique.

Maybe your product or service isn’t one that can be demonstrated with a hands-on experience. If that’s the case, you have to determine what you can do to build on the cold, hard facts and features to make the after-purchase experience as real as possible. This may involve storytelling through testimonials that describe the before and after state. Or maybe it includes engagement in the design process. Asking questions about what problems will be solved and what that will mean to the buyer is a way to build benefits out of features.

 People respond to people who understand them.      

There are ways to appear that you understand and empathize with and are in tune with others. Mirroring another’s behaviors, for example, can initially cause them to feel you can relate to them. But getting past the superficial connection to build trust and genuinely connect with a buyer requires more.

Sellers who have learned about personality differences are able to flex their own style to meet buyers’ needs for how information is presented and how decisions are made. Being able to recognize and interpret clues about how others process new ideas and what type of information they rely on enables a seller to craft compelling presentations – each one customized to the individual buyer’s preferred style.

Personality assessments like DISC and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator make this easy to do. It starts with self-awareness and building skills to be more versatile. By developing their own type, sellers are better able to adapt the way they communicate. As a result, they “speak the language” of each buyer and are more readily understood.

Sellers who want to be understood by buyers know that there are psychological triggers and considerations like these that they need to sensitive to. In turn, their buyers respond and enjoy the experience of buying from them.

The CONNECT2Sell Blog has been discontinued as our focus has shifted to leadership at every level. Research with buyers demonstrates that buyers respond favorably when sellers show up as leaders. If you'd like to step into your full potential as a leader (and boost sales!), take a look at our free and affordable courses on