Very few purchases are made based entirely on logic. For example, when it comes to where you live, real estate agents know homebuyers have an immediate emotional reaction to a home. If this reaction is negative, the shopper will be less receptive to the intrinsic value: the convenient location, the unique features of the home, or the potential for the home with a few improvements. Sales of vehicles are similar: salespeople look for physical evidence of a shopper’s emotional reaction to a vehicle such as facial features relaxing or a bit of a “twinkle” in the shopper’s eyes. Even shoppers who take great pride in ferreting out bargains on mundane purchases can be influenced by their emotions. A shopper may carefully compare the prices and quantities on every brand of green beans to determine the best value — and then not choose the brand with the lowest price because the shopper heard an unflattering story about the company.
Regardless of the size of the purchase, one thing few shoppers want to reveal to salespeople is a emotional response. When a salesperson is in the picture the shopper’s guard goes up out of fear that they will be convinced to buy something they do not want or cannot afford. Perhaps they’ve had interactions where they felt the salesperson was condescending when offering suggestions. They may even feel the salesperson cannot be trusted to tell the truth about the product. Even a physical guard is used: If they are shopping with a spouse or friend, they won’t discuss the purchase freely if a salesperson hovering nearby. Just as a product brings an immediate emotional response, as a sales professional you too are also bringing emotional context to the product.
The Art of Persuasion
People like to believe they arrived at a purchase decision on their own. Yet almost every purchase decision is based on persuasion or influence. Although there are many forms of persuasion, Dr. Robert Cialdini, an author, psychologist, speaker and university professor, has delved deeply into the topic of persuasion. He advocates there are six key principles that can influence buyers and persuade them to make a purchase.
The Six Cornerstones of Persuasion
When attempting to influence a consumer’s purchasing decision, Cialdini defined six principles that can trigger positive emotions and improve the chances of a sale.
- Reciprocity: It is human nature to want to repay someone who does something nice for you. You feel a certain sense of obligation to return a favor. Offering a free gift with purchase, for example, or providing potential customers with excellent content can foster a feeling that they should repay you for your kindness by making a purchase.
- Social Proof: Consumers are influenced by what others think and say about virtually everything. From political candidates to restaurants, everyone likes to have confirmation their choices are valid. What others buy can influence the purchase decision, particularly if there are multiple possibilities lacking clear differentiation. For example, suppose a shopper walks into a bookstore without having a specific book or author in mind. After locating an interesting section, the shopper compares the blurbs on the backs of several books before narrowing the decision to two. Although both books seem interesting, one book’s cover indicates that it is a best-seller, indicating that a great many people liked it. The shopper purchases the best-seller rather than the second book even though both books may have been literary equals. Sharing testimonials or emails praising your product or customer service can help provide the social proof that can lead to purchases.
- Scarcity: Scarcity is a concept most people understand, especially parents who have spent days attempting to locate the year’s hottest toy or video game. Greater value is often assigned to an item that has limited availability — regardless of whether the additional value is justified. They may also feel compelled to make a purchase before the seller runs out of inventory or ends a sale. Marketers use several different tactics to encourage immediate action. A product may be advertised as a “limited edition,” for example, or a counter may show there are only three left in inventory. Some sites use a real-time clock that ticks down to show how much time the shopper has left to make a purchase at the sale price. If your product is not particularly rare, you can still use the principle of scarcity by offering free shipping, a price reduction or a free gift if the shopper makes an immediate purchase.
- Authority: People tend to value the opinions experts in their fields. For example, how well would books by Martha Stewart or Julia Child have sold if they had not been written by people perceived as experts? You can position yourself as trustworthy and knowledgeable through your content. If you sell handcrafted products, for example, prove you understand the process. If you sell supplements, link to reputable sources explaining the benefits of each ingredient.
- Liking: Simply stated, people want to buy from people they like, and they tend to like people who are similar to themselves. There are several ways to make people like your company. For example, you could secure an endorsement from a well-loved celebrity, but there are ways to foster fond emotions that are more economical. If your company was founded from an incident that will trigger an emotion, tell your story. Choose models that remind your customers of themselves rather than unattainable ideals. Be active on social media channels and provide links on your product pages. Show pictures of people using your product or wearing the clothes you sell.
- Commitment and Consistency: If you can persuade customers to make even a small commitment, the chances of them making an eventual purchase increase. Encourage them to register for your newsletter or sign up to be notified of sales. Once they make a soft commitment, they often engage in self-persuasion, justifying the commitment to themselves as well as others. However, commitment is a two-way street; you are making a commitment to remain consistent. Consistency encourages repeat purchases and customer loyalty. If you want an example of how one company almost destroyed its base of extremely loyal fans, you need only examine the introduction of “New Coke” and the extraordinary reaction of the many customers who were devoted to the traditional formula.