The psychology of selling online: how to win more sales
In his seminal work, ‘The Psychology of Selling’ business coach Brian Tracey defined ‘sales psychology’ as the understanding of buyer psychology. He surmised that, when you understand what keeps a buyer awake at night, you can respond accordingly.
Of course, Tracey wrote this publication in 2006, when face to face selling was still more common than virtual sales.
However, some of the tactics and methods Tracey outlines in his book can be transferred to online selling.
So let’s take a look at how you can input the psychology of selling into a finely tuned website to help elevate your sales.
Building trust online
Face-to-face rationale: When people feel that someone genuinely likes them, Tracey says they are “more open to listening to that person” and to what they are selling.
Translating it online: Building trust online is no mean feat. But it’s doable. So take time to understand your buyers. Create user personas for your typical customers. Consider this example: if you’re selling washing machines, someone will arrive at your website with certain questions in mind. They are looking for a white machine, of specific dimensions to fit into their pre-existing kitchen. Once you understand the questions your buyers have, you are able to build this into your web copy.
This means your website will speak to them in a language they understand, answering their questions and empathising with their scenario. Crucially, it builds trust between them and your brand.
Social proof is also important. If you’re not there to assure them in person, your digital presence will need to do the hard work. Ask satisfied customers to leave a review on Google and/or your social media channels. You might also want to consider platforms such as Trustpilot.
Ask yourself this: when you’re buying from an online store, how often do you read the reviews to gain information about the product and the level of customer service you can expect? That, of course, is a rhetorical question.
Just remember: behind every review resides a genuine experience which will inform and influence future purchase decisions.
Building reciprocity online
Face-to-face rationale: Have you ever felt obligated to do something for someone because they first did something for you? Social psychologists Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin describe this as the theory of reciprocity. Put simply: it is the process of exchanging things with other people in order to gain a mutual benefit.
Consider this common scenario: you pass the deli in your local supermarket and end up walking away with an unplanned purchase because you felt an obligation to buy after munching on a free sample.
Translating it online: Unlike a physical store, online sellers don’t have the benefit of passing footfall. If you get creative though, the reciprocity norm can function brilliantly online.
And these online sales strategies can be as simple and straightforward as sales coupons and special promotions. In convincing consumers to make purchases, you could also consider:
● Slipping freebie samples into outbound online sales parcels
● Offering discount codes for first time buyers
● Providing discounts and incentives for repeat buyers and referrals made to friends and family.
Building authority online
Face-to-face rationale: In a physical sales situation, it’s easier to demonstrate your knowledge. Or, as Dr. Robert Cialdini calls it, authority.
Cialdini sets down seven ways you can influence people to respond favourably to what you're selling. People, he says, have an innate human instinct to respond to the appearance of authority.
Translating it online: So, how can you become the authority online? Simple: by harnessing the power of all that information floating around in your head. You are the expert in your field. You are the authority. And, what you know, is literally one of the most valuable assets you have.
So go back to your user personas, then:
● Consider what information buyers are looking for online
● Conduct keyword research to gauge potential traffic
This way you can start creating content that whets their appetites. Take your specialist knowledge and share (some of it, not all of it) with prospects and customers.
Here are a few examples:
Blog post/content marketing: Let’s imagine you’re a solicitor. One of your key services is the provision of wills. This is a sensitive area for many people and, before they engage a service provider, they often look for information online to help inform their decision making. Start creating content that will genuinely help them. Doing so can:
● Turn you into a trusted online resource
● Build brand awareness and loyalty
● Fuel search engine optimisation
● Drive traffic and qualified leads
● Stimulate your social media streams
Cap-off your helpful blog posts with a call to action. Feed your users a diet of content they care about and, when it comes time to buy, guess what: they’ll choose you. At least, that’s the theory.
Free ebooks: People love free resources which inform their thinking. So consider creating useful guides. If you’re using a third party design company, ask them to build it ‘print ready’ - this way you’ll enjoy duality of economy from your investment as they’ll be able to supply you with print-ready files (for use in physical sales situations) and a digital copy (for use online).
Publish the content on your website then share it out via platforms such as social media and email marketing. You could ‘gate’ the ebook. By this we mean the user would have to provide you with, for example, their email in return for your free giveaway. Doing so builds an active database of contacts whilst helping out prospect buyers.
Summing up: the psychology of online sales
Selling is as much an art as it is a science. There is much we can learn from real-world experiences when developing our digital world. Remember: your website and digital presence are online tools. They are visited by humans, not robots, so humanise the whole experience.
Think of the famous Halo Effect. In the psychology of selling, it simply means that the positive impressions of a company or person (be it off or online) can positively influence one's opinion or feelings in other areas.
So be a mirror to your audience. Make it about them, not you. And ensure your entire digital estate answers customers’ questions, guiding them towards profitable actions which integrate with your business goals.
That way, they’ll be sold.