Psychology of Selling –⁠ Sales Techniques that Power your E-commerce

November 17th, 2023
Psychology of selling

In the dynamic world of online shopping, offering a great product is just the beginning. To truly thrive and stand out, understanding your potential customers is key. As revealed by GE Capital Retail Bank (2021), a striking 81% of consumers do their research before making a purchase.

Gaining insights into consumer behavior and mastering effective influence techniques is crucial to positioning your products as their top choice. In this article, we’ll delve into sales psychology and reveal 7 sales techniques to boost your e-commerce success.

Consumer Psychology: More than understanding customer needs

What you want, others will too.

“The brain analyzes and captures information to weigh pros and cons, but decisions are made emotionally”

-Adrian Davis 

According to Brian Tracy’s ‘Psychology of Selling,’ the following are our basic instincts, needs, and aspirations:

  • Love 
  • Recognition  
  • Health and Fitness 
  • Be liked  
  • Money 
  • Status  
  • Security 
  • Growth and self-realization 
  • Power and popularity 
  • Leading the field 
Understanding customer needs

Primary customer needs

When it comes to sales, no one cares much about YOU! But to be a successful salesperson, YOU must care about everyone–at least for the group of individuals you are selling to. Read our business plan steps to find out what you need to know about personas and target groups.  

Buyer persona examples

Sales psychology distinguishes between 6 types of buyer personas. These do not depend on any particular demographic group or market niche. 

Types of buyer personas

Types of buyer personas.

People who know exactly what they want, like the self-actualizing buyer, cannot be convinced to change their minds. The good side: Once you have them, they stick with you.  

The analytical buyer cross-checks everything. Here, social proof through reviews, product comparisons, and pro lists will help to convince them.  

Persuade the “Mother Theresa persona “of the relater buyer by shedding light on your product’s good cause and the mission behind it. Consider donating a percentage of your sales to charity if this is the type of buyer you aim to attract.  

Vague and lengthy communication is not the right sales technique to get to the driver-buyer. They do not waffle. Make them steer to the cashier with concise product demo videos, obvious discounts, and fast checkout.  

Reviews and ratings get the socialized buyers’ attention. They will be impressed with guarantees, subscriptions, affiliate programs, and awards. These people are achievement orientated and they want to see results immediately with any deal.  

Do not invest your energy into the indifference of the apathetic buyer. It’s an uphill battle you likely won’t win.  

Sales Psychology 

In advertising, the following principles of sales psychology are commonly used to attract attention and make prospects want more. 👀 You will see all advertisements with new eyes after reading this. 

Familiarity Principle (Cognitive Fluency) 

Also known as the mere exposure effect. It suggests that a person needs to see something 7 times to be able to notice and remember it!  

To sell something surprising, make it familiar; and to sell something familiar, make it surprising

Raymond Loewy

Priming in Advertising

Subtle hints or messages cause the brain to think in a certain way. For many years this technique has been used in advertising to evoke certain thoughts. For example, a Kentucky Fried Chicken ad disguised a dollar bill in the form of a salad leaf to suggest it is cheap. The sci-fi magazine SFX consciously covers the letter F to imply, you know… 

Example of priming in advertising
Example of priming: SFX magazine

Reciprocity in Sales Psychology

Reciprocation is the natural inclination for individuals to feel obligated to give something back when they receive something unexpectedly. As it taps into the human desire for fairness and mutual benefit, this is a powerful persuasion principle.

The Pratfall-Effect and Vulnerability Loop 

Remember Jennifer Lawrence’s fall when she accepted her Oscar for Best Actress in 2013? The effectiveness of imperfection. A test carried out by Elliot Aronson in the mid-1960s showed that if highly regarded people make silly mistakes, like spilling a coffee, they will be seen as more likable. So, admitting your mistakes will make you more authentic and likable.

The IKEA-Effect

Assembling Ikea furniture is like opening a Kinder Surprise egg, isn’t it? This effect draws upon the sense of accomplishment humans feel when they create something on their own. Invite your customers to invest a little effort into creating something uniquely their own that they can be proud of.

The Primacy or Recency Effect

Read the following words out loud: 

humor, verve, bubble, stick, monkey, carrot, money, satisfaction, button, sharp 

Now, no cheating! 

Cover the words and scroll down.   

Which words do you remember? 

The first and last impression counts. That is also why you see products in a certain order.  The regency emphasizes the importance of making a memorable first impression and leaving a lasting impact on the customer’s mind. 

The Power of Novelty

We love something new. It does not have to be cutting-edge technology or the newest thing on the market. It is how it is presented–using a different shocking headline, a new video, or a unique infographic that makes the difference.  

Illusory Truth and the Impact of Repetition

This is believing false information after repeated exposure. Use different words to repeat your message. Familiarity overpowers rationality. This effect is used in the news all the time. 

Authority in sales psychology

If something is medically proven or tested by experts, people prefer it. This is why we all fall for signs like trusted badges, dermatologically tested, ISO standards, and patented products.  

Commitment, Consistency, and the Role of Liking

Commitment and consistency is a principle that describes a person’s firm belief to do something to such an extent that they justify their actions. Combined with positive experience or liking these actions, such a person will stay committed and become loyal.

For instance, it might lead someone to go the extra mile for better bread from a preferred bakery over a cheaper one nearby. Whether we like something or not is influenced by what is called “confirmation bias”.

Understanding Confirmation Bias

If we see something, we form an opinion about it in just a few seconds. Why is this? Because humans have pre-existing ideas and beliefs that lead them to assumptions. It explains why people have prejudice or are gullible. The inclination to stick with pre-existing beliefs is controlled by familiarity and can be changed by priming. 

All these principles are intertwined. Psychology is an exciting and vast subject. With the most common principles noted, let’s concentrate on 7 more essential tricks in marketing psychology that you can immediately use in your online store. 

7 Sales Psychology tricks to sell more

You are always the runner-up to your competitors. Prospects may not choose you now, but they can return to you later. Always make them feel good, and be positive. Avoid negativity on your e-shop pages and in your communications.

Characteristics of a positive sales-person

Positive salesperson

1. Persistency 

Follow up on renewals, new members, and customers. Being persistent does not have to mean being annoying. There are 2 ways:   

  • Collect leads (e.g., email addresses) from your potential customers by giving something away for free   
  • Show appreciation by providing a discount code for a new customer to use on their next purchase  

2. Describe the problem to sell the solution

Make your customers articulate their problems and challenges first. Help them understand their current difficulties and frustrations. Emphasize these issues to evoke emotions and then introduce the solution for them. Illustrate the change they can achieve.

Stories – like the young, overweight mom who lost 25 pounds with that new diet and gained her confidence back – never get old. Why? Because people connect with real-life experiences and identify with others facing similar challenges.

Importantly, find out during the problem-solving process if the prospect is: 

  1. held back by spending extra or more money for the solution 
  2. lost or finds a solution choice too overwhelming 
  3. afraid that switching to your solution may make them look like a fool because they are not sure that your solution will work out 

Overcome all three of these points by offering:

  • a trial period
  • a tester 
  • a first time ½ price 
  • an extra help hotline or a guide for new customers 
  • extra material about your products for 1st-time buyers (with product comparison lists and exclusive video reviews) 

3. Curiosity -gap 

Using phrases like “This might not be for you…” or “Are you thinking it might be?” leaves your audience in suspense and eager to find out more. It increases interest in your message or product.

This technique is particularly effective when used in the headline of your blog article, product promo video, or even in your product page title or Google ads. For example: 

  • Don’t make these mistakes when buying new Christmas lights! 
  • 5 clever ways to save money on your Black Friday shopping 
  • Things you should not eat on an airplane 
  • This thing blew my mind! I’ll tell you more about it in a second… 

4. FOMO & Scarcity 

FOMO is the fear of missing out on something. Create a sense of urgency by: 

  • Limiting your product availability 
  • Displaying the remaining stock 
  • Counting down the days till your sale ends  
  • Introducing a one-time opportunity 

5. Box sell technique and decoys

Both techniques prevent what is known as decision fatigue. When faced with many choices humans can become overwhelmed and cannot make a decision. According to Hicks’ Law, an increase in the number of options can slow down the decision-making process.

Hicks law in sales psychology

Hicks law. Too many choices slow down reaction time. The ideal number is around 3 options.

Apple does it too. The 3 boxes. They follow a 20/60/20 pattern.

3 boxes sell technique example 

3 boxes sell technique example 

20% of people will go with the starter package or cheaper service. Whereas 60% will go for the mid-range option and 20% for the advanced option. The options are often coupled with a decoy effect. An offer that contains more value for a higher price. 

6. Justification

The simple word “because” is a powerful one. It provides reasons and adds meaning to a claim. Using “because” in your ads and product descriptions effectively substantiates choices and buying decisions. 

Consider these examples: 

  • They use XYZ because … 
  • I like XYZ better than ABC because … 
  • If you like ABC, you’ll like XYZ because … 
  • You don’t want to miss XYZ because … 

Now it is your turn! Download and use this template to highlight your best product or product line by forming sentences with the word because.

7. Gamification

Gamification makes your audience engage with what you have to offer. The aim here is to entertain and make them feel as if they are the smart ones who struck the deal of the year. These applications can all be embedded into your website or newsletter program: 

  • Spin the wheel to win: Whelio widget and alternatives, like Optinspin or other pop-up makers are great options.
  • Abandoned cart emails: Mailchimp offers automated email marketing to remind your e-shop visitors that they left something precious in their cart. Have a look at the abandoned cart email templates
  • Timers: Create scarcity with countdowns and timers
  • Reviews: Next to Google Reviews, use Trustpilot with Yotpo so you can include referrals for your reviewers, or power reviews that also create user-generated content (UGC–screens). 
  • Upsell or cross-sell: Offering existing customers a better-value-for-money option is easier than finding new customers. This action is called upselling. Do this through pop-up windows or email marketing. Cross-selling means offering your customers complimentary products. You can do this by adding a list of suggested products on your product page.

We’ve introduced you to the vast field of sales psychology, giving you insights and tips to enhance your selling strategies. Remember, the world of selling is ever-evolving, and there is always more to learn. Keep on striving for excellence in your sales.

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