There has never been a more exciting time to be in sales! Over the past few decades there has been an explosion of scientific research on how our brains make choices and which factors influence what we decide to buy. I talked with David Hoffeld, author of The Science of Selling, Proven Strategies to Make Your Pitch, Influence Decisions, and Close the Deal, about what he learned from nearly a decade of research for his book. Once you know the rules of this science, you will develop an advantage over competitors who do not.

Here are five research-backed strategies from the book that you can use to immediately improve your ability to earn more sales.

1) Show Multiple Product Options

Does the number of product options you show potential customers impact their buying behaviors? Yes! For instance, one research experiment found that when participants were shown a single product and asked to purchase, only 10% compiled. However, when two products were shown, sales skyrocketed, as an impressive 66% of shoppers purchased.

Our brains instinctively assign a higher level of risk to making a purchase when only a single option is presented. The reason is because without something similar to compare the product to, our brains will struggle to identify value, which will cause the decision-making process to stall. In contrast, when there are multiple options in a choice set, the brain will select the best, and this victory reduces the perceived risk in purchasing it.

2) Create Anchors

When potential customers look at the price of a product or service, how will they know if it is fair or unfair? Their brains will automatically contrast the price with something else. Perhaps what they thought it would cost, what they paid last time, what a competitor quoted them or something else entirely. The studies which have analyzed this phenomenon all come to the same conclusion: the anchor the brain uses as its starting point is highly influential. Here's why:

When the brain forms an anchor it creates a bias that shapes how it perceives subsequent information. This is why you need to address price before you reveal it by creating a point of comparison. So, if you are entering into a negotiation you should always strive to create the anchor. However, if the other party does so first and presents a low anchor, you should adamantly reject it and immediately refocus the conversation on a new, more favorable anchor.

3) Focus On When You Present

When you are meeting with potential customers to deliver a formal presentation and you know a direct competitor will also be presenting, should you go first or last? This was the question that two behavioral scientists sought to answer. Here's what their research identified.

Whether you should go first or last depends on one primary factor: the time between the presentations. If you and a competitor are presenting back to back, you should go first because you will shape your prospect's perception and create biases that will put your competitor at a disadvantage. Though, if the time between presentations is more than a week, you should go last. The memory of your competitor will fade with the passing of time, while your presentation will be fresh in the potential customers' minds, which will increase the likelihood you'll be chosen.

4) Share What Others Are Doing

Have you ever been in an audience when a few people give the performers a standing ovation? In spite of the fact that you may not have planned on doing so, you find yourself rising to your feet and joining in. What you experienced is known as social proof. It's how our brains connect the persuasiveness of an idea or behavior with how others are responding to it. It is also why we are drawn to blockbuster movies, busy restaurants and businesses that have many customers. We instinctively think that if a lot of people are engaging in a behavior or embracing an idea then it must be the right thing to do.

How can you trigger social proof when you're selling? Share stories and examples of how others, similar to your potential customers, have purchased your product or service. You can also use phrases such as, "a lot of people," "most people in your situation" or "our most popular option" to stimulate the sway of social proof.

5) Reduce Reactance

Why is it that when you walk by a sign that says "DON'T TOUCH, WET PAINT" you want to touch it? The reason is because of a powerful psychological principle called reactance, which is the feeling of pressure that occurs when people believe that their ability to freely choose is being restricted by another. In fact, research studies have verified that when reactance is triggered people instinctively desire to rebel against what is being imposed upon them.

Reactance is often the silent killer of sales because when salespeople attempt to create urgency they often unknowingly arouse feelings of reactance. Yet, behavioral scientists have studied how to reduce these feelings. Letting people know that they are free to accept or reject a choice with phrases such as "Of course, it is up to you," at the end of a request have been shown to both reduce reactance and increase compliance with requests. In fact, one study found that this boosted compliance rates by 400%!

The new reality is that by utilizing research-based insights, you can better engage potential customers in ways that will prepare them to make good choices and also increase the likelihood that they will choose in your favor.

Published on: Dec 7, 2016