Despite what others might, I like to think of sales as being the world’s oldest profession. Whether we’re pacing a car showroom floor, listing that disused clothes horse (i.e. treadmill) online, or putting our best foot forward on a first date – we are all trying to get someone to ‘buy’ what we are ‘selling’. And while sales literature and training seminars are full to the brim of anecdotes on how to hook them in and close the deal, the burgeoning research on the proven psychology of sales offers far more in the way of useful, practical, and most importantly profitable advice.
In this, the second of six articles in David Meade’s negotiation series with Ulster Business, he explores the fascinating secret behind dramatically increasing the likelihood of a prospect signing on the dotted line. This month David reveals the simple, cost free action you should carry out every time you meet a customer to increase the perceived value of your product or solution by as much as 33%. To explain, we’re hitting the road and heading to the retail capital of Northern Ireland: Rathfriland.
I’ve never been good at buying presents for others, but have been very good indeed at buying for myself. Cast your mind back to Christmas 1992. I was 10 years old (shut up) around about P5. “Nice to touch and nice to hold, but if you break it – it is sold!” salesperson Seamus hollered across the Rathfriland shop floor. I had been looking at a snow globe that I wanted to buy. It was cheap plastic, and I remember loving and wanting it more than anything else in the world.
Just as I went to pick it up he barked across the store, all but forbidding me from even touching it in the first place, never mind purchase it and take it home. Ultimately, despite wanting it, and having the money (and dare I say it much needed parental permission), I didn’t buy it. I felt like I was committing a crime just looking at it, never mind reaching to pick it up.
I have two full time members of staff in my business. They organise my events, client training, consultancy work, theatre tour, and diary. As the events, we are running are continuing to get bigger, we have a need to print vast amounts of colour materials and content to support delegates. We surveyed all the review sites, and picked a fairly large device that could produce the volume we needed. Having priced various online sources, we plodded some of the high-street suppliers too, for completeness.
We found the same device available in store, but at a higher price. It was £70 more expensive than online sources, and despite how particular I am about controlling costs, we went with the version we had our hands on in store.
These two seemingly different and unrelated situations are at the heart of helping us uncover one of the most underused principles in sales: the bird in the hand. Put simply, the research and evidence has proven to us unequivocally that a customer values, appreciates, and perhaps even desires a product that they’ve physically touched and experienced much more than a product that they’ve merely browsed for or researched in a catalogue/online. In other words, I valued the printer in the store more than the very same item that I found online, and I was willing to pay significantly more for the privilege. Conversely, the snow-globe that I dearly wanted was ultimately left on the shelf, perhaps because I was barely allowed to get close to it – never mind get my hands on it.
Far more than cute anecdotes, this principle has been evidenced extensively, proving that a customer is much more likely to buy your goods if they have the opportunity to meaningfully interact with it during the shopping process. In one test, customers were shown two different products – a slinky spring toy and a plain porcelain mug. Some customers were coaxed to pick up, inspect, and engage directly with the items, while other customers were expressly forbidden from doing so. The results were stark, and point towards huge opportunities for those in sales to increase their likelihood of closing and converting a sale. Those that physically inspected the product in person felt a stronger connection and commitment to it, they felt greater ownership of the items, and ultimately valued the items higher by as much as 33%. A giant leap in perceived value can be achieved by giving customers the opportunity to physically interact and experience your products.
Back at the Office
The implications of these findings for every business are vast, and more importantly within the reach of any organisation of any scale. Take some time to think about how you can force your clients, leads, and prospects to meaningfully interact with your products. If your products are proudly displayed behind glistening cabinets, or in sumptuous online or offline brochures, you need to start to rethink this aspect of your sales cycle – and fast. Whether it’s a test drive for a new car, or bringing a mockup of your brand-new triple glazing window system, both are far more likely to lead to a closed sale (and a higher value sale for that matter).
Don’t have a physical product? Then your job is even easier. Whether you’re a software engineer, or photographer, or accountant, encourage your potential new customers to take part in a free trial, or to take a complimentary no obligation service. In doing so they will not only get a sense of your products and services, but they’re more likely to sign on the dotted line and give you the sale you’ve been chasing.
And now that I’m here, I’d be delighted to invite you over to feel my treadmill – just let me know when you’ll be arriving so I can clear the laundry off it first.