Proof positive ways to sell more

June 7, 2014

We’re almost halfway through 2014 and sales tames everywhere are feeling the pressure of a new financial year’s targets. David Meade looks at how some simple and clever techniques can be used to boost your bottom line.

It’s a dirty word, I know, but someone had to bring it up. You might not like to admit it, but for many people in your organization, the word ‘sales’ leaves a pretty grimy aftertaste. It can conjure up images of pushy posers with the gift of the gab that could make any unsuspecting prospect sign on the dotted line.

You might have one of the strongest sales teams in the province which is pounding the pavements following leads and closing deals, but the truth of the matter is, boosting the bottom line is everybody’s business.

As the saying goes, ‘we are all in sales’, though few organisations are making headway towards developing a strategic way to employ the fundamental principles of effective sales across an entire organization.

Over the next few months, I’ll be focusing on how some simple changes to the way your organsiation presents itself, its people and its products can have a dramatic impact on your business now and into the future. During that time, I want you to set habit and convention aside as we press the ‘reset button’ on your sales effort, unpicking the stimuli that make those around you want to push the ‘buy now’ button or sign on the bottom line.

Proof Positive

Few psychological principles have more impact on the behavior of an individual than ‘social proof’, but what is it? In its simplest form, it is the strong psychological influence that is created when an individual discovers that a group of others is behaving in a certain manner. In other words, it’s a ‘phycological phenomena where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect the correct behavior for a given situation…driven by the assumption that the surrounding people possess more information about the situation.

As human beings, we are programmed to observe, learn from, and reflect the actions of others around us or in our reference group and it seems there is no context where this is more prevalent than consumer behavior.

There’s a staggering array of evidence to back it up too; roughly 70% of buyers say they seek out user reviews online before making the decision to purchase, and geniune consumer testimonials are considered to be well over ten times more trustworthy than the product descriptions provided by manufactures. The good news is this principle is quick and easy to exploit, and by the time you’ve finished this article you’ll be able to use social proofing in three hugely effective ways – and you can start today!

Crowd Wisdom

All individuals want to be part of something.Whether that ‘something’ is a community or a clique, when organsiations show that their products or services are being used or approved by large groups of people, their prospective clients feel a palpable urge to at least try out the product that has the whole world buzzing. All of the greatest sales operations in the word uses this strategy, and you can too with very little effort. Next time you’re pitching a solution to a lead or prospect, make a point of letting them know ‘we sold 12,000 user licences of this last week’ or ‘our new coffee blend has broken all records since we introduced it last month’.

Doing so reduces the perceived potential risk that a buyer might feel when making an investment, since they know others have tried earlier. So, whether you want someone to sign up to an email newsletter or try out a new restaurant, remember to tell them how many people have already made the leap and watch sales jump too.

The White Coat

 It will seem obvious, no doubt, to use the opinion or endorsement of an expert but I’m certain most of your organisations are failing to exploit the huge impact of the specialist on your sales. Adding weight and credibility to your own blurb, they are much more likely to read, retain, and trust the information if it’s being backed up by an authority in the field.

The numbers bear out too, with 2011 study showing endorsements do measurably increase sales, and even cause a jump in share prices.

Interestingly though, the experts can come from far and wide depending on your sector; cosmetics fly off the shelves with the right celebrity endorsement, but as social media continues to throttle traditional marketing models and consumers become ever-more commercially savvy and sophisticated – it’s the bloggers that are the new kings of opinion.

A Friend Indeed

Speaking of social media, the last technique for driving sales using social proof is a clever and potent amalgam of the two we’ve just explored. Crowds make us want to buy things that we can see they’ve already bagged. Experts that we trust make us feel safer about flashing our cash in products that we are interested in.

Combining these two stimuli is arguably the most powerful persuader of all, and they’re never more powerful than when the previous purchaser AND endorser is a friend that we know personally. Try browsing Amazon or Ticketmaster while also, just in the background, being logged into Twitter or Facebook. You’ll notice their back-end software is replacing their generic advertisements with those targeted with laser point accuracy. ‘Four of your friends also bought this book’ and ‘Your friend Amanda Carter is going to see Garth Brooks’ are not only astonishingly effective at grabbing attention, but they harness a host of psychological triggers.

Back in the Office

Of course, Amazon and Ticketmaster have a virtually limitless resource base to develop the complex back end required to make these powerful systems work but exploiting the ‘friend zone’ for your own purposes need not be expensive. When was the last time you simply asked a customer to tweet about your product if they liked it, perhaps in return for entry into a prize draw? The fact is social proof is an extraordinary tool that you are undoubtedly underutilizing. Harnessing the impact of crowds, experts and trusted friends as part of your sales effort can reap tremendous rewards. I just hope no one finds out about my own Garth Brooks tickets.


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