Survive and Thrive

by Marc Beauchamp

   The science of persuasion has been studied and experimented with for thousands of years. For the merchant- focused salesperson it's important to understand what's behind the decision to buy.
   According to a recent article by Professor Robert B. Caildini of the University of Arizona, there are six basic tendencies of human behavior that come into play when generating a positive response to a request: reciprocation, consistency, social validation, liking, authority and scarcity. These six traits determine why people purchase and arrive at decisions within our society.
   Lets review each.


   Most societies teach us to repay or give back in direct proportion to what we have received. This technique is used all the time by charities, drug companies, supermarkets and health clubs. By giving away a sample or service the individual feels obligated to reciprocate or purchase.
   Does this technique work? Ask the Disabled Veterans organization, after sending out free personalized address labels, their donations more than doubled, skyrocketing from 18% to over a 35% donation rate.


   People have an inborn desire to appear and be consistent with their word.
   A great example used in Mr. Caildini's article is from a restaurant owner in Chicago who was struggling with patrons that had reserved a table but failed to show up. He had his receptionist change two words when speaking to callers requesting a reservation. The changed dropped the no call, no show rate from 30 to 10 percent immediately. When she asked them "Will you please call if you have to change your plans?" and waited for an answer, this forced the customer to make a public commitment which filled their need to be consistent with their word, therefore the no show rate dropped.

Social Validation

   You can increase your sales ratios by demonstrating or merely implying that others just like them have already used your service and are happy with the results. For example, one study found that fundraisers that showed a list of neighbors that had donated to a local charity increased the amount and frequency of contributions significantly. The bigger the list, the better the results. References and customer letters are great ways to invoke social validation.


   "Affinity", "rapport" and "affection" all describe a feeling of connection between seller and buyer. People like to buy from people they like. Look at Tupperware for instance, through in-home demonstration parties, they arrange for customers to buy from a liked friend, the host, rather than from an unknown salesperson. This strategy has worked so well that there is a Tupperware party being given every 2 seconds some place in the world.


   In 1955 researchers from the University of Texas discovered that a man could increase the number of people that would follow him across the street against the light by over 350 percent, by changing one simple thing. Instead of casual dress, he wore the markers of authority, a suit and tie. Highlight your experience, background and credentials and you can harness the power of authority. What other tools can you use to make yourself more of an authority figure?


   Scarcity is one of the methods used the most in our society. Just turn on the T.V. and you will be bombarded by this form of advertising. Slogans like "These prices won't last forever", "Limited quantities on hand", "Rates won't stay this low forever", "Buy now and save thousands". Buyers want the best deal possible and when faced with a scarcity issue will usually make an affirmative buying decision.

   There you have it, the six fundamental tendencies that influence an individual's buying decision. But don't forget the two underlining motivators that influence every decision we make and action we take.

The Need to Avoid Pain or Fear of Loss
The Need to Gain Pleasure or Benefit

   Don't forget buying decisions are emotional. It takes a stronger emotion to overcome a weaker emotion. The only way to overcome the fear of pain is to make the desire for gain, or to be better off more intense.
   The majority of people will do more to avoid pain than they will to gain pleasure. In fact studies have shown that pain is a 2.5 times greater motivator than pleasure. These behaviors are genetically and culturally programmed. Think about it, how did your parents motivate you as a child? Usually we are threatened with some type of consequence (spanking, grounding, lost privileges).
   When do most people make a major life change or modify their behavior? When the pain gets too great.
   This is simple psychology; often the most profound insights are simple. Just make sure you not only show your customer how much your product will benefit them, but how they will also alleviate their pain today.