You have a great product.

But how can you present it in a way that people will want to buy?

This is where sales psychology comes in. You need to get on the buyer's mind if you want to create a pitch that will really resonate with them.

Fortunately, sales psychology is a well-researched area so there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

You can just learn what works and then apply it to selling your product.

Let's get started right away …

We buy based on emotion and then use the reason to justify the purchase

Gerald Zaltman, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School and author of How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market, argues that buying decisions are mostly made in the subconscious.

He explains that various research methods can help understand this process:

  • Comparison of stated beliefs with actual behavior. For example, people often say they compare several options before buying a product, but they don't even consider the alternatives to their chosen brand.
  • Measurement of physiological responses. There are physiological responses that humans cannot control and that show what they are thinking. These physiological responses often contradict what they are saying.
  • Study metaphors that consumers use. The metaphors people use to express their thoughts and feelings can provide insight into their true motivations, desires, and fears.

All of this led Zaltman to conclude that a staggering 95% of our buying decisions take place in our subconscious.

So how do you know what drives buying decisions?

Meet Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Abraham Maslow was a psychologist best known for his hierarchy of needs theory.

He argued that:

  1. There are universal human needs.
  2. These universal human needs exist in a hierarchy.
  3. The lower level needs must be met in order for the person to feel motivated to meet the higher level needs.

This is what its hierarchy of needs looks like:

  • basic. Air, food, water, clothing, shelter, sleep, etc.
  • security. Personal security, emotional security, financial security, etc.
  • Social affiliation. Friendships, romance, family, etc.
  • Self-esteem. Respect for yourself, respect for others.
  • Self-actualization. Realize the full potential.
  • Transcendence. To give yourself something that goes beyond yourself.

This hierarchy of needs is often illustrated with a Maslow pyramid:

Imagine someone holding your head under water.

Your mind would be focused on one thing: getting oxygen.

You wouldn't be able to think of anything else until the oxygen needs were met.

This is the main idea behind Maslow's hierarchy of needs:

A lower level need will dominate the mind, preventing it from focusing on higher level needs until it is met.

Of course there are exceptions, for example starving artists.

That being said, the theory applies in general.

Therefore, it can help us understand ourselves and others better.

Note: Maslow's pyramid shows self-actualization at the top, which is consistent with his original theory, but it is important to note that in his later years Maslow criticized his original vision, arguing that transcendence is the top of the hierarchy of needs.

How to Apply Maslow's Demand Hierarchy to Sales

How can you apply Maslow's demand hierarchy to sales?

  1. Determine which of the universal human needs dominates in your prospect's mind.
  2. Focus on that need when you are selling your product.
  3. Paint a vivid picture of a better life.

Now you can't just make it up. You need to do customer research.

Find out where your prospects are and watch their discussions.

This could mean:

  • Go through relevant subreddits.
  • Joining niche online forums.
  • After a Twitter conversation.
  • Read YouTube comments.
  • Read Amazon reviews.


Of course, you should also try to speak to your potential customer personally. So don't hesitate to reach out to customers in your target audience for customer interviews.

All of these will help you understand their hopes, fears, and dreams.

You should also pay attention to the exact words, phrases, and metaphors they use to express themselves.

That way, you can talk to them in their own language and bring up images that are already there in their minds.

Example: ConvertKit

ConvertKit sells email marketing software to online developers.

It is probably safe to say that the need for self-actualization above all drives the average person in their target audience.

And this is what the company emphasizes on its homepage:

As you can see, despite being an email marketing company, they are not opting for the "make money online" aspect.

Instead, they talk to "creators" about "building an audience" and "sharing what you love". Why?

Because they understand that it's not about the money; It's about self-realization.

The 6 Principles of Belief You Must Adhere to

Robert Cialdini is Professor of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University.

He became known for his groundbreaking book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” from 1984, which has since been sold over three million times.

Cialdini spent three years “undercover” in used car dealers, telemarketing companies and charities. Why?

He wanted to see how influence works in real life.

So he discovered the six basic principles of influence.

Let's take a closer look at each one …

Principle # 1: reciprocity

We feel obliged to return favors.

This often unconscious sense of duty is surprisingly strong.

This principle can be applied in a business context by intentionally creating the feeling of obligation in the prospect's mind.

It usually does this by offering them a small gift, which makes them buy something from you as a token of reciprocity.

This gift can be a free download, free trial, low cost product, etc.

Principle # 2: Commitment and Persistence

We value consistency with others and want to be seen as consistent ourselves.

Obviously, this behavior has a social aspect, since changing your mind about something publicly often comes with a social cost.

However, this desire to be consistent is so strong that it overrides sanity even in situations where you would incur no significant social cost.

This principle is often applied by the foot in the door technique in a business context.

You get the prospect to commit to something and use that small initial commitment to escalate to larger commitments.

That is why a range of products is better than just one.

For example, the New York Times bestselling author and famous blogger Ramit Sethi offers a wide variety of products.

They range from his book, "I'll Teach You To Be Rich," which costs less than $ 10, to courses like Finisher's Formula which cost a few hundred dollars, to flagship courses like Find Your Dream jobs that cost thousands of dollars.

It is much easier to get someone to spend ten dollars on a book than it is to convince them to put several grand on an online course.

But once they buy this book, they are more likely to buy the next product than the next and so on.

All because you got your foot in the door with a $ 10 book.

Principle # 3: Social Proof

When we're not sure what to do, let's look at what others are doing.

In a business context, this means that your prospects seek the safety of others.

You can provide this security by:

# 1 With customer references

It is critical that the testimony not only be real, but also look realistic.

It helps to include:

  • Photo.
  • Name of the company.
  • Job title.
  • Website.
  • Twitter handle.

Of course, it's ideal if the prospect already knows and respects the person who gave the testimonials.

For example:

AgencyAnalytics is a reporting platform for digital agencies.

They have a customer success stories section on their home page that has three testimonials:

It's safe to say that anyone who runs a digital marketing agency instantly recognizes Brian Dean.

He is the founder of Backlinko, one of the top SEO blogs, and a world renowned SEO expert.

You may not know about AgencyAnalytics, but if you are a backlinko reader you tend to trust them because Brian Dean is vouching for them.

The testimonials from Wonderist Agency co-founder Michael Anderson and Bonfire Group's head of digital services George Gavalas add even more credibility to the company.

# 2 With customer case studies

Everyone knows you are biased when it comes to your product.

That's why potential customers always take what you say about your product with a grain of salt.

What they want to know is this:

Does your product do what it says on the tin?

You can answer this question by providing customer case studies.

For example, when the aforementioned Brian Dean reopened his flagship course, "SEO That Works 4.0", he didn't just tell his email subscribers how great the course was.

He also provided social evidence, including three new case studies from his former students:

Have your existing customers achieved the results they wanted?

Then reach out to them, interview them, and write down case studies.

Let your results speak for themselves.

# 3 With "As Seen On" badge

Has your product been featured in the media?

If so, then consider putting "As Seen On" badges on your homepage.

For example:

Quip sells oral hygiene products.

The innovative electric toothbrush has received numerous praise.

It was named the best electric toothbrush by GQ magazine and included in the list of "25 best inventions" by TIME magazine.

Quip offers TIME and GQ badges on its homepage:

What do you think when you see this

"This toothbrush has to be real."

So go out there get those media mentions and display the badges on your website. This will instantly make you look more believable.

Principle No. 4: Like

We are more likely to accept offers from those we like than from those we don't. But what makes us like other people?

Physical attractiveness

We like attractive people.

There is such a thing as the halo effect.

We tend to notice one positive trait of a person and then project other positive traits onto them, as if that one positive trait casts a halo that lets us see that person in a positive light.

The best-known example is the tendency to subconsciously assume that an attractive person must also be intelligent, honest, kind, etc.

What does this mean in a business context?

  • You can become more convincing by simply becoming more attractive (getting in shape, grooming yourself, dressing in style, etc.).
  • It is better to have attractive people in customer-centric roles, including roles like a product evangelist.
  • It makes sense to use pictures of attractive people to promote your product as their attractiveness throws a “halo” on what you are selling.

For example, Carls Jr. is known for their burgers and their high-risk Super Bowl commercials with attractive women eating those burgers.

That being said, you don't want the attractive person to be too dissimilar to your potential customers, as their attractiveness may have the opposite effect.

For example:

If you're selling a product to mothers in their thirties who stay home, including a picture of a 22 year old model in your ads might not be the best idea. Why?

The model doesn't resemble your prospects, so they don't resonate with the ad.

However, you could use the image of an attractive 35 year old woman in normal clothing instead to benefit from the halo effect.

When it comes to leveraging physical attractiveness in marketing, you want to go for a "just like you but more attractive" look that is not the unrelated "supermodel" look.

To be like us in a way

We like people who are somehow similar to us.

This includes similar:

  • Religious views.
  • Political opinions.
  • Career.
  • Hobbies.
  • Interests.


So think about what you have in common with your prospects and emphasize this.

This is easy for the products where the founder is also a customer.

But you can probably have something in common with your prospects, even if at first glance they have nothing to do with you.

At the very least, you should adopt their communication style including tone, jargon, memes, etc.

Compliment us

We like people who compliment us.

Try to compliment the prospect when you have your sales pitch.

This doesn't have to be a straight line compliment that you look pretty today.

Just find a way to make the prospect feel good about yourself.

Working together towards a common goal

We tend to trust people we've worked with to achieve a common goal.

Another way to think about it is this: When we experience difficulties together, we feel connected.

This can mean anything from college roommates to medical stays to war battles.

In a business context, this principle can be applied by publicly setting a goal and then sharing your progress with your prospects so they can invest in your success.

For example groove, A company that sells help desk software used content marketing to build a $ 5 million a year business in just three years.

Her blog was formerly called "A SaaS Startup's Journey to $ 100,000 in Monthly Revenue".

The premise was simple: They shared everything they learned while building a software company.

This approach, known as "building in public", can, if done correctly, make you popular with potential customers, making them more likely to ultimately buy your product.

Make us laugh

We like people who make us laugh.

A light-hearted tone often works well when you are building a relationship with a prospect.

For example:

Dynamite Jobs is a job exchange where companies from any location can advertise remote jobs.

The team sends out a weekly newsletter entitled “Remote Interesting”.

It includes "Remote Jobs and Some News with a Joke or Two from Dino the Dynamite Alpaca".

The jokes are cheesy, but they're amusing, for example:

"A working week is so rough that after Monday and Tuesday the calendar even says WTF."

These newsletters are signed by "Dino the Dynamite Alpaca and the Dynamite Jobs Team".

In case you are confused by the whole alpaca thing, Dino the Dynamite Alpaca is the Dynamite Jobs mascot.

All of this helps Dynamite Jobs to create a casual, friendly and down-to-earth brand image that appeals to the target group of digital nomads.

Of course, this doesn't work for all companies. In some industries, it can prove disastrous. Nobody likes it when a funeral director makes jokes.

However, if you think a more lighthearted tone might appeal to your target audience, don't be afraid to experiment with it.

Remember that while you don't want to be overly formal, you don't want to come off as blatant and inappropriate either.

It is important to find the right tone.

Principle # 5: Authority

We tend to obey authority.

The extent to which we are ready is disturbing, as the famous Milgram experiments show.

This means that when they see you as an authority in a business context, people are more likely to shop from you.

It makes sense to establish yourself as an expert in the field, view relevant credentials, and share previous achievements.

Principle # 6: Scarcity

We value scarce things.

The less available something is, the more we want it.

This is why people are hard to come by when dating, go crazy on Black Friday and pay by the nose for vintage wines.

This principle can be implemented with time-limited deals in a business context. However, you need to get it right if you don't want to alienate your customers.

For example:

The aforementioned Ramit Sethi has an online course called "Find Your Dream Job".

As you can see, you can't just sign up for this course whenever you want. You have to get on the waiting list.

This is not just a selling ploy. Ramit Sethi has a reason for this.

He must control enrollment in order to adequately support his students.

And that's the best way to implement the scarcity principle.

You should only use it when dealing with resource constraints. In other words, when there is indeed a shortage.

Other examples could be personal coaching, live events, etc.

Use Sales Psychology Responsibly!

Everything we've discussed in this article can be used to manipulate people.

That is why it is so important that you have a great product that will really make people's lives better.

If so, then you need to be as effective as possible in selling, otherwise you would deprive the potential customer of its benefits.

So, before you start selling, ask yourself if you really believe in your product?

Never compromise your ethics to make money fast.

Use sales psychology responsibly.


We humans are not rational beings. Our feelings rule us.

This applies to everyone. It is tempting to think that you are an exception, but that would only fool you.

We all make decisions based on emotions and then use reason to justify them to ourselves and to others.

Do you want to get better at selling? Then learn to work with human nature and not against it. Study psychology.


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