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Behavioral Psychology and Sales

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behavioral science in sales

February 26, 2020Article

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Behavioral psychology is defined as a branch of science that deals primarily with human action and often seek to generalize human behavior in society.

There is a fundamental connection between behavioral psychology and selling – because, at its core, selling is a profession rooted in human interactions.

Hiding just below the surface of any sales conversation are unconscious biases that drive the human decision-making process. These unconscious biases are present for both buyers and sellers.

Understanding of these subconscious drivers and the skills, practices, and techniques sales professionals must master are critical to delivering a differentiated customer experience.

Benefits of Understanding Behavioral Psychology in Sales

Sales professionals familiar with behavioral psychology concepts improve their ability to connect with customers because they have a greater understanding of their customer’s biases and their own. This helps them to more objectively evaluate opportunities and challenges, avoid aggressive behaviors, and reach their goals.

Sales professionals who understand the core concepts of behavioral psychology are better able to engage their customers because they have:

  • Increased self-awareness
  • Improved emotional intelligence
  • Improved agility
  • Reduced social anxiety
  • Reduced fear in managing difficult conversations
  • Improved ability to assess challenges and opportunities objectively

These attributes reduce barriers to success because the sales professional has a stronger grasp of their buyer’s strengths and limitations as well as their own.

Another great benefit for sales professionals endeavoring to internalize the teachings of behavioral psychology is that they learn how to better assess and manage their own subconscious reactions. Paying closer attention to their own reactions is critically important because generally everyone accepts that buying is an emotional experience, but they often forget that selling is emotional as well.

Bringing Behavioral Psychology to Life Through Sales Training

To develop a strong sales team, it’s important to incorporate these important behavioral selling concepts into your sales training programs.

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance shows that humans are prone to discount, dismiss, or oppose information that is new or conflicts with our beliefs because it creates emotional discomfort.

Both customers and sellers are prone to the effects of cognitive dissonance. Customers object because of it. Sellers are naturally wired to react by defending their viewpoint in order to relieve their emotional discomfort. This only increases the level of cognitive dissonance for the customer and may trigger a threat response.

Being aware of the effects of cognitive dissonance helps sales professionals maintain Presence. Using acknowledgment or empathy helps to diffuse feelings of defensiveness for both the sales professional and the customer. This, in turn, creates a more collaborative and emotionally positive environment for the sales professional to ask questions to truly understand the objection and resolve it.

Our Consultative Selling training program explores the concept of cognitive dissonance in training sessions focused on building skills to resolve customer objections.

Anchoring Bias

The Anchoring bias describes the human tendency to overly rely on the first bit of information that we get. The initial information becomes a reference point (anchor) for subsequent thinking and judgments.

Science reveals this bias gives the advantage to the first person who offers.

This understanding helps sales professionals build confidence to make the first offer because they know this action will help them get better terms that are closer to their targets.

The concept of anchoring bias is explored in-depth in our Negotiations training program focused on building skills to open a negotiation.

Self-Determination Theory

Self-determination theory (SDT) is a theory of human motivation. According to SDT, human beings have three inherent psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. SDT predicts that when people have developmental experiences that support these three basic needs, they will advance toward more self-motivated behavior.

This is an important concept for sales managers to learn that when they transform their focus from being an expert who tells to being a coach who inspires, they help fulfill their team’s basic human need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. This helps build a team that is comprised of more self-motivated professionals.

In our Sprint Sales Coaching training program, we fully explore the connection between self-determination theory and the importance of coaching by asking rather than telling.

Connecting Behavioral Psychology Across a Sales Curriculum

Many behavioral psychology concepts are repeated throughout Richardson Sales Performance’s Connected Selling Curriculum.

This repetition and demonstration of applicability across different skill development courses serve to help the sales professional internalize the learnings. They can use this foundation to continuously build their skills in different areas of selling.

Over time enhanced understanding of behavioral psychology and improved selling skills help sales professionals become truly consultative. As a result, their selling style is more confident, insightful, and agile.

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