Psychological Tricks in Selling

By: Stephen Bucaro

In this article, I'm revealing six powerful secret psychological tricks that you can use to increase the effectiveness of your advertising and marketing. What if you don't sell anything? Should you ignore this information?

You ARE selling something. Whether you are a Real Estate agent selling multi-million dollar homes, or a worker trying to sell your boss on the idea that you are a valuable employee, everybody is selling something. So it would be wise to learn these secret tricks and use them to achieve your own personal success.

The secret psychological tricks that I am going to reveal are not really secret. They have been used by shrewed salesman for millenium. Their existence was revealed back in 1984 by Dr. Robert Cialdini in his book 'Influence : The Psychology of Persuasion'.

You will recognize these tricks being used everywhere in advertising today. Now you will be able to put them to use to enhance your own personal success.

Psychological Selling Trick Number 1: Reciprocity

Reciprocity works like this: you give someone something of value for free. That individual feels an obligation to return the favor. Reciprocity is a very powerful principle.

To use reciprocity as a marketing tool, you give people something of value for free, they reciprocate by purchasing your product or service. But you would be surprised how many advertisers totally blow it. Either they don't understand the concept of 'free', or they don't have total faith in the principle of reciprocity.

For example, consider the offer 'get a free camera when you subscribe to our magazine for two years.' That's not free. Or, 'free installation with a one year commitment.' That's not free. The customer is paying with an obligation. No sale.

Consider the offer,'receive the latest issue of our magazine absolutely free. No bill will be sent.' If the prospective customer finds the magazine to be of value, they feel an obligation to subscribe. Or, 'one month of free Internet service. No credit card required.' If the Internet service performs well, the prospective customer feels an obligation to sign up.

The trick is to create something that has high perceived value to a prospective customer, but costs you little or nothing to produce. Free information is a good example. Here again many advertisers totally blow it. The free information turns out to be nothing more than blatant advertising.

Free samples of your product or service is another good example. Again, many businesses blow it. They either produce a cheaper version of their product to use as free samples, or they use the free sample campaign as a means to dump reject product.

The largest Internet Service Provider is well known for giving away hundreds of hours of service for free. No credit card required. The largest cookie company is famous for giving away free cookies. Reciprocity is a very powerful marketing strategy.

Psychological Selling Trick Number 2: Scarcity

Scarcity works like this: There is a limited amount of the item available. After those are gone, the item will not be available. 'urgency' implies Scarcity. For example, 'this offer will be honored only for a limited time'.

The effectiveness of the scarcity principle is well demonstrated by the large segment of the population involved in pursuing antiques, collectibles, and memorabilia simply because these items are scarce. Scarcity is often contrived, as when a company produces a 'limited edition'.

For example, when Disney releases a limit edition of one of its classic stories - yes, limited to a production of more copies than they could ever possibly sell - then it goes in the 'vault'. And how fortunate we'll be a few years from now when they decide to do us the favor of taking it back out of the vault.

Note: Manufactured items, especially DVDs and CD-ROMs, cannot be 'scarce'. It's a simple matter to put the manufacturing dies back into production. All scarcities of manufactured items are contrived.

One popular incarnation of scarcity is the 'going out of business sale'. Customers somehow don't pick up on the fact that the mark-downs are not that great, or that the store has new merchandise coming in the back door to take advantage of the increase in traffic.

Scarcity is a very powerful marketing tool. There are many ways to contrive scarcity.

You can create a limited edition, or for items like information products, scarcity can exist in the form of urgency by creating a limited time offer.

Psychological Selling Trick Number 3: Commitment

Commitment involves getting a prospective customer to take a tiny step towards a goal. For example, you might get them to request free information, or fill out a survey. When the prospective customer takes that first step, they have made a commitment, however tentative, towards the goal you have set out for them. They are likely to take another step.

One example of this process is the 'two step' method used in mail order. When a mail order marketer runs an advertisement, they don't even try to sell the product. Instead, the advertisement offers free information. A prospective customer makes that first commitment towards purchasing the product by requesting the free information. The free information they receive is designed to entice them to take the next step.

Another example of using commitment as a marketing tool is a survey. By checking a few boxes and answering a few questions, a prospective customer takes that first step towards a commitment. The result they receive from the survey is designed to entice them to take the next step.

Yet another example of using commitment as a marketing tool is a lottery. For example, people enter their name and address on a ticket for a chance to win a new car. A salesman uses that information to contact them. By entering their name and address on the lottery ticket, the individual has made a commitment to own that new car.

The most common example of the principle of commitment are those long-winded full page advertisements in magazines. The prospective customer invests a great deal of time reading through the entire advertisement. That investment of time represents a commitment. They are likely to take the next step, responding to the advertisement.

To use the psychological power of commitment in your advertising, don't try to sell your product or service in your ad. Instead, use a survey, contest, or free information to get a prospective customer to make that first step towards a commitment to purchase your product.

Psychological Selling Trick Number 4: Consensus

Consensus involves getting prospective customers to believe that 'everybody's doing it'. Everybody is just waiting in line to purchase your product. Everybody can't be wrong, so the product must be fantastic!

Of course you're smart enough to know that everybody CAN be wrong. Everybody thought that SUVs were safe vehicles (they roll over). Everybody thought Enron was a great investment (it went bankrupt). Everybody thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (well maybe not everybody). You're an independent thinker.

Here are some examples of headlines using the consensus principle: 'It's the new sensation crossing the country', 'People are signing up in droves', 'People just can't get enough of them', 'Record sales', 'Unbelievable response!' and 'Join millions of smart consumers'. Combine this with a stock photograph of a large group of people, a long line of people, or a crowd of people, and you have a powerful consensus message.

Note: Many people don't think they're having fun unless they're in a large, noisy crowd. Unfortunately, every large crowd contains a few lunatics. When things go wrong, the crowd stampedes and people get hurt, or killed. When I see a large crowd, I head the other way.

Fortuately, most people are not independent thinkers. They act like a herd of cattle. Use the consensus principle in your advertising, and people, like lemmings headed for the sea, will come in waves to buy your product.

Psychological Selling Trick Number 5: Authority

Authority involves getting prospective customers to believe that someone who is knowledgeable or famous uses your product or service. If a knowledgeable or famous person uses your product, then it must be fantastic!

The bigger the authority, the more powerful the advertising message will be. For example, doctors are authorities. 'Most doctors prescribe Tylenol for arthritis pain'. Large organizations are authorities. 'The National Heart Association says - Quaker oatmeal is good for your heart.' The Federal Government is an authority. 'The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says whole wheat bread is part of a complete diet'. If only we could think of a way to use God as an authority!

Here's how to use the principle of authority in advertising: search the Internet for any references to your product or service. Find an article that alludes to your product being of value. For example, let's say you sell black T-shirts. You find an article by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that says 'bees are attracted to bright colored clothing'. Your copy: 'The U.S. Department of Agriculture that says my T-shirts protect you from attack by stinging insects.'

Most advertising using the authority principle is taken out of context and exaggerated. Some advertising uses totally fake authorities. 'My dog biscuits are recommended by the International Association of Dog Nutritionists' (an organization I started last week). Some advertising uses a 'study' as an authority. 'A recent study found that my lemonade tastes better than any other brand' (my mother liked it better).

I don't recommend that you use a fake organization, a fake study, or take information out of context or exaggerate, but if you can locate a legitimate authority or study related in any way to your product and quote it without exaggeration, you will have a powerful authority message.

Psychological Selling Trick Number 6: Greed

Greed involves taking advantage of many peoples belief that there is a secret short cut to wealth. They believe that wealthy people didn't earn their wealth, instead they know a 'secret'.

Note: I am not recommending that you use the principle of greed because it is used by unethical scammers. I'm simply informing you of it's existence in order to make this series of articles complete.

The simplest method of using the principle of greed is the chain letter. You have no doubt received a chain letter at some point. A chain letter contains a chart specifying the massive amounts of money the recipient will get when they follow the instructions. The first instruction is to send money.

The multi-level or network marketing scheme works similar to a chain letter. The prospective recruit gets a chart showing the massive amounts of money they will receive when they join the network. After parting with their money, the victim is instructed to con their friends and relatives into joining.

Another method of using the principle of greed is the lottery or casino. The odds of winning most lotteries are about the same whether you buy a ticket or not. A casino allocates only a tiny portion of it's customers money to winnings in order to create the illusion that the odds of winning are good. Many people don't understand statistics. In their mind, the phrase 'win a million dollars' translates into 'get a million dollars'.

Another example of the principle of greed is the business opportunity scam. We know it works because successful scammers invest millions to run business opportunity infomercials, and they make hundreds of millions in profits. They prey on people who believe there is a secret short cut to wealth. The scammers think people who fall for their scam are stupid, lazy, and greedy, so they deserve to get ripped off.

The way to use the principle of greed is to contrive a 'secret plan'. Run an ad describing how the plan requires absolutely no work to make massive amounts of money. Include a few bogus testimonials and a legitimate looking chart that shows the massive amount of money the plan will bring. Some scammers include pictures of fake checks or fake bank statements.

Never divulge any details of the plan in the ad. The prospective customer is required to send money to get the plan. The typical plan instructs the purchaser to run the same scam.

The principle of greed is very powerful. People who have been ripped of by this scam a thousand times before will, like hypnotized zombies, send you their money. They think THIS TIME they will receive the REAL secret plan.


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