Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

How you can make more money pt2- sales

Any job that requires you to sell will offer an incentive so that you sell more, because that makes the company more money. The incentive is usually very attractive; cash bonuses, extra holidays, awards etc. You’re going to want to achieve enough sales so that you can obtain this incentive. But how to do it?

You could work harder. Start early, stay late, sweat throughout the day, grinding out sale after sale. But let’s be honest, no person is up for doing that, there are many more fun things in the world you could be doing instead. You could cheat (miss-sell products, change the numbers, lie about sales) but that’s wrong and will probably result in all manner of issues. Your third option is to work smarter, by using well researched tips and tricks mixed in with some psychological know-how to maximise your efficiency, boost your sales and get you that juicy incentive. So, here’s 5 tips to help you sell more.

*Some of these may seem "dishonest" or "immoral", 

Tip 1- Anchoring (Start high)

This is based on the principle that people make constant comparisons from the world around them, even if they are unrelated (see Tversky & Kahneman, 1975). You can use this to your advantage, especially if your product is scaled in price (it has a base model, but then additional features increase the price). Instead of saying something “starts from £799”, saying “the top end model is £1500” means they start with the large amount in their head. Anything they buy from that point on seems relatively cheaper, almost as if they’re saving money.

As an example, say the top end model costs £1500. After a small discussion, you can ascertain whether the customer likes the top end model or not (it’s usually very clear from their reaction of the price). If they seem taken aback by it, introduce them to a less expensive model, that will work really well for them (“you don’t need all those features anyway”). What usually happens is the customer buys the cheaper product, and feels like they’ve saved money by doing so, when actually they’ve still spent a lot of money. Win-win.

*Extra tip for the brave* One thing you can try if you’re feeling particularly cheeky is to subtly belittle the customer. This has only ever worked for me with one type of customer- 20-40 year old males who are with their partners. Let them talk to you and explain what they want. Then take them to the expensive product you want to sell them. When they try and back out of it, say “well if you can’t afford this item, maybe this one will work better for you”. Every time I’ve said this, they’ve ended up buying the more expensive product. I’ll let you come up with your own theories as to why.

Tip 2- Authority (Radio in for help)

If a customer isn’t going for a deal, it’s for one of two reasons. Reason 1 (the most common) is that they don’t like/want/need the product or service you’re selling. Reason 2 (more niche, but still happens) is that they don’t like the salesperson. How often have you avoided buying something or going somewhere because you don’t like a particular person who works at that place? Exactly. “Second facing” works on two levels. When a customer is looking like they’re going to walk away, a carefully communicated signal between a salesman and his manager can rescue the situation, if reason 2 is why they’re backing out. The manager comes over and helps his sales staff. This signals two things to the customer. 1) the manager is the manager for a reason, they are the expert of this store, their information will be correct. 2) the manager has come over to see me, therefore I must be an important customer. We’ve seen in Milgram’s studies the effect the presence of the authority figure can have, and it is no different in sales

Tip 3- Social Proof (What’s everyone else doing?)

We look to others when we’re unsure of a decision (Asch, 1956). One way you can facilitate the customer is by telling them what the rest of the population has done. By telling a customer that a product they are interested in is popular, it sets off a train of thought. If product X is popular, it must be for a reason, else why are so many other people buying it? When faced with a dilemma, it is always useful to have extra information. However, some people like to ride against the wave. These hipster types want to appear different, so adapt your selling tactics to fit them by not mentioning popularity. As a salesperson, it helps to give the information that favours your side.

Tip 4- Scarcity (Only One)

Resources are useful from an evolutionary standpoint because they make you more desirable. To paraphrase any evolutionary book or journal article, more resources=more mates (Buss,. By using this tactic, you can create a sense of urgency in a sale by informing the customer the item they are looking at is very low in stock. This also creates time pressure, which leads to rushed decision making, which usually ends up in the customer buying the product.

For the truly devious/genius among you, tips 3 and 4 can be combined to form a super tip. By telling a customer there is one product left, because the model is popular and has sold out, you combine social proof with scarcity to create an almost guaranteed sale. Unless they’re kind of hipster and don’t want what everyone else has. But let’s ignore them.

Tip 5- Confidence (Be the expert/Jedi mind tricks)

Imagine you’re buying a car. Salesperson A is nervous, they stumble over their words, they look uncomfortable, and you get the feeling they’d rather be anywhere but there. Salesperson B is smiling, talks with conviction, looks like they’re enjoying what they’re doing. Even if salespeople A and B have said the exact same words, who are you more likely to buy from? B. Why? Confidence. Give the customer something to believe in. Reaffirm to them why they need it. Tell them how good life will be once they have it. Confidence works wonders for people, there are countless anecdotal tales of how the world changes for people once they finally start to believe in themselves. Believing in yourself is good for you (Bandura, 1994), so start doing it.

Luckily, confidence is an incredibly easy thing to fake, and people don’t question it. There’s a whole reddit page (r/actlikeyoubelong) dedicated to examples of people using confidence (and the occasional disguise) to work themselves into places the average Joe wouldn’t be allowed access to.


Asch, S. E. (1956). Studies of independence and conformity: I. A minority of one against a unanimous majority. Psychological monographs: General and applied70, 1.

Bandura, A. (1994). Selfefficacy. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Buss, D. M. (2003). The evolution of desire: Strategies of human mating. Basic books.

Milgram, S., & Gudehus, C. (1978). Obedience to authority.

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1975). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. In Utility, probability, and human decision making (pp. 141-162). Springer Netherlands.

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