Home Business & Industry The Psychology of Negotiation: Understanding Human Behaviour in Sales Deals

The Psychology of Negotiation: Understanding Human Behaviour in Sales Deals

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What makes a product successful? The features and functionality undoubtedly mean a lot, but sometimes even the best products fail because of a poor sales strategy. Successful sales are about understanding human behaviour – what influences people’s decisions? What makes them choose one product or service over another?

Emotional intelligence to enhance human connections

If you read any sales manager job description, you will always see such requirements as active listening, communication, leadership, and teamwork skills. In a nutshell, all of these can be described as “emotional intelligence”, that is, an ability to see (and often anticipate) what customers expect. It is all about building a personal connection, even when you never interact with your customers face-to-face and always rely on online marketing. This is especially true for younger consumers, namely Gen Z, who do not differentiate between the online and offline worlds quite like previous generations did.

Here are some top tips that can help you build a connection with your customers, even if you do not interact with them eye-to-eye. 

  • Study your ideal customer persona. Go through the social media accounts of your target buyers and study their language. This will allow you to find the right tone in future ad campaigns.
  • Follow trends on different social networks. There is no universal platform to market your products today, so it’s essential to reach your target buyers via the networks they spend their time on.
  • Build trust with influencers. Recommendations from a trusted person are still the biggest selling point for human psychology. According to recent studies, younger consumers are exceptionally responsive to influencer content, especially advice from micro-influencers. Besides, this tactic helps you build social proof, something we’ll discuss in more detail later.

Use Cialdini’s 7 psychological principles of persuasion

In his top-selling book Influence, Robert Cialdini underlines seven major psychological principles of persuasion that convince people to buy. You should definitely read the book if you want an in-depth understanding of sales psychology, but the main principles are:

  1. Scarcity. People will act sooner if given an incentive – only one room left, last sale, limited stock, final offer, etc. Obviously, you should apply this tactic only if your stocks are really limited or the sale ends soon.
  2. Social proof. Reviews, posts from influencers, and even a literal line waiting next to the store are all examples of social proof. When people see products and services that are popular or trusted by other people, they are more inclined to buy those products themselves. That is why over 80% of companies actively invest in influencer marketing campaigns.
  3. Authority. This concept is directly related to social proof but is more data-based. Good examples of authority acting as a buying incentive are customer testimonials on your website, stats, case studies, and recommendations from experts – something that, once again, borders on influencer marketing. 
  4. Reciprocity. A classic example of reciprocity in selling is when you offer customers some freebies. The logic can be different; for example, a registered user can receive an e-book or a detailed case study. When dealing with physical goods, you can offer some additional products for free for all purchases exceeding a particular sum. Discounts for regular users are also an example of reciprocity in selling; simply put, you have to give something in return to attract more buyers.
  5. Sympathy. People find it easier to buy from brands and people they like, which is the primary incentive in the psychology of buying. Here, it is not about liking the product or service (which is also a must, of course); it is about liking the people who sell it. Brands can nurture a feeling of sympathy by speaking the language of their target audience and addressing the issues that are important to that audience in their ad campaigns. Think about airlines advertising their green fuel or food companies insisting on using sustainable packaging – those are all great examples of appealing to emotions (and mindsets) to nurture sympathy. 
  6. Consistency. Nurturing relationships with your leads – accumulating reviews and testimonials, running social media campaigns that appeal to your customers’ emotions – is all about consistency. For example, a brand that promotes sustainability cannot suddenly switch to environmentally unfriendly practises, just like a vegan cafe cannot suddenly start serving meat. Specific leads monitor brands for some time before they decide to make their first purchase, and any inconsistent messages in marketing will simply put them off. 
  7. Unity. This last principle may not apply to any brand or product; the idea here is to create a sense of community. Think of people who use Apple products or spend their vacation hiking instead of lounging on a beach. Unity, or the sense of community belonging, is the last persuasion principle because it takes time to form. But, when formed, it can become the main incentive for customers to stay loyal. 

Keep your customers’ buying readiness in mind

Selling is about human interaction – that is, talking to people. It does not mean that if you speak to them in person, over social media, or via email, the conversations should be tailored to every target group. So, when you find a lead’s contact information on an email finder, your first email will have to discreetly inform leads about the main features of your product or service. But when you talk to regular customers, you can use a different tone. Besides, it is crucial to understand what your leads want – there is an abyss between a person who visited your website once and someone who’s already subscribed to your services.

Email marketing can be a powerful tool for engaging both cold and warm leads, but you need quality software to segment potential customers based on where they fall in the buying readiness funnel. Someone who has only heard of your company once or twice may know nothing about your product and may be interested in general information. People who have been buying from you for years would like to learn more about new features, updates, discounts, etc. The main trick is to keep your human tone and tell people what they want to hear. After all, selling is always about the buyer, never about the seller. 

Nurture connections with existing buyers

It is surprising how many salespeople ignore this step, even though existing customers have the potential to become regular buyers. People are naturally lazy, so when they like a product or a service, they would rather spare themselves the burden of researching the competition. That is where regular engagement with your existing customers comes in – keep reminding them about your service via social media, email marketing, or any other channels that apply to your business niche. After the first purchase is made, the ice is officially broken, and engaging your existing clients should be easier than convincing cold leads to buy. 

These are some of the top things sales managers have to keep in mind. The final thing sales managers must remember is that successful sales are about monitoring campaign results and constantly adjusting one’s marketing strategies. On the upside, human psychology does not change as quickly as market trends, so you can use the tips above as building blocks for your sales operations.




Samantha Green, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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