Moving from ‘ick’ to influencing consumer behavior

Oct 29, 2015

Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from COLLOQUY, provider of loyalty marketing publishing, education and research since 1990.

No one wants to hear their behavior described as "pushy," much less have a description of their work greeted with rolled eyes, sighs or exclamations of "yuck" and "ick."

Yet when Dan Pink and his team asked 7,000 Americans, "When you think of sales, what’s the first word that comes to mind?", those are exactly the kind of responses they got.

In his new book "To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others," Mr. Pink explores the social science and behavioral economics that influence sales success in its many forms.

At the recent COLLOQUY Loyalty Summit outside of Washington, D.C., Mr. Pink provided five key guidelines that anyone in sales should heed to have a better chance at influencing consumer behavior:

Daniel Pink book

1. Don’t be a glad-hander. Be more like yourself.

The perception that extreme extroverts make the best salespeople is pervasive. In fact, studies have shown that "ambiverts" — neither extremely introverted nor extremely extroverted — consistently achieve the highest sales performance. The lesson? If you’re struggling to sell your insights, ideas or anything, don’t try to change your personality and force yourself to be more extroverted. You’re better off worrying about increasing your expertise and working to be a problem-finder.

2. When the facts are clearly on your side, use questions instead of statements. (But when they’re not, don’t.)

When people have their own reasons for doing something, they are more likely to adhere to the behavior. But the power of questions can be tricky, encouraging people to come up with their own autonomous reasons for disagreeing with you — hence, the warning to use questions only when the facts are clearly on your side.

3. Small, honest blemishes on otherwise strong offerings can increase their attractiveness.

Adding a minor negative detail at the end of an otherwise positive description actually highlights the positives. Social scientists have determined that people understand the world best in relative terms, as in "compared to what?" Including a small — emphasis on small — blemish at the end of otherwise positive characteristics can sometimes work in your favor.

4. Pitches that rhyme are quite sublime.

Rhyming, repetition, alliteration and lists all influence processing fluency, and it’s an underused technique in marketing.

5. Give people an off-ramp.

We tend to focus a lot on changing people’s minds, which is incredibly difficult. Instead, just focus on changing their behaviors in the easiest way; if you change their behaviors, you might as a consequence change their minds.

What are some obvious and less obvious ways to influence consumer behavior? Which ones mentioned in the article are most beneficial?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"The harder we try, the pushier we become and the less transparent we seem to others. Transparency is a huge key to authenticity, and authenticity is the real key to unlocking influence."

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8 Comments on "Moving from ‘ick’ to influencing consumer behavior"

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Max Goldberg
7 years 7 months ago

How about helping instead of selling? Help people solve their problems and be empathetic, rather than pushing goods and services at them. Too few salespeople understand these concepts.

Ian Percy
7 years 7 months ago

If one were to net out Pink’s interesting five points it might be thus: If you want to influence consumer behavior, stop trying to influence consumer behavior.

Each of these five points seems to be about letting natural forces work for you — the karate of sales if you will. When you push, physics tells us, you repel. Create a vacuum and the world comes to you.

I learned this taking classes from Monty Roberts, The Horse Whisperer, about “joining-up” with my horse. Seems to be the way the energy of the universe works. We try far too hard to MAKE something happen, especially in sales.

Anne Howe
7 years 7 months ago

Being more like yourself instead of being a glad-hander is the best human lesson most of us can benefit from. Brands can benefit from this lesson as well by discovering what they mean today in the minds and hearts of consumers and acting true to that. The harder we try, the pushier we become and the less transparent we seem to others. Transparency is a huge key to authenticity, and authenticity is the real key to unlocking influence.

Steve Montgomery
7 years 7 months ago

People don’t want products, they want solutions. It is easier if the customer knows they have a problem, but in some cases the solution may too be a problem they didn’t know they had.

Gordon Arnold
7 years 7 months ago
Sales is placing product, materials and/or service(s) into possession or use of any person(s) or institution(s) in exchange for any agreed upon amount of valued ownerships and or capabilities. Professional selling is discovering and taking control of previously identified as well as unseen market opportunities and creating transactions that are beneficial to all directly or indirectly involved. Selling experts are unlikely to have any proficiency or expertise in the products and/or services they are representing as this discussion indirectly points out. What sales experts do have is the ability to use their learned and practiced skills in a sudden undiscovered scenario to the advantage of the buyer and their specific areas of concern as they pertain to fulfilling an established need. Retailers in today’s shrinking economies are being captivated by the profit potential seen in successful solution selling establishments. What is obvious from an outside perspective is that bundling services with product will add value and profit dollars to the transactions that follow. What we learn over time is that selling a turn-key solution of… Read more »
Lee Kent
7 years 7 months ago

If there’s one thing social should have taught us all is that it’s not about selling a product or a customer. Today’s consumer wants information and authenticity. Give them what they want. Looks for ways to serve them.

For my 2 cents.

Shep Hyken
7 years 7 months ago

I like Mr. Pink’s list. And as far as sales techniques, I don’t disagree with any of them. My thought is that the best sales people don’t sell. They are masters at communication and creating clarity, which creates trust and confidence — which leads to influence. And most importantly, they are more interested in the customer than they are the sale. It’s simple, really: Focus on helping the customer get what they want, and you may get what you want (the sale).

Bob Phibbs
7 years 7 months ago

Everyone sells. Call it what you want…everyone sells. A salesperson is a student of behavior. Sometimes a customer just wants reassurance. Sometimes there are alternatives their Google search never mentioned. Sometimes a customer is looking only for price without realizing it comes with a cost.

That takes retail sales training. As it is, most retail employees already are themselves uninterested, uninteresting, and feeling retail is beneath them.

For those reasons sales training exists — to be better than an employee naturally performs.

"The harder we try, the pushier we become and the less transparent we seem to others. Transparency is a huge key to authenticity, and authenticity is the real key to unlocking influence."

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