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Sales Psychology: The 3 Keys to successful selling

Welcome to first post in my Sales Psychology series. Today I’m going to be breaking down the three fundamental elements to effectively and ethically convince other people to buy your stuff.

The best part? It doesn’t matter if your “stuff” is a product, service or simply an idea.

Last week I announced my plan to spend the month of September drilling down into the nitty gritty details of the art (and science) of selling.

I also announced some kick ass prizes to be won (including thousands of dollars of free consulting) so, if you’re new here, you better go take a look at last week’s intro Sales Psychology post.

Don’t forget, if you want to be in the running to win the huge prizes you need to:

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There are also a couple of useful bonuses that I’ll be emailing out, but only to my email subscribers. These bonuses will not be available after this month.


There is a trifecta of psychology required to successfully and easily sell things. If you’ve ever made sales of any kind, then I can guarantee these psychological keys were present. Even if you didn’t know it.

We’re going to break all this down further later in the week, but for now, the idea of this introductory post is to bring these three key concepts into your awareness.

Everyone who runs a business, sells or simply communicates is already doing this stuff to some extent. Simply by becoming conscious of these three keys you can figure out what you are already good at and find new ways to improve your sales weak-points.

Emotion – The first key to successful sales

Selling is really about decision making – that’s why when I mentioned parenting as a sales example in last week’s post, a few people sat up and paid attention. A sale is just a decision to hand over cash (or agreement) in exchange for something. Whenever a decision is made, it is emotion that determines the outcome.

An expert sales person leads their prospect on an emotional journey. They understand that to hand over cash, the prospect needs to feel a certain something and they tailor their pitch to evoke those emotions.

If a prospect doesn’t have emotional buy-in for the stuff they’re being pitched, they’ll never agree, make the deal or sign on the dotted line.

Even though many people value themselves as level headed, analytical and emotionally controlled they still always buy things based on feelings rather than facts. The most dispassionate and calculated individual is still a sucker for a sales person who knows how to push the right emotional buttons. The trick lies in knowing where those buttons are on the vastly different individuals you might encounter.

Trust – The second key to successful sales

Trust is the blogger’s favorite sales buzzword. It’s super critical and there are some fantastic resources out there about how to build trust online. Chris Brogan in particular has built a whole career around this idea.

Everyone is focused on building trust in business. In the offline world, it’s just as big a buzzword among corporate marketing managers.

When every is focused on trust, it means the fast-track to sales victory lies in you learning the skill to build trust faster than anyone else.

In this series, I’ll be breaking down the psychological formula for building “rapport”. Rapport is a state of connection and communicative trust between individuals that makes selling of all kinds an absolute breeze.

There is a formula to rapport – a formula to ensure your pitch is always understood and that you’re always trusted and liked. It’s kind of like canned charisma.

At the end of the day, people only do business with the people they like. You probably find it simple to get along (and be liked) by certain types of people, but what about the others? A great salesperson has the flexibility to build rapport with anyone and establish that feeling of mutual “liking” and trust every time.

Rationalization – The third key to successful sales


This is where logic really comes into play. I already mentioned that sales decisions are always made emotionally, but there are also a set of logical requirements that go into every deal.

When a consumer approaches a buying decision, the ultimate outcome will rest on how they feel. This is the first key and it’s very unconscious. However, at the conscious level, every consumer holds a whole set of logical, structured criteria in their mind as well.

Everyone who buys a car goes in with a checklist of “things they want”. This includes seat warmers, a hatchback and all that rubbish. Ultimately though, the happy car shopper always drives away with the machine that makes their little heart go *flutter*

A lot of sales training and sales gurus focus on techniques to help the client walk through their conscious-mind checklist. Many assume that this is the “logic” of selling. It isn’t.

Logic and rationalization come into play when we look at the psychological and communication trickery required to have the prospect buy what they really want (read: crave) rather than what they’ve told themselves it’s okay to have.

Mastering the psychology of sales rationalization is critical. It’s is the difference between selling a discount hatchback family wagon versus the sporty two-door that the buyer can’t take her eyes off. If your business has a “sporty model” then you know the value of this – the difference in margin is enormous!

The final key to successful selling


I said there were three, but I lied. There’s actually a fourth, but it’s a bit of a weird one. It’s you.

You, the individual, are the key to your sales success. You the entrepreneur, artist, blogger, parent, executive or circus clown. Even if you mastered all three of the keys, if you don’t align your thinking and action in the right way none of it will matter.

This means overcoming your fear of selling – everyone has is afraid of it.

It means being able to bounce back from rejection – sales people experience a lot of it.

It means being able to believe in what you do so you can throw yourself into selling with enthusiasm, ethics, effectiveness and other things that start with E.

The shortcut to achieving all this is coming up in future posts in this series.

Wrapping it up


This article is an enormous teaser, but don’t worry. The next post in the series will be arriving tomorrow – you won’t have long to wait before you can start getting the practical answers.

Despite being a teaser of things to come, there is an important point here. Once you know the keys to selling, it’s easy to quickly identify the areas of weakness where your business and selling style is struggling.

So, teaser though it may be, please use this information.

Comment Question: Which area do you need to work on the most… and why?

Let me know by leaving a comment below and secure your entry in the competition to win the awesome prizes I’m giving away. Don’t forget to tweet and subscribe!


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  1. I definitely need help with the rationalization part. Not that I don’t understand the importance but I always wing it when I have a potential sales call. 90% of my phone pre-consults end in sales, but I think that has less to do with my mad skills and more to do with the fact that they’ve made their decision beforehand. Basically I’ve build up A TON of trust via my blog, I’m passionate about what I do on the phone but I’m not the best at illustrating the pros of working with me, painting a bigger picture, etc etc. Though the more I do it the better I get. That said, I’d love to learn more about it to help snag that last 10%!

    1. Marian, if there is one place i need help it is on the phone. I am an “old fashioned” face to face” salesman and have a hard time reading clients when i can’t see them.
      ANy advise would be appreciated.

      1. Bryce, use your ears as your eyes. Listen to the little inflections in the customer’s voice, the hesitations, as if you were watching for body language. Pay attention to words, of course — if the customer repeats phrases, those are indications of things that are important to that customer. But more importantly, watch with your eyes closed. Imagine how that person is sitting. When you listen, notice the pauses, which often indicate they’re thinking things over (or maybe, they’ve been interrupted by someone). Are they short with their words, or are they taking the time to articulate? (Are they rushed, or are they engaged?) Match your speed to theirs, and make your energy one step higher and more positive than theirs, so that you’re the leader but you’re not that far away from where they are, and they can relate. And listen. Recap back to them what they told you so they know you listened, instead of just “uh huh”.

  2. I am going to go the whole way and say this- I need help with all the four parts, but to varying degrees. I have some experience with cold calling and selling through phone but every time I hang up I wished I knew the right emotional triggers that would evoke the desired reaction in real time. It’s no use if I figure out what I should have really said two hours later when the iron has gotten stone cold. I guess the same can be said for building rapport as well.

    Rationalization, I think I am fairly covered. I am good at showing the before and after, the how and why and what and where. I think rationalization becomes easier if you can establish trust and an emotional connection.

    As to the last element, I have started developing a pretty thick skin. These days, I have learned to get over my fear of rejection, which was the biggest stumbling block I had in pitching. I try to analyse what went wrong and go over to the next prospect. I think that if you don’t take the rejection personally but use it to improve your sales methodology the entire process loses its fear factor.

    1. Yo Bhaskar!

      Sounds to me like you need to figure out how to bring your sales patter back into your conscious awareness. If you’re a good salesperson in hindsight, then you’re not far off being a good salesperson in the present! Just gotta shake up your current habits…

      1. Yeah I am working on some stuff. Also it gets better with experience and more and more pitches. I will let you know how things turn out.

        In fact today’s sales pitch had some encouraging response. Now I just need to bring my A-game to the face to face meeting with the suits.

  3. We buy on emotion and justify with logic. “But honey, that snazzy little red sports car is MUCH safer because it’s so VISIBLE on the road! I’m just thinking of your security. AND four wheel drive? You’ll be able to drive through anything!”

    Hee hee!

    I’m intrigued to see what you have to come, expecially on the trust part. there’s a hella lotta buzz about transparency swooshing around the internet, and it seems that most people take it as “you must reveal all, including your underwear color, else you are not transparant and therefore, can’t be trusted.” Kind of silly.

  4. Left field question Peter – why are you using American spelling? Since when do Aussies spell ‘Rationalisation’ with a Z? 😉

    I need to work on the emotion. I can list all the features, and even the benefits usually, but putting it into emotional language that turns on the buyer – FAIL! Sometimes I think it’s because I’m too close to the product that I have trouble standing back and seeing it from the buyers perspective.

    1. Left field answer: Because (so far) around 60% of my traffic comes from the states and 100% of my online sales are from Americans too! Still, it’s something I’m …. playing with. Following smart advice from a non-american blogging whiz, to be honest 😉

      and boy, have I got a post for you. Just you wait 🙂

      1. LOL. I americanise my keywords about half the time. Particularly ‘mom’ as against ‘mum’. The rest of the words I don’t worry about as people are unlikely to be searching from them. And I’m guessing your non-american blogging wiz is that favourite Canuck of ours….

        I’m looking forward to reading your post!

        1. LOL, I remember telling you to use “mom”, Melinda, and you’d be right on me mentioning American spelling to Peter.

          I actually had to train myself out of writing with proper Canadian spelling so that I could do my job. In the early years, Americans would tell me I’d made a spelling mistake.

          Now the Canadians tell me I spell incorrectly. I can’t win.

          1. For the record, I actually believe that the American’s have it all wrong. I was raised by english lit professors in a British Colony….. so this change was hard work to make.

            Still, I heed the advice of those wiser than me (sometimes)

            (….. when I feel like it)

    2. That’s funny you mentioned that , Melinda, I actually thought the same thing… the only difference I suppose was that I was kind of thanking Peter for writing it in my language’s form/style while I was reading it.

      So umm… Thanks Peter! 😉

      1. Brilliant! Now, if my theory works correctly John… that warm, fuzzy written-in-my-language sensation you’re experiencing…. should be entrancing you into a state of zombie-like desire to go buy my ebook. Right?

        …. or maybe I’m over doing this sales psychology stuff a bit 😛

          1. Thanks, Melinda. The funny thing is, fear is a big motivator in selling my ebook. What I’ve been finding is that it’s quite difficult to show people the fear they should have when they haven’t experienced their blog getting hacked.

            Once it gets hacked and their blog is down for days with a virus, they buy immediately… but before that, it’s just “something to get to”. It’s interesting how bad experiences are BIG sales motivators. It seems as humans (myself included), we have to be taught lessons.

    1. Hey James,

      Your post explains what I’m trying to say here, only more concise. I especially love this statement:

      “It’s not that logic doesn’t have a place — it’s that logic usually belongs in last place when it comes to persuasion. It’s what you use to wrap the sale in a bow and hand it to your excitedly trembling customer, after they’ve already convinced them selves they have to have it. “

  5. Definitely Key #3: Rationalization, because while I did understand the text in that section, it kind of flew over my head. I have no references to the psychology of sales rationalization.

    Ultimately I’m in the same boat as Bhaskar. While I probably know a few things intuitively, I have nowhere near the grasp of things that I need (to become a Jedi) 😀

  6. What’s the part I need the most work on?

    You might not expect this answer from me if you read my Copyblogger post on emotional writing, but I would have to say it’s striking that emotional trigger to ignite in my site’s visitor.

    I totally get the idea, but if you take a look at my sales record for my product, it’s obvious I’m not really striking that emotional cord the way I need to. I think this is the area I really need to hone in on and sharpen.

    1. Hey John,

      Sounds to me like you need to figure a way to instill the (very real) fear of hackers in your prospect. Life insurance people do it all the time… you just need to figure out the way to do it without being a sleazy 😉

  7. I’m with John. I seem to be ok with striking an emotional chord with my readers but not the one that triggers the “Sure dude, I’ll invest in you”. Although all I have to do with my kids is start counting. By the time I get to two, they’re all ready front and center 🙂

    Perhaps my next sales page will be 1… 2… “Add to Cart”

    I’m looking forward to see how you dive into these one-by-one.

  8. I suspect most of the problems I face are hiding out in my own mind, so I’ll vote for #4.

    When I get my own head straight and fix my own mindset, I figure the other three will be pieces of cake.

  9. I’d have to say I could improve on the rationalization piece. It’s one I’ve found challenging since becoming self employed as a coach 9 years ago. Most people still consider coaching a luxury (maybe there’s a shift in that belief coming!). The trust/rapport factor is usually high, emotion is engaged and authenticity is one of my core values. Where’s the next post Peter? Gotta get to the heart of this one!

    1. Selling coaching is tricky, but it’s a challenge that’s near and dear to my heart. I agree that it’s all about the rationalisation too… but you’ll just have to wait til we get to that 😉

  10. Not to jump on the bandwagon here, but I am going to go with numeral uno: Emotion. I am a web designer for small businesses, and although their main goal for having a website is the same: generate their business more money, I have a hard time not sounding like a desperate salesman. “Get this website today and double your business tomorrow!” I usually resort to explaining how past websites I have done are generating the company more income because of the site which works pretty well, but I cannot wait to hear what else you have in store for us!

    I also need to invoke some more emotion in my portfolio website’s copy. I took the cheap route and did my own — I am no copywriter! — and hasn’t worked out too well for me.

    When I worked in that stuffy call center and sold Dish Network it always seemed pretty easy to invoke the emotional part of sales: “if you get the gold package you can watch [list the channels they want that are in the gold package]!” — “Oh ok I want that one”. The hard part was talking them into, rationalizing, the 2 year contract + the processing fee that wasn’t required (but since we were an authorized dealer we tried to charge it).


    1. That’s a cool challenge you’ve got – selling to small business can be a lot of fun! I think you’ve identified the exact right area… it’s all about emotion.

      Remind me, when we get to the post on that, to give you some specific tips on emotive selling to small biz (via the comments). For starters, I’d want to research all the prospect’s competitors sites then present screenshots of them all in your presentation…. nothing like a big of direct comparison to evoke decision making emotions 🙂

      1. I love that idea Peter! I am definitely going to try it out next time.

        I’ll keep my eyes peeled on that Emotion post so I can comment and get those others tips you have.


  11. I need to work on the emotions of a sale. I am trying to sell a service to schools who need to buy the solution for their students. To have a successful sale, I really need to work on getting them emotionally invested in the sale. This is hard to do, especially since they are not directly affected by the problem the students face and are not faced with the same emotions the students have.

      1. I am selling a service that matches roommates better than the current systems that universities use. This leads to less conflict, happier roommates and less cost for the university. The problem is that it is a new product, relatively unproven, and something that many officials in housing do not need to take action on right NOW since the problem doesn’t affect them.

  12. I could use work on all four, but definitely I need to work on Emotion the most, closely followed by working on me. I tend too much to boil things down to facts, to practicality and pragmatism. I instruct very well, but don’t motivate as well as I could, or at least I’m inconsistent with it. Since I understand the value and effectiveness of those emotional buttons, but tend to avoid them, perhaps the issue really lies in me.

    I spent so much of my life being coerced, one way or another, that I seem to tend to avoid anything that smacks of coercion. Even though I’ve taught “positive and conscious manipulation” when training trainers… My writing and my selling is drier and less juicy than it could be. I could certainly benefit from learning better how to “lead my prospect on an emotional journey”.

    1. Sounds to me like you’ve got a psychological habit of thinking logically and analytically yourself…. so the emotional stuff requires even MORE flexibility.

      S’all good though. Some people would kill for a pragmatic mind like yours 🙂

  13. Great “teaser”, and I look forward to the next post.

    I am recently unemployed from a consultant position, and I’ve been lucky enough to get a job (in this market, getting a new job quickly after being laid off is rare) in insurance sales. The last paragraphs of your post hit me square in the noggin’ as a result.

    I am scared of selling! Not petrified or anything like that, but I have a wife and two kids, a mortgage, and all the rest of the pressures associated with being laid off at 40 years of age, and so I am scared of getting into a sales career and failing. I did cold call selling when I was younger, and was OK at it, but this time around I want to be great. I want to build my business and have a career that I control! Is that too much to ask.

    So I look forward to your next post, as you said it will be less of a teaser and have some meat in it. In terms of what I feel my weakness is, aside from a fear of failure (which is a motivation to keep going), I do have a dislike/fear of networking.

    Once I get a client in a conversation, I can usually work with them to determine the best products for their situation, but it is the initial effort to get the client into the same room that is my difficulty.

    I also have a problem of settling for the first no that the client gives me, and not finding a way to get them “back to the table”.

    Yes, I’m a sales novice. I need help, so I appreciate your blog and all the information. 🙂

    1. Hey Aaron,

      Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad we’ve got some offline direct sales people reading here as well as all the blogging folks.

      You said “I am scared of selling!” but it sounds to me like you’re more scared of NOT selling. Stick around because you’re going to find the upcoming posts VERY useful.

      Also, shameless pitch: If you want a guaranteed (literally) fast track to overcome your fear of failure and subsequent sales reluctance, you should absolutely grab a copy of my Demystify Your Fear ebook. Judging from your comment, I think some of the stuff in there will accelerate your learning curve (and commissions) rapidly. 🙂

  14. I need to work on “Emotion”. When writing I can get the emotional juices flowing, but when I speak to clients on the phone it’s difficult to get their emotions involved. It seems like I easily build trust and they understand rationally that they need my services, but hammering the emotions is down right tough.

  15. This post made me think about the benefits in writing a story to sell a product or idea online. I think Mens of Pens talked about the power in storytelling (Correct me if I am wrong).

    A story can paint a picture for your reader while you take them on an emotional journey that makes a connection (rapport). Providing a moral to the story could be the logic needed to make the sale.

  16. I’m late to this series but reading avidly! Personally I think I need to work on the emotional side – surely rationalisation will follow once you’ve established an emotional link?

  17. My weakness in selling is becoming too enthusiastic. Thats stems from real enthusiasm and not just a pitch. But I find being factual and excited really only turns the other party in the opposite direction. So much for real facts and sincerity.

  18. your lecture so far, is very fantastic, educative and informative, it is an empowerment to every sales person and i pray that Almighty God continue to enrich you knowledge wise and all other way of life. My major challenge now is closing, whenever i make presentation people always react positively, but the buying ratio is so low, and i don’t know what is responsible to this.

  19. I just read your article and it has really opened my eyes into the world of selling. The way you explain selling is so easy to read and understand it really puts everything into perspective thank you!! I am starting a business and it is ready to go just need to start my selling next week I will definitely be reading more of your articles lots of love from Australia! 🙂

  20. I need help at closing the deal. People usually like me and I can get them excited about buying the car. I just can’t seem to master the art of closing. Please help!

  21. “irregardless” – an erroneous word that, etymologically, means the opposite of what it is used to express – literally, without lack of regard. I may be wrong but my guess is this is not what you mean nor the image you wish to convey.

  22. I just came through a sales training, and the things I learned there were just what you just spoke about. I’ve been learning so much about the art of the sale, and your so right in my case about the 4th component of the sale (ME.)
    Thanks looking forward to learning more.

  23. Changing careers after a lifetime of working in law enforcement or security, I have chosen to be a salesman, well attempt to be, the tips are a big help!

  24. I’m currently starting in a new line of work and I’m thinking trust is where I’ll need to adjust my audience to my new endeavor. But in the long run my own love of the product will show through and people will begin to ask and wonder why I began this journey.

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