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5 Killer Sales Techniques Backed By Science

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You might not realize it, but most everyone has something to sell. It could be your business idea, your product, your book, or even yourself. There is an art to convincing someone to invest money or time into something. 

Thankfully, sales is no longer cheesy infomercials or aggressive used car salesmen. The modern sales approach is more about:

  • Building rapport
  • Solving problems
  • Meaningful conversations
  • Adding value to people’s lives

From digital marketing to masterful sales pitches, here are 21 science-backed sales tips and tricks to close more deals without feeling gimmicky. 

The Science of Selling (and Who Lands The Most Deals)

Research shows that the top 20% of salespeople make 80% of all sales1! What is their secret? Science tells us that the people who land the most deals tend to: 

  • Stay curious: A 2011 study by Harvard Business Review2 found that top salespeople have very high levels of curiosity. They ask customers as many questions as possible to understand their needs better. 
  • Sell, not tell: A 2000 survey1 by Gitomer found that the top sellers are not tellers. Instead of giving information and presenting features, top salespeople solve problems and translate features into benefits.
  • Be ambivert: The best salespeople aren’t necessarily introverts or extroverts. One study at UPENN3 found that top sellers have traits of both. Ambiverts are skilled at both listening and talking.
  • Exude confidence: Without confidence in yourself and your product, customers will unlikely believe you have the best offer. According to research4, confidence and enthusiasm are top predictors of sales presentation success.

21 Killer Sales Tips

No matter what industry you’re in, you can elevate your game to the top tier of the salesforce by honing in on your craft. Here are 21 tips to spice up your sales strategy.

#1 Start on a high

Whether you’re pitching investors or initiating a conversation with a customer, always start with a bang. One study tried to figure out how to increase tips for hotel workers. 

They found there was a super easy thing service providers could do to increase their tips. All they had to do was start with a positive comment. Compared to people who said nothing or gave an unfavorable forecast, doormen who cheerfully said “good morning” and gave a positive weather forecast for the day increased their tips by 27%!

How does this help you? Never start a sales meeting or pitch by talking about bad weather, traffic, or being busy. Always begin with a positive comment or anecdote, like:

  • Great weather
  • Fun weekend plans
  • Favorite sports team winning a game
  • Compliments 
  • Excitement for the future

#2 Contact leads at a rapid speed

Research shows that you are 100 times more likely5 to close a sale if you respond within 5 minutes! Moreover, retail science shows that shoppers decide to buy within a few minutes of viewing a product.

In the age of instant gratification, most people have the attention span of a goldfish. When you see something you want to buy, you want it now! 

No matter what you are selling, you need to have a quick response time to get ahead of competitors. Often, someone will buy the first product available even if it isn’t the best.

Whether in-person or online, you can maximize your response time by: 

  • Responding to buyer calls and emails as quickly as possible
  • Turning on notifications for your business accounts (email, social media, etc.)
  • Strategically placing “impulse buy” items near checkouts 
  • Creating automated responses to web inquiries
  • Always having an online chat agent available during business hours

#3 Don’t self-sabotage with this mistake

The biggest self-sabotage mistake is to speak ill of a competitor. Research has found something called Spontaneous Trait Transference6 They found that whenever you say bad things about someone else, people can’t help but put those same traits on you. 

The brain can’t help but associate your gossip with you, even if, logically, we know you are talking about another person. If you say your competitor is low-quality and unreliable, your potential client can’t help but associate those traits with you. 

No matter what, when it comes to gossip, always say “no comment.”

#4 Be crystal clear about your UVP

Your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) is a quick statement that encompasses what you have to offer. Concise language and enticing details are key to explaining how your product or service will add value to someone’s life.

The best value propositions include:

  • The specific problem that your product/service fulfills
  • How does your product/service differs from similar offers
  • Key benefits and advantages (modern customers are especially attuned to anything that makes their life easier and faster!)
  • The value you add to a customer’s life
  • Why should someone choose your product over another

Clarify your UVP using our quick guide, How To Effectively Pitch Your Ideas In 6 Easy Steps.

#5 Power pose your way to a sale

Study after study shows that nonverbal communication is essential to be an effective salesperson. In one study, salespeople who used power body language increased their sales numbers by 56% after only one training.

Thankfully, power body language is super easy to learn. Upgrade your nonverbal communication with these quick shifts:

  • Before changing your body language, recognize that your stature is about the dynamics between you and the other person. Carefully analyze the situation to ensure you come across as friendly and confident rather than cocky, arrogant, or pushy.
  • Roll your shoulders back and down to straighten your spine. This demonstrates confidence and competence.
  • Maintain eye contact with the customer for about 60% of a conversation. Eye contact boosts dopamine and trust.
  • Keep your hands visible to build trust. Don’t cross your arms or put your hands in your pocket. This could imply that you’re hiding something. 
  • Keep your knees and feet facing the other person. This shows you are interested and present. If parts of your body face away from them, it may send the message that they don’t matter or you are trying to escape the conversation.

Learn more in this full guide to Nonverbal Communication in Business: 17 Tips to Boost Sales.

#6 Use awesome labels

When you assign someone a positive label, like having high intelligence or being a good person, that actually cues them up to live up to that label

In one study about fundraising7, the researchers told average donors that they were, in fact, among the highest donors. 

Can you guess what happened? Those donors then did donate above average! 

We live up to our positive labels. 

When you are with a client or potential customer, give them genuinely good labels—I never want you to be fake or manipulative. So be sure to stick to positive truths. You can say:

  • “You are one of our favorite customers.”
  • “You’re such a pleasure to do business with.”
  • “You picked the best [color/option/style].”
  • “I really enjoy working with you.”

In that way, they will actually want to be one of your best customers and try even harder to be a pleasure to do business with.

#7 Relate to your customer’s values

Research shows that 44% of consumers choose brands8 and products based on how they align with their values. Millennials and Gen Z customers are particularly interested in eco-friendly, sustainable, and socially-conscious brands. For example, millennials love Tesla for its climate-conscious cars. Gen Z adores Nike for its social justice advocacy.  

Be sure to speak to your customer’s core values and showcase your company’s commitment to a moral compass. You can:

  • Have conversations about your brand’s charitable contributions or passion for giving back to the community. 
  • Connect with value-led social media influencers and thought leaders in your industry.
  • Write a compelling personal or business mission statement
  • Attain green certifications like USDA Organic, One Percent for the Planet, Rainforest Alliance, Forest Stewardship Council, or Greengaurd Certified.
  • Demonstrate social accountability with labels like Certified B Corporation, Fair Trade, or Certified Sweatshop-Free.

Not sure how to enunciate your values? Use this Core Values List: The Only 216 Values You’ll Ever Need.

#8 Be Buoyant

Buoyancy is the ability to withstand negativity, and no’s. You have to be able to have a positive outlook but still take the knocks without falling down.

For the best example of buoyancy, think of Brush salesman Norman Hall. He answered an ad to be a Fuller Brush salesman and promptly quit four times in the first seven days.

The problem? Rejection. He “found door-to-door selling especially brutal.” But Hall learned and adapted.

Rejection is something that every one of us has experienced in a number of forms in our lives: having a crush say no to a date, getting told you weren’t a great fit for that new job, hearing that manuscript you worked on wasn’t quite ready for primetime.

The key is how to withstand it, and that’s where buoyancy comes into play. Pink highlights three components of it before, during, and after any sales attempt:

  • Before: Interrogative Self Talk: The key here is not to declare “I will nail this presentation,” but rather ask as the question: “Will I nail this presentation?” Asking helps you “summon the resources and strategies to accomplish the task.”
  • During: Positivity Ratios: The goal here is to balance. Just as too little positivity can be a problem, so can too much, especially if it’s not realistic. Understand that negative emotions can also help solve problems you might not have seen.
  • After: Explanatory Style: A good example of this is looking at your self-talk; when something bad happens, how do you see it? For buoyancy, it’s best to understand the reasons behind rejection as a temporary issue and be optimistic.

Try asking yourself if you can achieve a goal rather than declaring it. Watch your own positivity ratios. Scientists find the best results come when it’s 3:1. To see where you fall, try taking Barbara Fredrickson’s Positivity Self Test. And finally, tweak your own self-talk, understand that most rejection is neither permanent nor personal.

#9 Personalize

How can you solve someone’s problem if you don’t know anything about them? Make it a point to know your customers in the same way you would want to get to know a potential date. You don’t need to stalk them online, but you want to get an idea of the type of person they are.

Try to take a customer-centric approach, which means you tailor your sales approach to each customer’s unique preferences and needs. You can use customer data, past interactions, and insights into someone’s personality to customize their experience.

Thoroughly research your target customer and gain a comprehensive understanding of:

  • What they like
  • What they care about
  • How old they are
  • Where they hang out (online or in real life)
  • Where they shop
  • How much money they make
  • Who they admire or look up to
  • Why they need your product
  • How they talk (bonus points if you catch onto niche lingo!)

You can get these insights through:

  • Social media
  • Market data
  • Focus groups
  • Customer surveys and feedback
  • Reviews
  • Conversation
  • Direct questions 

Learn more about Attracting Your Target Customer: Why You Buy Almond Milk.

#10 Create a referral incentive

Research shows that 73% of executives prefer to work with sales professionals referred by someone9 they know. No matter how much technology infuses our daily life, social trust10 will always drive people’s decision-making. 

When someone we trust (even a social media influencer) refers us to a company or individual, we are more likely to buy from them.

Referrals work for both in-person and online businesses. Consider using:

  • Influencer marketing
  • Testimonials from high-profile customers like celebrities
  • Referral incentives 
  • Affiliate marketing through a website like ShareASale or CJAffiliate

Word-of-mouth marketing isn’t going anywhere. Maintain the best reputation possible, and your customers are sure to tell their friends, family, and colleagues about you or your products/services.

#11 Use SPIN selling (ask questions!)

SPIN Selling is a sales method that focuses on asking specific, effective questions to uncover pain points and close a sale. Developed by Neil Rackham, this structured approach to sales is all about open-ended questions.

SPIN is an acronym that stands for:

  • Situation: Ask open-ended questions like “Can you tell me about your current setup?” or “What are your main goals in this area?” to gather information about the customer’s context.
  • Problem: Dig deeper to find the customer’s pain points and challenges. Ask, “What issues are you currently experiencing with this [process/product/goal]?” or “What major challenges are you facing?”
  • Implication: Prompt them to think about potential consequences if they don’t address this problem. Ask, “What impact is this having on your business?” or “What would happen if that continues to be a problem?”
  • Need-Payoff: Shift the conversation focus to a positive outcome and subtly highlight the value of your product or service in solving their problem. Ask, “What benefits could you see from this solution?” or “How would solving this problem improve your [productivity/weight loss/happiness/efficiency]?”

Take your expertise in SPIN Selling to the next level with the Spin Selling Sales Certification from Huthwaite International.

#12 Build rapport

Rapport is simply a harmonious bond between two people. When you build rapport with someone, they feel like you understand and value them. To avoid coming off as a sleazy salesperson, you must establish trust and a genuine connection.

Improve your rapport-building by:

  • Integrating positive nonverbal communication, like a handshake, a genuine smile, or a pat on the shoulder.
  • Leading with compliments about their energy, outfit, accessories, or overall vibe (avoid any compliments that could be perceived as flirty or inappropriate).
  • Asking questions about their hobbies, interests, family, or weekend plans. Here are some great conversation starters to initiate a connection.

Want more? Here are 8 Ways to Build Rapport with Clients (Professional and Fun!).

#13 Remember prospects’ names

Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” 

Psychologically, studies have found11 that forgetting someone’s name could make them lose a sense of belonging or meaning. Yikes!

If you want a prospect to feel like you really care about them, remember their name!

You don’t want to miss this name hack! When you correlate a new person’s name with a physical attribute, accessory, or setting, your brain is more likely to remember it. Here is How to Remember Names with a Simple Trick that ALWAYS Works.

#14 Position yourself as a premium seller

Do you want to be generic or premium? Do you want to blend in or stand out? If you’re anything like me, you’re aiming for the latter!

To position yourself as a premium seller, you have to do things differently. Whether consciously or subconsciously, customers pay attention to every detail of a company, from branding colors to language to the way sales reps present themselves. 

To position yourself as a premium seller, emphasize:

  • Exclusivity: People like to feel like they are special or part of an exclusive group. Highlight how your offering is limited edition, difficult to find, rare, luxurious, or otherwise unique.
  • Expert knowledge: If you have credentials, use them. People trust experts. If your company has been around for decades or your product is recommended by a top doctor, leverage this expertise.
  • Personalized experiences: Your product/service is not generic, so your customers should not feel generic either. Tailor each prospect’s experience to their specific wants, needs, and interests. Don’t repeat a rehearsed script.
  • Impeccable presentation: Ensure that every interaction is professional, positive, and pristine. From how you dress to how you talk (or type), consider every detail of how you present yourself and your product/service.

#15 Visualize your sales cycle

A sales cycle follows the buying journey of a single customer. When you look at all current sales cycles, you can create a sales funnel that explains the average customer’s journey. 

Most sales cycles follow a similar pattern:

  1. Leads: Where do they first hear about you or your product/service?
  2. Connections: How does the customer connect with you or the company?
  3. Qualifications: Can the lead afford your product/service? Do they genuinely need the product/service? A lead may be interested but not have the current resources to purchase. However, a prospect has both interest and the resources to purchase your offer.
  4. Presentation: How will you introduce yourself and present your UVP to the customer?
  5. Overcome Objections: What questions or skepticism do they have? How will you reassure them?
  6. Close the Deal: Will you use an urgency close (limited-time offer) or purchase suggestion to close the sale?
  7. Nurture New Leads: Can you check in with the customer 1-2 months after the purchase? Will you use a referral program or other incentive to gain new leads from happy customers?

Action Step: Draw a circle with 7 smaller circles on the margin. Consider a recent interaction with a customer where you closed the sale successfully. Answer the questions above in detail and analyze where you can improve the customer journey. 

#16 Copy the pros

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If a pro has already developed a masterful sales technique, why not use it? 

We don’t mean copying someone’s sales pitch word-for-word (that’d be awkward). Instead, think of someone successful in your industry and take note of their formula. Integrate your unique flair and UVP into their framework and find ways to specifically tailor it to your customer.  

Learn the Secrets Behind the Best Shark Tank Pitches of All Time and How To Effectively Pitch Your Ideas In 6 Easy Steps.

#17 Avoid burnout with these tips

If you don’t feel like your most confident, energized, and motivated self, it’s difficult to convince anyone to buy anything. It’s easy to get burned out in the intense and high-pressure sales environment. Continuous interactions with people can lead to social fatigue. If you’re an introvert, social burnout can add more challenges to an already difficult job. 

Prevent burnout with these tips:

  • Take time for yourself: Self-care is a vital piece of the sales equation. Use your evenings and days off to fill your own cup with wholesome meals, movie nights, solo dates, exercise, meditation, skincare, or anything that makes you feel good.
  • Go on a team retreat: Sales team leaders should be attuned to how their employees are feeling about workflows. After intense pushes, deadlines, or loss in team morale, consider scheduling a work retreat. Here are the 27 Best Team Retreat Ideas for any budget.
  • Give and receive positive feedback: Keep your team motivated with frequent positive feedback, and don’t forget to hype yourself up! Offer words of encouragement and recognition to your coworkers and managers. Ask your supervisors, “Where am I excelling?” or “What should I do more of?”
  • Elevate your communication skills: Sales and communication are inextricably linked. If you’re feeling burnt out from dull conversations or unclosed sales, you may need a dose of inspiration to spice up your social interactions. We created this free audioguide to help you stand out in the competitive sales environment: 
Learn how to manage a remote team

Stand out from your peers and shift your career into high growth mode — starting today.

Get the people skills I charge thousands of dollars for at companies like Google, Dove, and Intel and learn how to:

  • 10x your effectiveness at work. Inspire people to take action.
  • Prime every conversation for success (before you ever walk in the room).
  • Remove the self-sabotaging social beliefs holding you back.

Get free tools delivered to your inbox.

#18 Follow the data

Imagine throwing a dart with a blindfold on. You’re unlikey to hit the bullseye because you cannot see where you’re aiming. Sales data gives you direction. If you don’t know your current numbers and where you are aiming, you could be randomly throwing darts into outer space.

Use these ideas to make data-informed decisions that improve your sales strategies:

  • Define clear objectives: What are your current sales numbers, KPIs, and ROIs? How do you want to improve them in the next quarter? Set SMART Goals to get crystal clear on where you want to go with your business.
  • Know your website traffic: What is your conversion rate? How many of your hyperlinks lead to click-throughs? What is your abandoned cart rate? Use tools like Google Analytics or KissMetrics to gain a better understanding of your web performance. 
  • Run the social media numbers: Use business account tools on Instagram, Linkedin, Facebook, and TikTok to understand more about your customer’s interactions with your content. 

#19 Stories sell

Research shows that narrative stories are highly effective at changing behavior12 or attitudes. Stories capture attention with emotion. When someone can relate to a story, your sale becomes humanized rather than robotic.

To connect with customers on a deeper level, you can use:

  • Personal stories
  • Stories from other customers
  • Your company founder’s story
  • Stories related to a cause or charity that you support

Try David Sharpe’s story selling formula:

Learn How to Tell a Great Story: Learn Science of Storytelling.

#20 Add some spunk

If you know how to make people laugh, you are more likely to sell successfully. Humor takes the edge off any interaction and reminds customers that we are all just humans, after all. 

Show off your personality by infusing each sale with some spunk or humor. You can joke about your own mistakes or make a silly pun about your product.

However, it’s best to avoid inappropriate jokes related to sex, politics, race, or anything that insults your customers. If you want to engage in witty banter, be sure to stay lighthearted and professional.

Do you feel awkward about cracking jokes? Me too! Thankfully, you can learn How to Be Funny: 7 Easy Steps to Improve Your Humor.

#21 End on a high note

Lastly, end on a high note. Let me explain a really gross but fascinating study involving one of my least favorite topics: colonoscopies…

I’ve only ever heard one thing about colonoscopies. They are super unpleasant. And doctors know that they have a bad rap. They wanted to do research to find a way to give colonoscopies a better reputation. 

A little background: a colonoscopy is only a few minutes long, but they are pretty uncomfortable. They found that if they added one minute at the end of the procedure that was pain-free, people remembered the whole experience as more pleasant. 

In other words, even if it takes a bit longer, ending on a better note makes someone recall the entire experience better

Before someone leaves your pitch, end on a high note:

  • Gift a final perk
  • Offer them a mint
  • Pay them a compliment
  • Thank them

It will make the entire time with you even better.

Don’t Forget to Use the Right Tools

In today’s ultra-competitive landscape, it’s vital to stay up-to-date on innovative sales trends like:

  • Social selling: Social media platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and TikTok aren’t going anywhere. Modern businesses should know where their customers hang out and what content they interact with.
  • Sales Automation and AI: Leverage new technology and automation with predictive lead scoring analytics (to help create an “ideal customer” profile), AI-powered chatbots (for instant responses), and content management platforms to schedule and auto-post social media content.

Key Takeaways: Close More Sales With Positive and Powerful Communication

It doesn’t matter if you’re pitching Mark Cuban on Shark Tank, selling a new makeup product, or convincing your social media followers to buy your book. Sales skills are people skills, no matter the context. 

If you want to close more deals, remember to: 

  • Research: Study your customers in advance. Use data and observation to get to know them, what they like, and what problems they are facing.
  • Ask lots of open-ended questions to understand the driving forces behind a person’s decision-making.
  • Be optimistic: Maintain positive energy at all times. Begin and end every conversation on a high note. Exude optimism with your nonverbal communication, like good posture, a joyful smile, and a positive tone of voice. 
  • Connect: Build rapport with customers by taking a genuine interest in their lives. Nobody wants to feel “used” by a sleazy salesman trying to make a commission. People are more likely to support businesses that care about people and important causes.

Want more? Here are the top Sales Training Programs: 8 Sales Skills You Need to Learn.

8 thoughts on “5 Killer Sales Techniques Backed By Science”

  1. This was great information! People have to make sales every day from proving themselves to future employers to getting your friend to pick something up for you at the store. Thank you Vanessa!

  2. Do you have more tips on how to use awesome labels? It’s so difficult for me to give tiny compliments. If I really like something I blurt it out, but small things rarely pass my lips, even though I’d like to say them.

  3. As a waitress myself, I can definitely use these to sell myself as the best server so customers will want to sit with me in my section, and increase my tips! These are totally applicable in all situations though, I find myself thinking of how to use them in a job interview to sell myself to the company and employers I meet with!

  4. I have found this to be true in my situation! I do not have to sell but being a student, I find speaking positively to the other students and the lecturers creates a positive image of myself and in return I receive mutual respect!

  5. If I didn’t already buy your sales body language course in the past, I would definitely do so after reading this article and, more importantly, watching the video! Your “high school dance” made my day!

  6. I definitely agree that if you start and end positive only more positive things will come!:)

Comments are closed.

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