Dec 162011

A little bit of sales psychology

There are a lot of things that influence a customer making a decision to buy something.  To improve the chances of you being the person they buy from it’s worth having a little bit of knowledge of the psychology behind buying.  Here are the five main stages in the decision making process:

Problem recognition

This is where the potential customer realizes that there is a problem or need that requires fulfilling.  This could come about due to physiological triggers (“I’m hungry”) or logically (“My old PC is broken; I need a new one”).

As a business the only way you can really influence this stage is by being suggestive in your advertising and hope that they see your advert at an advantageous time which might then trigger the problem recognition thought.

Information solution search

The next step is for the prospect to decide how the problem should be solved.  The search for information can be long winded (buying a car) or very short (buying a burger) so you need to direct your efforts in a manner that suits your industry.  So, a fast food restaurant would have posters or flyers around town but magazine ads would be more appropriate for a PC store.   At this stage the searching can be passive or active; passive is seeing an ad, active is searching on the Web so make sure you cover both bases.

Information evaluation

Prospects will gather information from many sources and then attempt to evaluate all the different options and distinguish one offering from another.  People use filters for this stage of the process – size, price, geographic position, length of guarantee, miles per gallon – pretty much anything and everything appropriate to your product or service.

Rather than trying to second guess them this is where the benefit of testing and measuring comes in.  When advertising your business you should test out different adverts to see which one brings in the most custom.  Do one based around price, another on the green credentials of your product etc and then analyze the results.  Keep doing this to refine and refine.

This is the stage where you really need to make sure that you offer as much information as possible to the potential customer in an easy to find and use format.  Have you ever discarded a buying option because you couldn’t find sufficient info on it?  I certainly have. And don’t just focus on the product – tell them about delivery, after-sales, guarantee etc.


This can be an easy stage or a difficult one for the buyer, depending upon how easy it has been to find sufficient information to make a judgement upon (see above).  Again, make sure that your business makes it as easy as possible for the person to buy once the decision has been made.  Is your phone always answered?  Does your Web site shopping cart work properly?  Do you accept all forms of payment?  A failure in any one of these could cost you the sale.

Post-decision evaluation

We all review our buying decisions, either consciously or subconsciously and the conclusions we come to impact on our future buying patterns.  If the experience didn’t live up to expectation then the customer is unlikely to come back to you; even worse, they might start telling all their friends who are then excluded from becoming customers. If you’re running a small business you want people to keep coming back and spreading the good word so make sure you don’t let yourself down.

It’s worth sitting down and looking at the decision making process properly in relation to your business as it will undoubtedly make you think more about your advertising and service levels.  Get those both right and not only do you get them in through the door but you then keep them – and that’s when the profits really start rolling in.