The psychology of persuasion and selling
The majority of businesses spend "more" or add fuel, as The Human Element author Loran Nordgren puts it, by
- selling harder.
- improving or investing in more marketing.
- improving or enhancing product offering.
- investing in additional hiring.
Yes, but what if you choose a different course of action? What if you reduced friction instead of adding fuel?
Why this question is so crucial: Giving a wrong response can squander your resources, including time and money, and will eventually lead to failure.
Defined Fuel versus Friction:
An concept, product, or choice should be elevated or made more appealing with the use of fuel. Usually, this entails providing rewards, encouraging facts or proof, emotional appeals (branding), or proving to customers the worth of a novel concept, product, or service.
It's the role of friction to thwart change. It is described as any combination of factors that impede innovation and change.
For instance, Loran tells the tale of Beach House (not the actual name of the firm) in his book. They provide chairs or couches that may be customized. These are really unique pieces of furniture that the customer completely personalized.
- The problem: While Beach House’s potential customers loved customizing their furniture, playing with the design tool online and in store for hours, they wouldn’t buy the finished product.
- The Beach House Solution: They added fuel via reduced prices and improved the fabric options—neither of which worked.
- The Insight: Beach House hired an ethnographer who discovered the REAL PROBLEM: customers didn’t know what to do with their current sofa or chair. They didn’t know how to get rid of them, but needed to in order to make room for the new, customized Beach House sofa or chair they wanted to buy.
- The Bottom Line: Beach House was adding lots of fuel to stimulate sales but in reality they only needed to remove the friction.
- The New Solution: Beach House now offers to remove a customer’s existing sofa or chair during the delivery process.
- The Result: Since implementation, sales have taken off.
It's simpler and sexier to create a larger rocket than a lighter spacecraft, which is why organizations prioritize fuel over friction. Human conduct is processed intuitively in terms of internal factors like motivation and purpose. Because of this, we presume that if people aren't purchasing what we're offering, it's because the product or concept doesn't have enough attraction or charm. As a result, we automatically add additional gasoline in the hopes of closing the "sale."
But there's more to it than that; it's often more harder and takes more time to detect and address friction concerns since there are so many different factors, large and tiny, visible and hidden, that may produce friction. And if that weren't terrible enough, when you start searching for friction points, your focus shifts from the concept itself to the audience you're trying to convince. This last point begins to include ego, which is generally not a good thing since ego-based judgments that are not backed by evidence often have negative outcomes.
For instance, compared to other schools and institutions, The University of Chicago has long struggled with a lower application pool. The institution had a reputation for being challenging, and they mistakenly assumed that this reputation was discouraging students from applying.
Actually, students weren't apprehensive about applying to a competitive institution. But they were unwilling to put in any further effort to apply. The University of Chicago wasn't a member of the Common App, a program that enables students to submit a single application that is then submitted to all of the colleges to which they choose to apply, so that was the true issue. Following the university's adoption of the Common App, applications surged.
Rather of pushing your product harder, use these techniques to break down the resistance that prevents consumers from buying what you're selling:
- Make the action easier: Netflix automatically plays the next episode in the series you’re watching because they know it improves the likelihood you’ll keep watching the next episode. How much effort are they really saving you? Not much. But even taking away this minor friction has a huge effect on your willingness to keep binging.
- Make them feel like they are the author of the change: We are most effectively influenced by ideas/evidence we generate on our own. It’s called the principle of Self-Persuasion or you’ve heard it referenced on this site numerous times before—show, don’t tell.
- Remove negativity bias: Negative experiences carry greater weight vs positive ones. For relationships (romantic, friend, AND business) it’s 5:1 – meaning you need 5 good experiences to offset every 1 bad experience. Think about that from a user experience, buyer journey or sales prospecting/nurturing perspective.
The Bottom Line:
The Verdict: Start by engaging in a process of research aimed at learning about the requirements and environments of your target audience(s). Once you have eliminated all causes of friction, confidently begin developing your sales and marketing materials, offers, and sales scripts.