Psychology of Sales

Tuesday, August 10 2021

We hear that selling is changing, especially how customers buy, but in some ways very little has altered. Psychological satisfaction remains the primary driver in the sales process for both the customer and the sales professional.

Maslow’s research, from 1943, on the hierarchy of needs remains relevant today. He ranked safety, belonging, and esteem as the most important stages, right after the foundation of our basic physiological needs. Without each of these stages fulfilled, it is not possible to attain one’s full potential.

The sense of security of both the customer and the salesperson is affected by a potential sales transaction. In the case of the salesperson, their previous sales experiences impact their feelings of security, anxiety and stress. For both parties, deciding – or not deciding – has risk.

Maslow’s next stage, belonging and feeling accepted, is also a two-way street. The buyers want to be seen as making sound decisions for their companies, their families, and themselves. The seller is acutely aware of the expectation that they will contribute to their own company’s bottom line by being successful. There is always room for winners, not so much for underperformers.

When the result of a buy/sell transaction solves problems, avoids complications, or improves productivity, both the buyer and the seller experience an enhanced sense of esteem, level of confidence, respect, and achievement. In our sales training work, we look closely at esteem, since low self-esteem will deter sales efforts. The good news is that esteem is not hard-wired and can be strengthened.

The psychology of selling must consider both parties, not just the sales professional, because both parties enter into a potential business relationship with their own personalities, perspectives, and needs. For instance, we find that buyers purchase based on emotion and justify with logic after the fact. And we know that it is not uncommon for companies to have some of their salespeople off on stress leave. Stress can accumulate and overwhelm us, so it is important for managers to be aware of the stress levels of their sales professionals.

Sales can be a roller coaster.  A wise leader told me that I would never experience more highs or lows in a career than I would in sales. It may not be fair to compare selling to every job but having won and lost major deals in a single day sure did give me cause to pause and reflect on his words.