If you struggle to finalize sales, chances are you’re taking the wrong approach. That is, to convert leads, you first need to understand how people think. Probably even better than they understand themselves.

The good news is that human beings aren’t all that complicated. Of course, everyone’s different in certain ways. Some people are vegetarians. Others are into country music. Below the surface, however, we’re all pretty much motivated by the same things.

Marketers can utilize this.

When it comes to how we make buying decisions, a small number of psychological factors come into play. We all like to think we’re rational actors who seek out the best product for our needs. The reality is that we’re much easier to sway.

Today we’ll look at eight factors that can be used to convert leads.

How to Convert Leads: The Basic Principle

The first of the factors that help you convert a lead is the force behind pretty much everything we do. Our good friend Sigmund Freud calls this the pleasure-pain principle. In every decision, we seek to maximize pleasure and minimize pain.

Of course, we don’t have to take this literally. For our purposes today, pain mostly relates to financial outlay or other hassles. Pleasure, on the other hand, is all about perceived value and convenience.

They say you can’t have pleasure without pain. To convert leads, marketers should minimize this trade-off. We need to convince our leads that our product results in the most pleasure for the least pain.

This is core to most good messaging.

Check out this short paragraph from Squarespace. The idea of an all-in-one solution is all about eliminating the pain of using multiple different platforms and services. Plus, the copy emphasizes pleasure too.

Unlimited hosting and around-the-clock support. Goosebumps. This is crucial since potential buyers are motivated by both pleasure and pain. As such, you need to address both of these forces to convert leads.

It’s also effective to present these two forces as a journey. Sure, sometimes we have to overcome pain to get to pleasure later. The best messaging shows customers how they can take a shortcut and get straight to pleasure.

Fitness brands do this all the time.

Who could say no to getting fit without having to exercise? Ten million people couldn’t help anyway.

Tell Stories to Engage Emotions

You can shout all day about how your product is 10% more efficient than your competitors. The fact is, most buying decisions are made subconsciously

The thing is, today’s consumers absolutely hate being sold to and instead love brands that tell stories. 

There’s a scientific explanation for our love of stories: Oxytocin, the feel-good hormone that boosts our feelings like trust, compassion, and empathy.

And because of this, storytelling is one of the best tools you can use to build powerful connections. 

As Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal, says, “We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”

And I couldn’t agree more. 

Storytelling is hard-wired into humans. Before TV, you could make good money traveling from town to town telling stories. Nowadays you can do it from your computer. Except now, you don’t get as many free pints of mead.

On the lead-gen front, you want to position your offer around a compelling story. That’s what’ll trigger emotion, drive engagement, and build a solid relationship. 

You don’t need to run an adventure travel business to make this work either. Wrike proves this. They make project management software. I’m sure no one will mind me saying this isn’t exactly snowboarding or skydiving. All the same, they’re able to make compelling customer stories.

We all know a good story has three ingredients: a beginning, a middle, and an end. To convert leads with a customer success story, you start with the customer’s problem. Then you move on to how your product solved it.

And finally, the sunlit uplands they found afterward.

Give your Customers Easy Answers

An aspect of business development is understanding that people are lazy. I don’t mean oh kids these days won’t do a lick of work. No. At a fundamental level, human beings are lazy. When given a choice, we’ll always take the path of least resistance. This is only natural. After all, electrons in a circuit do the same thing.

This leads us to do just about anything to make our lives easier. We justify getting takeouts instead of cooking. We go freelance, so we don’t have to get out of bed at a particular time. Well, some of us do.

In any case, it’s easy to convert leads if they think you’re taking a difficult or boring task out of their hands. Or, in the words of America’s most famous son, ‘can’t someone else do it?’

This is essentially the force behind the recent explosion of subscription services. These are peak ‘can’t someone else do it?’. Don’t want to measure out your ingredients? Get a subscription service.

Your mum doesn’t buy your socks for you anymore? No problem.

Of course, it’s not only subscription services making the most of our natural laziness. For instance, it’s never been easier to sell a car. Take a few photos on your phone, post on Facebook Marketplace, and it’ll probably sell in under a day if you get the price right.

Still, that’s too much for some people.

The key takeaway here is that if you can convince leads their lives are easier with your product or service, you’re shooting fish in a barrel. 

Leverage the Herd Mind with Social Proof

We can’t talk about using psychology to convert leads without touching on social proof. The crux of this is that in buying decisions, people trust their peers far more than even experts. For physical products, they’re more than twice as likely to trust their friends.

That’s why most e-commerce stores provide customer review sections on every product.

This ties in with what we said about customer success stories. However, that’s not your only option. For instance, with Vyper, you can quickly turn your existing customers into a small army of salespeople.

This works by giving them an incentive to refer their friends. The more leads they convert, the bigger the reward they get. Everyone wins.

Equally, several tools allow you to display sales on your website in real-time. To give a personal flavor, you could even display the first name or location of the most recent seller, or to build hype the number of sales you’ve made in the last hour.

This technique rests on a similar psychological effect – the fear of missing out.

Trends easily sway customers. They don’t want to be left behind or fail to make the most of the latest fashion. A powerful way to convert leads that are afraid of missing out is letting your customers know who is buying what.

Use Common Enemies to Build a Brand Identity

Next, we’ll borrow a piece of psychology which has been used by politicians and newspapers for centuries. In short, this is the fact that people like to belong to a group. It’s a fundamental part of how identity works.

But you can’t have us without them.

In social psychology, this is called in-group out-group formation. You can use this effect to create loyal customers who convert over and over again. All it takes is to create a common enemy to position yourself against.

In Australia in the 1970s, Ford and Holden drivers used to meet up for literal street brawls. Of course, this is taking things much too far. For a more tame example, let’s think about Apple and Microsoft for a second.

Source: Forbes.com

The distinction between Mac people and PC people is visually set out here. Something must be working too. After all, we know Apple customers are some of the most loyal brand devotees out there.

Of course, two can play at that game.

A little controversy can be a good way to gain followers but tread carefully.

Your common enemy doesn’t have to be a rival brand, though. In fact, in most cases, it’s better if it isn’t. Not least of all legally. This rivalry suits both brands, but it’s challenging to create such an effect.

Instead, your out-group can be more of an idea than an actual group of people.

The best example of this is the rise of ‘tribes’ in recent years. For example, WiFi Tribe is a community for digital nomads, which provides living and working spaces in a different city of the world every month.

Their outgroup isn’t a competitor. It’s a way of doing things. It’s the 9-5 desk job life. This is effective because they contrast their service with ordinary, boring routines. They turn normality into the enemy.

What’s compelling about this technique is that you turn your brand into part of your customer’s identity. Once you’ve done that, converting leads is child’s play.

Create Reference Points to Tip Customers over the Edge

This next one is the sneakiest of the pieces of psychology you can use to convert leads. It’s called anchoring bias. We pay more attention to the information we hear first and less attention to what comes later. This creates all sorts of logical problems.

In one experiment, participants were asked to spin a wheel to choose a number from 0-100. They were then asked how many countries there are in Africa. The higher the number they chose first, the more countries they thought there were.

The first piece of information creates a reference point.

For marketers, the same effect influences how much customers are willing to pay. In the classic example, a car dealer may offer you a discount on the list price to encourage you to buy. Of course, this is usually a tiny discount they’ve pre-agreed with their manager.

This happens everywhere, and you won’t be able to unsee it. It’s particularly easy for software brands, where there’s no cost of replication. Here are the pricing options for PhotoShop.

Since we read left to right, the first price you see is the RRP for PhotoShop on its own. This is the anchor. Then you’re offered PhotoShop plus Lightroom and 20gb of cloud storage for half the price. Since this is much lower than our reference point, it’s also much more appealing.

This converts more leads by tipping hesitant buyers over the edge.

Give Your Customers Something to Look Forward to

Back to some more traditional marketing…

You should build anticipation before releasing products. However, we spend less time thinking about the reasoning behind this. Sure there’s the publicity factor, but that’s not the whole story.

Psychologists say there are four stages of happiness. The first is anticipation. Everybody likes having something to look forward to. That’s why most holidays are booked in January. We need something to get us through the long winter months.

So create as much publicity for your products as possible before release. Then when the release comes around, your leads will be too excited not to hit buy.

Crowdfunding takes the same principle to the next level. It has the added benefit of building anticipation by giving customers a stake in the creation of the product. They’re excited to get the product that they funded.

And there’s an added incentive to buy because if you don’t, it might not ever get made.

That’s why you’ll often see successful crowdfunding campaigns vastly exceed their target.

People Love Anything Shiny and New

That leads neatly to the last psychological effect I want to talk about, novelty seeking. We can’t help but love anything new. There’s a whole part of your brain dedicated to novelties. When this is stimulated, it starts pumping out all kinds of pleasure chemicals.

It doesn’t even have to be anything particularly new. It just needs to be presented as if it was. That’s why every car manufacturer releases new models every single year, with only tiny changes. The same goes for iPhones.

The king of using novelty seeking to convert leads is the video game industry.

Source: IGN

Every single year, the new FIFA game makes hundreds of millions of dollars in sales in the first few weeks. Most years, it’s the most popular release in the industry. But there’s a catch. It’s the same game every year. I mean, it’s not like there’s that much to change.

At best, they update the players and improve the look of everything by about 5%. So why would millions of people spend money on it every single year?

Because it’s the new FIFA!

The Psychology Behind Converting Leads

These are a handful of the easiest ways to employ human psychology to convert leads. And you don’t even need a degree to understand them. We’re only pulling on four basic levers here; emotions, biases, identity, and a tiny bit of brain chemistry.

While this may sound daunting, you also have several practical examples of how this works in the real world. It’s important to remember the key idea that underlines all of this. No matter who they are, everyone wants as much pleasure and as little pain as possible.

What are your most effective ways of turning leads into sales? Let us know in the comments below.

Ronan is a technology and travel writer from Belfast in Ireland. He contributes to LaunchSpace to find the best software deals to grow online businesses. He’s also a compulsive acquirer of stringed instruments. 

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