5 White-Hot Consumer Psychology Hacks to Boost Your Sales

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A/B split testing, conversion-rate optimization and growth hacking are all great tactics for boosting sales. But what if I told you there was an easier way?

There are a few quick hacks that, when applied to your business, can help you harness the power of consumer psychology and dramatically increase your sales. I’ve outlined five of these white-hot hacks below. Give them a try and let me know what kind of difference they make in your business’s bottom line.

1. Limit your options.

It’s easy to imagine that offering customers many possible options increases the likelihood that they’ll find something they like. But in fact, research suggests that the opposite is true. If you give people too many options, the odds that they’ll purchase actually go down.

Related: Choices Can Become Overwhelming, So Make It Easier for Customers

Take the research conducted by Columbia University associate professor Sheena Iyengar. Her 2003 paper, titled “How Much Choice is Too Much? Contributions to 401(k) Retirement Plans,” found that when companies offered two fund options in their retirement plans, participation rates peaked at 75 percent. When the number of funds offered jumped to 59, participation fell to roughly 60 percent.

Iyengar attributes this effect to something she calls “choice overload.” If you see visitors on your website making it to your product or pricing pages, but then failing to convert, try cutting the number of options you advertise substantially in order to prevent this phenomenon from affecting your sales.

2. Start small, build big.

When it comes to sales, you don’t need to shoot for the moon on the first go. Especially if you sell big-ticket items, try starting your customers on small purchases and escalating things as they commit.

Arizona State University researchers Robert Cialdini (the “Persuasive” author) and David Schroeder demonstrated this effect when they sent teams door to door soliciting funds for the American Cancer Society. Group B participants, who ended their pitch with the phrase, “Even a little bit helps,” achieved a 50 percent response rate, compared to Group A’s 28.6 percent.

It’s a simple trick, but if you’re having trouble converting prospects, try shifting your focus and going after the small wins.

3. Just say “because.”

In a series of now-classic psychology experiments conducted in the 1970s and 1980s, psychologist Ellen Langer sent would-be interlopers to those waiting in line to use a copy machine and ask if they could cut the line. While the requests were generally allowed about 60 percent of the time, they were granted nearly 95 percent of the time when accompanied by a reason -- even if that reason was “because I need to use the copy machine.”

Related: You'll Market Better and Be More Persuasive Knowing These 10 Brain Facts

It might sound overly simplistic, but take a look at your sales copy. If your calls to action are missing the word “because,” try adding it and testing whether this easy hack helps convert and increase your overall sales.

4. When in doubt, rhyme it out.

Could something as simple as using rhymes in your copy really make a difference in your overall sales? The book “Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Successful” by Dr. Noah Goldstein and Steve Martin suggests that this might be the case.

The book cites a survey in which participants were asked to evaluate the usefulness of two phrases: “Caution and measure will win you treasure,” and “Caution and measure will win you riches.” Though their meanings are identical, volunteers rated the first variation as being more practical and insightful.

It sounds a little campy, but it's worth a shot. If you need your readers to take something seriously in your sales copy, phrasing it in the form of a rhyme may help the idea stick with visitors and cause them to feel more positively about your products.

5. Tie in to negative emotions.

In another example from Goldstein and Martin’s book, two survey groups were asked to set a fair price for an object shown to them. The only difference between the groups? Group A -- which gave prices more than 30 percent higher on average than Group B -- viewed an emotional movie featuring the death of someone close to the protagonist before setting their prices.

While you’ll want to use a light hand in applying this hack, getting your readers in touch with their emotions -- particularly the negative ones -- can play a powerful role in the sales process. 

Sound intriguing? Leave me a comment and let me know if these hacks are working for you, or -- if you haven’t already implemented them -- how you plan to use them.

Related: Connecting With Customers: How to Market to Their Emotions

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