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Three Psych Studies Sales Leaders Should Know About

Posted on  22 June 10  by 


We all know by now that Sales can learn a lot from the field of psychology, but it is worthwhile from time-to-time to have a refresher on some of the more surprising findings coming out of university psych departments.

Here I’ve summarized a few such findings particularly relevant for Sales. A word of warning: it wouldn’t be a psych study if the findings weren’t a bit quirky!


Finding #1: Customers are more likely to say “yes” if you give them coffee and speak into their right ear

  • Explanation: An Australian study finds that consuming even a moderate amount of caffeine makes individuals “more likely to agree with persuasive arguments.” Additional research conducted in Italian discotheques finds that people are twice as likely to give a stranger a cigarette if the request is made into the right rather than the left ear (which allows the request to be processed via the “preferred,” left hemisphere of the brain).
  • Implication for Sales: Train your reps to suggest a refill and to choose their chair carefully before sitting down at the negotiation table. Then have them use our Controlled Negotiation Roadmap to seal the deal.

Finding #2: People spend most of their time in meetings sharing information everyone already knows        

  • Explanation: A series of studies find that people in group settings tend to focus on “already known” information because it is easier to remember, consistent with what they already believe, and less risky to share. Unfortunately this is not conducive to informed decision-making.
  • Implication for Sales: Consider using alternative mediums such as Social CRM for baseline information sharing, so that meetings can focus on surfacing critical information that may have been overlooked. Added benefits may arise from the fact that people show fewer inhibitions on social media networks.

Finding #3: Offering rewards may make people LESS likely to do what you want

  • Explanation: Any child who has ever been offered a reward to clean their room, do the dishes, or eat their brussel sprouts learns that rewards are usually offered for tasks that are otherwise undesirable or unpleasant. For many people, this association becomes hardwired by adulthood, leading people to believe that anything that comes with a reward must be unpleasant. Assigning a “carrot” just draws attention to the fact that a task is no fun, and perhaps publicly acknowledges that you don’t expect everyone to do it.
  • Implication for Sales: Think twice before linking CRM compliance to individual MBOs, and use our list of 20 compensation do’s and don’ts to ensure that incentive plans do not motivate the wrong behaviors.

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