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Sales Tactics to Be Aware of this Christmas Season

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by Telani Kumar (subscribe)
A free-spirit studying psychology at the University of Sydney.
Published December 18th 2013
5 ways you can be reeled into purchases
At this stage, so close to Christmas, I imagine that many of you would be in a shopping frenzy to sort out gifts for all of your loved ones. The pop-up sales that are distributed throughout shopping places would be in an equal frenzy to convince you to buy your gifts from them. It is easy for us to fall for the many tricks they throw our way in the course of the conversations they have managed to lure us into - with the end result being the purchase of an item that you had not initially considered buying. With knowledge about 'weapons of influence' from my psychology studies, and the recent real-life experiences I had of these in play, I will give you some key things to be aware of the next time you find yourself being pulled aside by these clever sales tactics.

1. Reciprocity

Many a time, I am sure that you have been offered a free sample of a produce - whether that be a bit of food, drink, or a cosmetic product. Naturally, when we are given something (even when it's without our request) we feel the need to give something back. In context of shopping, we feel like we should buy something from this company, or at the very least pay some attention to the promotions. This open the doors to more sales tactics being thrown our way.

The same goes for compliments. Compliments are lovely, they hit a soft spot in everyone, and are actually also a form of something being given to us. Like with the offer of a product, we feel as though we owe the company or salesperson something in return, with this often being our purchase of the product. Be aware that being offered an item, or a piece positive feedback, does not mean you have to buy the product.

2. Liking and similarity

I'm sure many of you have also had the experience of being told by, for instance, the representative of a cosmetics product that you have nice skin. When given compliments such as these, we automatically grow to like such reps and their companies more. Also, from my experience the other day, the conversation diverted away from the product at hand and for while, involved talking about things like our backgrounds and what we do in Sydney (where some points of similarity were found). These conversations, particularly where we find some things in common, also encourage our liking of the products in an indirect way.

Note, that while there is no reason to not like the people and companies that we interact with, you should be aware of these tactics - and the fact that these may encourage you to buy things you hadn't otherwise thought about. When we like the reps or companies at hand, we are in turn more likely to buy their products.

3. Cooperation

Another thing that makes us like companies, and also more likely to buy their products, is when the rep appears to be cooperating with us. For example, the experience I had the other day involved the rep 'checking to see if the boss was around' and then telling us "I'm going to break some rules for you guys because I like you" This makes us feel like we are on the same team, more friendly, and more likely to want to buy, as a thank you or whatever we feel the reason may be. So, this is another tactic I want to point out to you - remember that when you are feeling as though the rep and you are on the same side as such, you will probably feel more inclined to buying their items.

sales, market, food, produce
Image from (captured by Christian Frausto Bernal)

4. Consistency

I mentioned to a sales rep that my mum is into organic cosmetic products like the ones they were selling. Later on, in the midst of my deliberating about purchasing this item, the rep reminded me about this in attempt to further persuade me to get an item. People generally like to appear consistent in their thoughts, words, and actions. So, if you say something, you tend to stick with that - including in shopping contexts. Often you will be persuaded to buy something more so by your own desire to seem consistent with what you say, than by the sales prompts themselves.

5. 'Rejection-then-retreat'

There are two options that sales reps can take - they can show customers the cheapest item or deals straight away, or they can show them more expensive items which customers are likely to 'reject' and then take them to the cheaper ones. The latter approach mentioned here is more effective in encouraging people to buy things, and you have probably witnessed this yourself in shops or pop-up sales, where you are directed to discounts, deals, and cheaper items after being shown the more expensive prices. This cheaper price is actually what they were expecting to give you, and to sell for. This is an interesting thing to keep in mind.

Remember, the salespeople themselves are clever, but they do not have any bad intentions. This is not the intended focus of this article, rather I wanted to simply provide you with some insight into some of the tactics used in sales industries. Being aware of these tactics can be dual-purpose I suppose - you can use this knowledge to avoid buying stuff that's not necessarily what you desired. Contrarily, you can use these to your benefit, by perhaps gaining donations or making sales of your own. Also with this knowledge, I found that it was interesting and kind of entertaining to spot each of these sales tricks and tactics being used everywhere - and even more so during this peak, festive, season of shopping.
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Why? Be more aware of the sales tactics that you are exposed to.
When: Anytime - perhaps more so during this Christmas shopping rush.
Where: Anywhere that sales are being made.
Cost: Expenses on products you initially hadn't considered
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