There are all sorts of psychological tricks that people resort to with customers but my advice to clients over the years has been to avoid them as they produce short term gains and long term pains. You will know most of the ploys – only three seats available at this price; you are investing in your company’s future; your competitors are already using this. I think they are also pretty ineffective if repeated and can only be used once, if then.

There are areas of grey here, however, and these two I’ve used quite happily, knowing that there is a psychological underpinning to them, but I think they are reasonably balanced. I’d be interested to see whether my judgment is correct here. The first one is: what would it take for you to sign the order or what would I have to do in order to get you to make the order? You can see the transfer of obligation to come up with the terms of the deal from the seller to the buyer is psychological pressure – particularly as most people have a genuine need to seem helpful and friendly and that applies to customers. The second is normally known as the presumptive close – so now that we’re agreed that this is the appropriate way forward, what are the next steps? Again there is a psychological underpinning to the approach as you are creating a feeling of a joint exercise between the customer and the seller. I’ve never felt that the customer has been uncomfortable with either of these – and, in fact, with several of my more experienced customers, enjoyed the recognition of what I was actually doing.

Those aside, I am very much in favour of an entirely different perspective on selling and a different perspective on buying. One of my main approaches was to change a well-known sales technique in a way that seems just a semantic alteration, but one that is really much deeper than that. Most people will have heard of – if not used – consultancy-led selling, where the objective is not to coerce the potential customer but genuinely to find out what is the best fit for what the customer needs, and to examine the options with the customer in such a way that you achieve the best result for the customer, knowing that it will in all likelihood, be the best outcome in the long term for you. So my perspective on selling was always long term – and I was perhaps privileged to work in an environment and industry that gave me the time to create that most collegiate relationship.

The way I changed the perspective was to focus on consultancy-led buying – not abandoning consultancy-led selling entirely as that is still a vital part of a long term relationship, but looking at the best way, the most appropriate time, the most advantageous way forward for the client and enabling him or her to buy with the greatest confidence. I always remembered – from my own experience too – that buyer’s remorse is a very real emotion. Once someone has committed to an order, there is usually a feeling of regret and worry that what has been committed to is really not the right answer. (Psychologically it is more than that – but take that summary as indicative.) Consultancy-led buying, as a process, helps to eliminate that, as the focus is not on selling but on the satisfaction that the buyer might feel.

I am aware now that there is more of a psychological element to this because of the way the question is framed – but I think it doesn’t go over a line, because it shows the greatest respect for the customer, and that the other approaches do is show contempt for the customer.

When I was sales director my focus on the training I did with my teams was not on psychological elements in the customer but within the sales person. I was really concerned with the personal effectiveness of the sales person – could he or she form a rapport with the customer of potential customer, did the sales person understand the motivation of the customer, was the sales person listening, was the focus on the longer term. I would always advise people to look at the various tools and approaches to improving personal effectiveness – and my own book is but one of the resources that you might look at.

KYC is an acronym widely used in the financial services industry and my acronym is longer but sums it up: KYCAKYF:

Know your customer and know yourself first.