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21 Powerful Sales Techniques (Backed by Scientific Research)

sales techniques

Post summary:

  • You’ve heard it before; the best sales reps are born winners. But this is simply not true. The best sales reps have a proven formula that they use time and time again to generate new business.
  • The secret to their formula? They use science. Science-based selling combines social psychology, neuroscience and behavioral economics – and makes the sales process all about the buyer and their needs.
  • To help you get started with science-based selling, we’ve created a data-driven (and scientific) guide that shares 21 proven sales techniques that you can use today to double (or even triple) your sales!

What is it that makes some sales people better than others?

Sure, having the right personal skills and experience are important, but being able to consistently convert leads, close deals and perform among the top sales people in your company (or area) requires more than skill and experience.

Over the last few decades, a wealth of scientific research has emerged about how the human brain makes choices and which factors can influence what we say and do, including what we buy.

Best of all, this scientific knowledge is readily available and can be used to help you become a top performer.

Don’t worry. You don’t need a degree in physics or chemistry to combine science and sales. All you need is to be willing to adapt your current sales process and start using the new approach that the top sales performers are using today.

This new approach is called science-based selling.

What is science-based selling?

Science-based selling is as a sales technique that includes social psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral economics. This new approach to sales is based on tried-and-tested scientific methods to help boost your performance as a sales person in every part of the buying process.

While most b2b sales best practices focus on the sales people themselves, science-based selling focuses on the most important part of any sales process – the buyer.

Science-based selling uses scientific research to understand what is happening inside the buyers’ brain, and how their brain can be influenced. When you start selling in a way that corresponds with the way the brain is wired to make purchases, you’ll boost your sales.

But let’s be clear about this: We’re not talking about Jedi-mind tricks here.

We’re talking about applying decades of research into your sales process to help you increase sales. And to help you get started with science-based selling, we’ve created a list of 21 of the most valuable science-based sales techniques that you can use today.

Let’s dive right in!

1. Contact leads within 5 minutes

How long do you wait to contact your leads?

Science shows us that buyers are more likely to make a purchase the closer in time to when they made the initial inquiry. However, every minute you wait before you contact the buyer results in a dramatic drop in their interest level.

Some salespeople see leads coming in and wait until they have a free moment later to respond. If you do this, then you’re making a big sales mistake!

Impact of speed to call on conversion

Always respond immediately to sales leads. Research by Lead Response Management found that you are 100x more likely to successfully contact a lead if you respond within 5 minutes and 21x more likely to qualify that lead.

2. Make 6 attempts to reach leads

How many times do you contact your leads?

Most salespeople call once or twice then give up, but don’t!

Research from Velocify shows that making six attempts is the magic number. You can dramatically improve your contact rates by making six attempts to call your leads!

3. Call early morning or late afternoon

What time do you call your leads?

A buyer might be in a much better mood with you if you call at a time that is convenient for them, like first thing in the morning or at the end of their working day.

The exact time will vary by industry (don’t forget their time zone), but research shows that the best times to call are usually between 8am and 9am and then again between 4pm and 5pm.

4. Call on Wednesdays or Thursdays

Next up, let’s take a look at day of the week.

Do you schedule your “calling days” when you have time, or when your buyers’ have time?

The scientific research shows that buyers will be more responsive on some days than others. Unsurprisingly, Monday's aren't that great to call buyers, but did you know that Tuesday is just as bad?

The best day to call for you will differ by industry, so make sure you do your research to understand the standard week of your buyers. However, the data shows us that midweek to just before the end of the week is the best day to call.

Best day to make a sales call

For most people then, Wednesday and Thursday are the best days to contact your leads.

5. Call from a Local Number

What number comes up on your buyers’ phone when you call them?

If it’s blocked, a toll number or a long distance number then they are less likely to answer the phone. If you have 10 sales people making calls, then by making them call from local numbers is the equivalent of hiring an extra 6 full time salespeople!

The research by Software Advice shows that buyers are 300% more likely to answer your calls if they recognize your area code.

Make sales calls from a local number

6. Smile, and be positive

What are the first words out of your mouth when you start speaking to your buyer?

It’s small talk, or chit-chat, right?

You might think that making a comment about how terrible the weather is makes no difference, but it can actually have a knock-on negative effect on your likelihood to make a sale.

If you had a bad morning, keep it to yourself as scientific research shows that starting with a positive comment will be more profitable for you. One study from found that waiters who simply said “good morning” to hotel guests and gave a positive weather forecast were able to boost their tips by 27%!

7. Don’t talk bad about the competition

Do you say bad things about your competitors?

Well, it’s time to stop!

Saying bad things about other people or companies results in a phenomenon called Spontaneous Trait Transference. The brain works in way that associates gossip or negativity to the person who is doing the talking. So if you say something negative about a competitor to a buyer, then their brain puts those negative traits on you!

The science shows that when you say bad things about your competition, those traits are transferred to you in the mind of the buyer.

8. Remember the power of body language

As a salesperson, I'm sure you think carefully about the words you use, but how much attention do you pay to your body language?

Countless studies have come to the conclusion that effective nonverbal communication is essential for shaping your buyers’ behavior.

One study, presented by Vanessa Van Edwards looked at sales people who had received just a single training session on using their body language to reinforce their verbal messages. The study found that salespeople who use effective body language increased their sales numbers by 56%.

9. Use Social Media to Sell

Does your boss have a strict "no social media at work” policy?

Well, they shouldn’t!

When used correctly, social mediacan be one of your most effective sales tools.

A recent study by social sales expert Jim Keenan found that 78.6% of salespeople using social media to sell out performed those who weren’t using social media.

And sales reps that use social selling are more likely to reach their quota, renewal rate and forecasting accuracy.

Sales reps that use social selling sell more

As for the most valuable social media network to salespeople, it's (unsurprisingly) LinkedIn.

A study published by the Harvard Business Review found that 40% of sales people that regularly use LinkedIn can attribute revenue to their use of the social network.

10. Be a “Driver”

Do you come across as passionate to your buyers?

The science identified people with a personality type known as “drivers” that conveyed an overwhelming desire to succeed. They’re competitive, optimistic, and ambitious!

Anyone can work on these skills, but if you’re hiring new salespeople then you’ll want to make sure these qualities are already present.

One study looked at 80 years of sales research and discovered that the top salespeople exhibit the traits of “drivers”. In contrast, under performing salespeople “can cost over six figures annually in salary, training dollars and lost sales” to employers.

11. Enjoy the competitive nature of sales

Do you want to ‘win’ as many sales as possible?

The top performing salespeople are competitive and see sales as not just a job, but as a game. That’s why they use the term ‘winning’ a sale.

A 2003 study by marketing professor Balaji Krishnan and his colleagues tested 182 salespeople and found that competitiveness caused salespeople to work harder and outperform their peers.

12. Say Yes to Optimism

When you look at a glass, is it half empty or half full?

You might be wondering what the answer to this question can have on sales, but the science is clear.

Psychologist Martin Seligman and his colleagues were the first to study optimism in salespeople. Over 30 years of research involving more than a million salespeople confirms that optimism is a valuable attribute.

Their most notable research was in 1986 when Martin Seligman and Peter Schulman tested 14,000 applicants at Metropolitan Life for optimism. The results showed that optimists consistently outsold pessimists.

This wasn’t a one-off, either as they were able to repeat the results in an 1995 study involving salespeople across several industries, including office products, real estate, banking, and car sales. They found conclusively that optimists outsold pessimists by between 20 to 40%.

13. Introvert? Extrovert? Be an Ambivert

If you're an introvert, you may have heard that extroverts make the best sales people.

Well, it’s not entirely accurate as the best sales people are neither introverted nor extroverted. They are in fact ambiverts.

What is an ambivert?

An ambivert is someone who has both introvert and extrovert qualities, and bounces between the two without committing to one or the other. For example, an ambivert enjoys being around others, but they also enjoy their alone time.

Sound familiar? If so, then you're in luck.

A recent study of 300 sales professionals published in Psychological Science shared researcher Adam Grant’s findings that qualities of both introverted and extroverted personalities have their place in sales, but the key take away from the study saw that on average, ambiverted sales people generated 32% more revenue than highly extroverted sales people!

Ambiverts make better sales people

14. Be a Closer, Consultant, or Expert

Everyone has their own approach to sales, but what is yours?

Scientific studies have identified eight main sales approach categories, including storytellers, focusers, narrators, aggressors, and socializers.

However, a study of 800 salespeople by researchers Lynette Ryals and Iain Davies found that the remaining three were the most successful - Closers, Consultants and Experts.

The study found that experts were naturally gifted in all areas of selling, while consultants tended to focus on listening to their buyers and solving problems, while closers were smooth-talkers in converting the biggest leads.

What they found was that only 37% of salespeople were deemed effective in the long run and these three types of salespeople - closers, consultants, and experts - were among the most successful.

15. Offer More Than One Option

How many options do you give your buyers?

In a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, Daniel Mochon found that the number of product options had a big influence.

One of Daniel's most famous experiments was based on consumers who were asked to purchase a DVD player.  When a single DVD player was shown, only 10% purchased. However, when Daniel introduced a second DVD player, the number of sales increased by 66%!

 Your buyers are ore likely to make a purchase if they feel confident about their decision.

One way to minimize the brain's perception of risk is to present more than one option so can they choose the "lowest risk" option themselves.

16. Act like your buyers

Do you notice how your buyers behave and respond to you?

The science shows that mirroring the gestures, expressions and posture of someone you are speaking to can significantly increase their perception of you.

This technique, known as mirroring, is mostly seen in couples, but it happens in the workplace too - at meetings, conversations with colleagues and networking events.

One study in 2009 involved a study of 60 people who were tasked with negotiating with each other. By mirroring their partner’s speech and posture, they were able to reach an agreement 67% of the time, while those that did not mirror their partner were only able to reach an agreement 12.5% of the time.

Another study in 2011 involved over 100 customers and discovered that they bought more products and had a more positive impression of the company when the retail salespeople were told to mirror the behavior of their customers.

Mirroring the verbal and nonverbal behavior of your buyers will significantly boost their willingness to agree with you.

17. Believe in Yourself

Do you ever doubt your abilities?

Everyone does it from time to time, no matter how successful they are or whether they are male or female.

Crisis of confidence

In fact, doubting yourself and your abilities is such a common issue that psychologists have given it a name: impostor syndrome.

One of the best ways to boost self-confidence, according to research, is to reflect on how you've succeeded in the past. Then, say out loud to yourself that the successes you have earned in the past are evidence of how well you will perform in the future. It's a simple exercise, but it has been proven to shift your mind into being more confident and self-assuring.

Avoiding imposter syndrome can improve your performance and charisma.

18. Avoid the Sunk Cost Fallacy

Do you quit while you’re ahead, or do you just keep on going, never knowing when to quit?

A phenomenon known as Sunk cost fallacy is what happens when people are unwilling to stop doing something that they have already invested time, energy and resource on - thus making a bad situation potentially much worse, instead of seeing it as an opportunity to learn and refine their sales process.

Salespeople who avoid sunk cost fallacy are able to devote more of their resources to profitable opportunities.

19. Let your confidence shine

When people describe you, do they use the word confident?

Numerous studies by Hoffeld Group have shown that when someone acts confidently, it adds more weight to what they say.

But the funny thing about confidence is that even if you don't feel it, you can fake it!

By faking the feeling of confidence, you can help kick your mind into gear. In other words, when you use body language that exudes confidence, the chances are you'll actually start to feel as confident as you're acting.

Carnegie Mellon researchers found that displaying confidence is even more influential in establishing trust than past performance.

20. Smile more (a lot more)

Do buyers find you warm and approachable?

If not, there’s a very easy way to improve this. Just smile at them more.

There have been a number of studies that show how smiling is closely linked to our perception of how approachable someone is. Dr. Robert Zajonic analyzed what happens to the body when you smile, which includes increased blood flow to the brain and the lowering the body’s temperature. These result in feelings of pleasure and increased confidence.

Best of all, when you smile at someone, it activates the brain of the person you are smiling at, And so they are more likely to smile back at you.

Smiling makes you come across as warmer and research has shown that when people perceive you as warm, they're more likely to trust you and embrace your ideas.

21. Act like a Doctor

Do your buyers open up to you?

As humans, we enjoy talking with people that ask open-ended questions that help us open up and share details about ourselves.

Researchers at Harvard studied what happens in our brains when we discuss information about our favorite subject - ourselves. The researchers showed that talking about ourselves is linked to pleasure, and that it improved not just our self-perception, but also our perception of the person we are talking to. This is why doctors are perceived as trustworthy, respected and friendly – because they tend to ask questions that you wouldn’t normally answer to others.

Salespeople who ask insightful questions to their buyers create a more enjoyable buying experience, which helps increase sales.


Competition is strong in the sales industry, so you need every chance to succeed.

The good news is that many there are many salespeople still relying on outdated methods and techniques for how to increase sales.

These 21 science-based selling techniques are based on tried-and-tested scientific principles that can help you double your sales. So, the next time you have a sales meeting or speak with a potential new customer, try one of them yourself to see the positive impact it will have on your sales pipeline.

Are you a recently “converted” science-based sales person?

What sales techniques work for you?

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