Using social proof on the retail sales floor

One of the most powerful influence strategies is that of Social Proof. We see it every day, we live it every day.
Try this exercise: Go and stand on the pavement and stare up at the roof of a high building without saying anything. People will either not notice you, or if they do glance up and move right along when they notice nothing. But repeat the experiment with five accomplices, and a crowd will form pretty quickly.

Nobody likes the canned laughter soundtracks that go with sitcoms. The actors don’t, the producers don’t. But the executives insist because time and time again it has been proven that people find things funnier when other people laugh at it – even when they know it is false.

We make fewer mistakes when we do what other people do. It is a powerful shortcut because it has been ingrained in us since we are children.
Behave yourself Johnny, nobody does that.
Why do you jump on the couch Johnny, do you see anyone else doing it?

We all want to be recognised as individuals, but we don’t want to be individual enough to be laughed at.

Copy cat serial killers abound. Copy cat suicides are rife. In fact research has proven that when a major/ newsworthy suicide has occurred and has been publicised, suicide rates in that area increase by 1000%.

Cults, clubs, fanatical fans - are all examples of the power of social proof at play. We always look to others for approval because being like others is SAFE.  We act like others do because we don’t want to seem flustered or out of place. Fitting in is an evolutionary survival mechanism, because standing out from the herd will make you an easy prey.

Social proof is especially powerful when the people we are comparing ourselves to or SIMILAR to us. We say we don’t care what other think, but we only say that when others are OTHERS – and we care deeply what people like us think. A mother cares what other mothers think. Teenagers care what other teenagers think about them. Teenagers rebel against their parents but conform to their peers.

Here are four ways (though there are many more) you can use the principles in a retail sales environment:

: When someone walks into the store and you need to create instant rapport, try and be as much like them as possible:

  • If you a number of staff, make sure the one that is most like the customer serves the customer

  • If you don’t have that luxury, synchronise your dress, behaviour & speech as much as possible with the customer/ target market

TWO: When explaining to customers something, refer to:

  • Most popular line/ best seller

  • All the teenagers seem to buying it

THREE: When trying to up-sell:

  • Don’t say ‘would you like to look at the match belts’

  • Do say ‘ most people who buy that bag also consider the belt’

FOUR: When overcoming objections, use the FEEL-FELT-FOUND technique:
I understand that you feel it is somewhat expensive, and other people who felt that way changed their minds when they found that the lower maintenance costs would save money in the long run (for example.)

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