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The Instinct of Herding: How Sales Professionals Can Capitalize on it to Sell More. Part 1 By Skip Anderson


I spent some time with one of my friends a few weeks ago. Now retired, he had been a very successful career salesperson who sold wholesale clothing to clothing retailers. We chatted about the nature of buyers and customer psychology.

“Who Else Is Buying It?”
Dave told me how he would walk up and down Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis in decades past, calling on each of the men’s clothing stores to present his lines. Nicollet Mall (the name of a street not a shopping mall, was formerly the major retail center in the Twin Cities area. It was home to many of independent clothiers at the time. Dave called on all of them.

Dave told me that when he would show his spring collection to one of the retail buyers, the buyer would almost inevitably ask, “Who else is buying it?” (Meaning, “What other retailers have already purchased this from you?”). Dave said that, almost without fail, if other stores had purchased his merchandise, his prospect would, too.

The Influence of Others in Buying Decisions

So what was going on with those retailers? The psychology of buyers is complex. It’s not as easy as “customers buy to solve problems” or “people buy to relieve pain” or other overused clichés I read about.

One element of buying psychology is that buyers often herd together, just like a herd of cattle or a flock of geese or a school of fish. Why do they do this?

There are three major reasons why customers herd, or are highly influenced by other customers:

1. Prospects prefer not to take risks.

Although some are more risk tolerant than others, prospects prefer to avoid too much risk (however they define risk). Instead, they tend to buy tried and true products from tried and true sources in tried and true ways. This is one reason it can be challenging for a new player in an industry to be successful right out of the entrepreneurial gate.

2. Prospects believe there is safety in numbers.

If everybody is opening coffee shops on every street corner, it must be safe to open a coffee business of your own, right? And better yet, it must be better to open a coffee shop on a corner that already has a coffee shop, correct? I know of at least one urban intersection that houses three coffee shops on three of its four corners.

3. Prospects are highly influenced by others.

Even highly independent customers take cues from others and are influenced by the buying behavior of others. Belonging to a group is an important purchasing motivator. This helps to explain why one home on Park Street installed a paver driveway last summer and two more homes on Park Street will follow suit this summer.

* You can read Part 2 of this article here.
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Skip Anderson is a speaker, management consultant, sales trainer, writer, and the Founder of Selling to Consumers Sales Training. The creator of 3D Selling™, Skip works with companies and individuals to capitalize upon the buying potential of every prospect. He is an authority on customer engagement and B2C selling.

-What are some key ideas you took away from the ideas above & how can you use them to improve your sales results?

*brought to you by SalesTrainingAdvice.com

  • Frank

    Skip,

    I may want to have you as a guest on our daily show. You can see it at http://www.tbwsdaily.com if you want.

    Call me if you’re interested.

    707-432-1050

  • Josh Hinds

    Hi Frank, the article is actually one that Skip contributed to the site. You may want to contact him directly through his web site at http://www.sellingtoconsumers.com

    I did go ahead and send Skip an email with your comment & info though in case he didn't catch the comment here you left.

    All the best, Josh