The “Art” of the Sale

A few months ago, I was in Aspen for the third Maverick Business Adventures experience. This time, we went whitewater rafting, rock climbing, rappelling, mountain biking, and on a Jeep 4×4 tour.

The day before I left, Aspen was extremely interesting from a marketing perspective…

Aspen is filled with great boutiques, restaurants, and art galleries. I wasn’t planning on buying anything, but enjoyed looking in the galleries – and that’s where our story starts.

The first part of any sales process is typically grabbing the attention of the prospective customer – and my attention was caught by a piece in one of the windows. It was cartoonish yet sophisticated. So I popped into the gallery. The piece was by an artist named Todd White, and it was called “My Heaven and Hell.”

The gallery had a bunch of White’s prints, and as I browsed through them I started getting the “story” of the artist from the gallery salesman, Johnny. He told me how White had worked on “Ren & Stimpy” and helped created “SpongeBob SquarePants.” I’m a big fan of animation, so this intrigued me.

If you have read Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, you know that this is a good example of one of the persuasive techniques used by salespeople. “Story”  helps the salesperson make a deeper connection with his prospect and start to set up the sale. (”Story” is important to the buyer, because he knows he’ll be able to tell it to people who admire the item after he’s bought it.)

Johnny followed this with a laundry list of celebs who collect White’s work – an example of what Cialdini calls “Social Proof.”

Then he showed me a brochure with illustrations of prints by White that were no longer available because they had sold out. “He does them in very limited quantities (like 150),” Johnny explained. This is an example of another tried and true sales tactic described by Cialdini: “Scarcity.”

As I perused various pieces, Johnny would throw in an occasional comment. (For instance, he explained that “My Heaven and Hell” depicts the good and devilish sides of White’s ex-girlfriend.)

Every time I showed interest in a piece, Johnny asked me if I wanted him to move it to a better light. I declined several times, because I knew where this was heading. But, finally, I let him move two of the prints to a cozy little back room. (The purpose of the back room is to give prospects a chance to imagine how the artwork might look in their homes.)

At this point, what Cialdini calls “Commitment” and “Consistency” takes over. I’m making small commitments toward buying, starting with picking which prints I like the best. And psychologically, Cialdini tells us, once you’ve made a commitment, you’re more likely to behave in a consistent manner by sticking with that commitment going forward.

Meanwhile, I was offered a beer, Champagne, or water – an example of Cialdini’s principle of “Reciprocity” at work. Giving prospects a treat is a good way to make them feel like reciprocating in some way – presumably by making a purchase.

I’d been through this same kind of presentation before. Still, it was interesting to watch it unfold with my psychology hat on – especially since the gallery was doing something that I hadn’t seen before: They were playing a DVD about Todd White’s career, his press coverage, his works, and people who are his collectors. Another way of injecting social proof into the sales process, plus what Cialdini calls “Authority.”

When I kept going back to my favorite piece, Johnny asked me what it would take for me to buy it right then and there. I shrugged my shoulders. Then he said, “What if I can talk the owner of the gallery into giving you a crazy price on two of them?” I said I would be willing to negotiate price, but only on the one piece. In Cialdini’s terms, this is an example of reciprocation (by me) after a “Concession” (on price).

The owner then stepped in. He pointed out that the print I had chosen was hand embellished, not simply “a print.” And he talked to me about the frame itself – its multiple layers and how ornate it was. Cialdini calls this the “Value Buildup.”

Finally, the owner gave me a “Reason Why” he was able to give me a discount: It was the end of tourist season and the rent was due.

We negotiated down to about 50 percent of the “retail” price, and shook hands. A few weeks later, a huge crate arrived at my house with my “All Lit Up Again” print by Todd White:

All lit up again

How many of the above sales tactics are you using to try to persuade customers to buy? If you’re using just one or two, it’s time for you to take a good look at Cialdini’s book.

[Ed. Note: As master Internet marketer Yanik Silver points out, understanding the psychology of persuasion can help you win over new customers. For more of his insights into sales and marketing, check out his blog at

For more targeted strategies you can use to make sales – and take your business to new heights – sign up for ETR’s 2008 Bootcamp DVD Library. From the comfort of your living room, you can watch our speakers – including 2 hours of Yanik’s best secrets from his stunning live presentation – divulge techniques they’ve used to make at least $100,000. Who knows? With this advice, you could wind up making upward of $1 million in 2009.

Yanik Silver

Yanik Silver is an established internet marketing expert, having been in business online since 1998. He has numerous internet products to his name, including Instant Internet Profits, Internet Marketing Lab, 21 Mind Motivators, Instant Sales Letters, Million Dollar Emails, Autoresponder Magic, and Instant Marketing Toolbox. Yanik has a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing from the University of Maryland. He is also a frequent guest speaker at internet marketing seminars.