The psychology of proposals | Turtl
Learn how to leverage the psychology of visuals, personalization, and format to boost the persuasiveness of your sales proposal.
*Guide:* Three ways to leverage psychology in your proposals
Explore the cognitive science behind a compelling sales proposal
*Context:* Decision-making 101
How do people make choices?
We make hundreds of decisions every day
Most are small
Get up or snooze?
Red or white wine?
What to wear?
Some are big
Have children or not?
Accept the job or stay?
Invest or save?
Working in sales, your job is to convince prospects to make the big decisions. This involves navigating a complex cognitive maze that even neuroscientists struggle to rationalize.
Daniel Kahneman, a 2002 Nobel Prize winner in economics, lays out the two systems of decision making in his book, Thinking, fast and slow.
System 1 (heart)
This system is our initial reactive decision-making made by our emotions. It's used for snap judgments based on recalling past experiences and acting intuitively.
System 2 (head)
This system kicks in when system 1 fails. It relies heavily on reasoning and logic and is used to develop possible solutions to new, unfamiliar problems.
If you think about our own decision making, we might fool ourselves into thinking we're perfectly rational beings, but of course, that is far from the case.
Dr. Salzman, MD, Ph.D. Colombia University School of Medicine
Humans have been searching for millennia for ways to solve their problems and make better decisions:
Looking to elders in communities with more life experience for advice and counsel
Interpreting signs from the stars
Consulting with moral religious authorities
The modern salesperson doesn't use aggressive "sales" tactics. They act as educators and guides to help people solve their problems.
The psychology of proposals
Traditional sales proposals ignore System 1 thinking. They assume that prospects are approaching their problems rationally and logically. When you understand and apply key cognitive methods to your proposals, you'll be engaging both the emotional and rational sides of the brain.
This guide covers the psychology of:
Proposals don't win deals, they lose them.
Reuben Swartz, Founder of Mimiran CRM
1. Let's get visual
The brain processes images 60,000x faster than text
Humans process visual data better than anything else. To cope with the fact that 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, we can process imagery 60,000 times faster than text.
Only 20% of people will read text on a page.
Most of those people only read 20-28% of the words.
People only remember 20% of what they read.
- It takes only 13 milliseconds to process an image.
- 80% of people will watch a video they're sent.
- People remember 80% of what they see visually.
The power of visual persuasion
It's official. Text combined with visuals makes people more willing to trust
Researchers at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand found that statements about a celebrity being alive or dead were judged to be accurate more often when they were accompanied with a photo of the celebrity.
Even specialized information like neuroscience can be made more credible with imagery. A study found that neuroscientists will trust research studies more often when they're accompanied by fMRI brain scan photos, despite the scans having no relation to the conclusion of the paper.
Lost in nature
A study on natural vs urban imagery and its effect on lowering stress found that natural imagery affects both the brain and body by reducing tension. It has been claimed that this can help dissuade financial concerns when people are faced with spending a lot of money.
The art of persuasion
A study conducted on an audience at the Wharton School of Business found that 50% were persuaded by a purely verbal presentation, whereas 67% were persuaded by the verbal presentation that had accompanying visuals.
How to pick the right visuals
Getting your visuals right can make or break your proposal. Here are some of the unique advantages of each:
Imagery should be a non-negotiable part of your proposal. Images can boost retention by 60% and the numerous studies on how they boost persuasion should be all the encouragement you need. Choose images that either contextualize your text or trigger an emotional response.
While more difficult to create, including a video can dramatically increase your chances of making a sale. People are 85% more likely to buy a product after viewing a product video. Four times as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it.
An infographic is a perfect combination of text and imagery. It only takes us 150ms for a symbol to be processed and 100ms to attach meaning to it. Researchers found that colored infographics increase the willingness to read by 80%.
Psychology of color
Colors influence consumer behavior and decision making. Wishpond received a 14.5% increase in conversions after they changed their CTA button color to yellow. Make sure you do your research on the cognitive effects of your color choices. Here's a brief overview: (source)
Youthful and optimistic. Been proven to grab the attention of window shoppers.
Creates a calming effect. Often seen in beauty or anti-aging products.
The easiest color for the eyes to process. It's both associated with wealth and relaxation.
Powerful, bold, and sleek. Used predominantly to sell luxury products.
Fun and romantic. Usually used to market products for women and girls.
Creates feelings of trust and security. Commonly used by both banks and businesses.
Fairly aggressive. Most effective for call to actions (e.g. subscribe, buy, or sell)
Causes an increase in heart rate. Creates a sense of urgency. Often used in sales.
2. Make it personal
What is the most psychologically powerful word in the world?
According to a study from the University of Texas, we can attribute our preference for personalized experiences to two key factors:
Desire for control
Even though a personalized proposal doesn't involve the recipient making any actual choice, receiving tailored content "tricks" the brain into thinking it's in control. People feel much more positive towards you when they feel like they're in control of the situation.
With personalized content, you aren't forced to sort through and consume lots of resources. You're given exactly the information you were looking for. This helps reduce our perception of information overload.
The cocktail party effect
If you're at a party surrounded by dozens of people talking, you'll easily be able to tune out their conversations as background noise. But, as soon as you hear something that interests you, you will automatically tune into that new conversation. Important and relevant information always cuts through the noise.
The most powerful word in the world
Personalization can be something as simple as including their name. You should never underestimate the psychological effect this can create.
A study published in the peer-reviewed journal Brain Research, compared the brain's reaction to hearing its own name against hearing other names.
They found that the brain lights up in certain areas when it hears its own name, particularly in the middle frontal cortex (associated with social behavior).
Other significant areas are the middle and superior temporal cortex (long-term processing and auditory processing, respectively).
The cuneus (visual processing) is also affected. It's amazing how one little word can cause such widespread engagement.
of people would rather buy from someone who recognizes their name
Remember that a person's name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language
Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People
Did you know the brain has a bouncer?
While including names in a proposal can be a powerful cognitive hack, some of the most effective personalization is the kind the prospect doesn't even notice.
Research has found that people prefer personalization even when they're unaware of it. This is all thanks to the brain's reticular activating system (RAS).
The RAS acts as a kind of gatekeeper, filtering out irrelevant information and allowing the information you need to pass through. If your sales proposal is full of information the prospect doesn't need or want to know, the RAS has to work overtime, creating cognitive overload. A well-tailored proposal customized to a prospect will pass right on through the RAS and make the biggest impact.
Most commonly, the RAS is associated with the concept of selective attention, which means that we naturally orient to information or ideas that we are invested in
Dr. Rachna Jain
Imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery
When it comes to writing your proposal, if you want to effectively personalize to your prospect, you have to make your content seem familiar. Here's how:
The first stage is to identify as many pain points as possible and record the exact wording they use when they talk about them.
Order the pain points by their priorities to make sure your proposal focuses on the issues that really matter to them.
When you have a comprehensive understanding of their problems in their language and context, mold your messaging and proposal to match. This prevents your solution from sounding too abstract or unfamiliar.
Retail salespeople who were told to mimic the nonverbal and verbal behavior of customers sold more products and left customers with a more positive opinion of the store, according to a 2011 study of 129 customers by French researchers
3. The medium
How you deliver the message is perhaps even more important than the message itself
The self-determination theory is grossly underused in the creation of sales proposals. But understanding this behavior is fundamental to the success of your ability to persuade someone to take your preferred action. In psychology, self-determination refers to every person's ability to make independent choices and manage their own life. The theory suggests that we are all motivated by three innate psychological needs:
When people feel they have the skills for success, they take actions that will help them achieve their goals.
People need to experience a sense of belonging and attachment to other people and things.
People need to feel in control of their own behaviors and goals, not external pressures
We can satisfy the need for competence by keeping our sales proposals as personalized as possible so that our prospects feel comfortable in their area of expertise.
We can build relatedness by using plenty of visuals that provide emotional context to our arguments.
But how can we help prospects feel autonomous in their decision-making?
Click to watch and learn more about self-determination theory
"The medium is the message"
This phrase was coined by the Canadian philosopher, Marshall McLuhan. He proposed that people are not only affected by the content delivered over a medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself.
If you think about the reading experience of traditional formats like the PDF, you'll notice it's a very linear journey. To progress through the document, you have to scroll until you reach the end. There is virtually no choice available to the reader other than that.
Static scrolling documents dictate the reader's journey. Because of this, they fundamentally don't satisfy the autonomy aspect of self-determination. Your proposal feels like a lecture, like you have the power and they don't. This will always be a disadvantage when you want someone to make an intrinsically motivated decision.
By comparison, when you offer up your proposal in an interactive format (like what you're reading now), readers are given more choice and more freedom to engage on their own terms, satisfying their need to make independent decisions.
In which format do you send your sales proposals?
- Word Doc
- Powerpoint slides
- Turtl Doc
Offering pricing options might feel like you're opening yourself up to a loss, but by providing different deals, you hack into the human need to make autonomous decisions.
When prospects are given multiple options, they feel more confident in their decision because they feel like they've had more context and information in the decision-making process. When there's only one pricing option, prospects are more likely to look to your competitors to find the context they need to assess your offer, so providing a multi-price offer can set you up as your own competition.
Setting several prices also allows you to include a higher price, which when compared with the reduced features of the cheaper options, can encourage more prospects to see the value in the premium option.
In a study on choice, consumers were more likely to buy when offered a choice of six jars of jam (40%) instead of a choice of twenty-four jars of jam (3%). They also reported greater buyer satisfaction.
When we give too much choice, it can delay a decision from being made and maybe even put people off altogether. It's best to limit options to only a few.
*Summary: *Proposals for people, not prospects
You don't need to be a neuroscientist to understand people
The science of people
As the role of the salesperson continues to change, becoming more of an educator or advisor, it's essential that your sales proposals similarly evolve. By understanding some of the cognitive science behind how people are wired to engage with materials and make decisions, you can create a proposal that helps people truly understand how your solution can help solve their problems. Let's remind ourselves:
We are a fundamentally visual species. Proposals that incorporate imagery, video, and infographics help people remember you and increase your persuasive powers.
The brain is bombarded with information constantly. If you make sure the content of your proposal is custom-tailored to its reader, the brain will more easily allow your argument past its complex filtering system.
The medium really is the message. Even if the visuals and content of your proposal are perfect, your proposal will be let down by the linear formats most salespeople are using today. Move ahead of the curve and embrace an interactive format that puts the reading experience back in control of the reader
If you're interested in how Turtl helps salespeople who are ready to embrace change, check us out here. Or, you can get in touch here.