September 15, 2023

Harnessing Sales Triggers and Psychology for Success

20 min read

Imagine having the power to predict your prospect's next move, to effortlessly guide them through the decision-making process, and to consistently close deals with ease. In the world of sales, the ability to do this is not a fantasy but a reality. How? All you need is to balance the use of sales triggers with psychology.

Most sales reps will have experienced the sweaty-palm moment of a high-stakes sales presentation, when your sceptical prospect (who has heard every pitch in the book) slowly folds their arms and shifts in their seat, a frown forming, and they suddenly appear uninterested. This is perhaps the biggest make-or-break moment for the deal. But what if you then forced them to reconsider with a few simple sentences and have them hanging on your every word? The key to this table-turner lies in the strategic use of sales triggers and psychology, a winning combination that can turn a seemingly lost sale into a resounding success.

By understanding the psychological factors that drive customers, sales professionals can speed up the process of establishing trust, while also communicating effectively and tailoring their approaches to the prospect's individual preferences. These insights enable salespeople to influence decision-making, handle objections, and engage with prospects at the right moments. By applying psychological principles to their outreach, sales reps can offer personalised experiences, predict customer needs, and continuously refine their strategies, gaining a competitive advantage and achieving higher sales conversion rates.

In this article we will explore how using sales triggers and psychology can enhance sales performance and lead to all-round business growth.

Understanding sales triggers

As a sales professional, using sales triggers can be like striking gold. But before you can hope to use them, we first need to consider what sales triggers are, and how you can use them.

Sales triggers (also known as business, event, or buying triggers), are events that happen to a company, creating an opportunity for growth and change. The changing environment these events create are perfect for sales professionals to use in their outreach, as they provide the first signal that a prospect could be looking for a new solution or service. Sales triggers act as a form of pre-intent data, informing sales teams of opportunity months earlier than intent data alerts.

These triggers can signify a range of events within a company, any of which might serve as catalysts for potential business transformations. They not only indicate opportunities for upselling, new customer acquisition, and business growth, but also provide valuable market insights for competitive analysis and monitoring too. Companies such as  track a wide range of triggers, from funding rounds to legal action, and acquisitions to executive appointments. This means that no matter how niche your market is, sales triggers can provide actionable intelligence at the earliest stage of the buying journey and put sales teams months ahead of their rivals in their outreach.

Traditionally, sales teams relying on intent data might wait for an alert, such as a company searching for new HR solutions. To find out why the company was searching, the sales team would have to search back through months, potentially even years, of the company’s news.  Using sales triggers, the sales team is suddenly better informed. For example, a company has announced recent headcount growth or maybe the formation of a new team in a press release.

Here, a sales rep can easily see that because of a dramatic increase in the number of employees, the company’s needs will soon be shifting. This provides an excellent opener for a sales professional to use this information to personalise their approach, at the most relevant time for that company. Not only is that sales rep acting months ahead of those relying on other means of intelligence, but they can also ensure their outreach is warm, personalised, and offering value exactly when it’s needed.

Psychology and sales

Psychology plays a central role in understanding customer behaviour and decision-making. In fact, psychology underpins every action we make, so when you consider psychological insights alongside your sales approach, you can gain a deeper understanding of your audience, leading to strategic changes in your outreach that will help accelerate business growth.

Sales psychology refers to the study of the thought processes and behaviours of your target audience in the context of selling products or services. Rather than attempting to persuade customers that they require your offering, the focus shifts to effectively addressing their existing wants and needs. Different prospects will use different purchasing methods, each with a different balance of logic and emotion. Some prospects will be more considered, using rationality and logic while making their buying decisions, while others may act more on impulse and rationalise their choices later.

At the heart of an effective sales process is understanding the customer's needs. Establishing rapport with your prospect is essential, as people need to feel that you understand their challenges and their goals. By aligning your brand with their needs, you can significantly increase the likelihood of winning your prospect’s business. With a deep understanding of your target audience's values, sales professionals can use strategies that demonstrate how their product or service aligns seamlessly with those very values, fostering a more compelling case for purchase than one based simply on costings.

Psychology can influence prospects and customers in many ways, such as:
  • Motivation and need – buyers and prospects are motivated by various needs and desires. Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, for example, outlines how individuals prioritise needs such as safety, a sense of belonging, and self-esteem. By understanding these motivations, businesses can tailor their products or services to fulfil the specific needs of each prospective customer.
  • Emotion – different emotions can have a huge impact on customer decision-making. Studies in psychology show that those who often make decisions based on emotions, will later use rationalisation to justify their decisions. Capitalising on this, many businesses and salespeople will use emotional appeals and branding to create positive emotional associations with their products or services.
  • Social influence – social psychology explores how individuals are influenced by others. Word-of-mouth, social proof, and influencer marketing are all strategies that use the psychology of social influence to sway customer behaviour. Referrals are a very real way of recognising the value of this. In fact, according to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust referrals from friends and family over other forms of advertising.
  • Memory – effective branding campaigns aim to create strong, memorable associations with a brand or product to increase the likelihood of customers choosing it when making purchasing decisions. Nostalgia can be used in branding to create warm, positive memories from the past, which help forge a deep emotional connection with consumers and ultimately boost sales through the power of sentimental association. However, as with everything, there is a risk that one customer’s nostalgia is another’s nightmare...
  • Customer experience and satisfaction – due to the close link between satisfaction and loyalty, a positive customer experience is important for securing repeat business. By identifying pain points or moments of delight in the customer journey, businesses can enhance the overall customer journey and create a positive, lasting experience for their clients.
  • Customer attention – by studying how people perceive and react to information in their environment, businesses can design marketing materials and user interfaces that grab customers' attention and present information in a clear and appealing manner.
  • Behavioural economics – behavioural economics combines principles from both psychology and economics to explain how people make economic decisions. Concepts like loss aversion (the tendency to prefer avoiding losses over acquiring equivalent gains) and choice architecture (the design of decision environments) offer valuable insights for influencing consumer behaviour.

So, psychology can provide valuable insights into the world of customer behaviour and decision-making. By using these psychological principles in your outreach and marketing strategies, you will better understand your customers, anticipate their needs, and create strategies that align with the psychology of your target audience. By centring your outreach strategies on these methodologies, you will not only improve customer experience and satisfaction, but will ultimately increase your success-rate with more closed deals.

The Square of Communication

The Square of Communication, also known as ‘the four-sides model’ is a communication theory that examines the four essential components of any communication process. The model, postulated in 1981 by German psychologist Friedemann Schulz von Thun, consists of the four sides factual information, self-revelation, relationship and appeal, which all belong to a single message. The idea is that messages can be sent and interpreted on many sides, but because of this, the recipient of the message may not always understand the exact message that the sender intended to communicate. Each of the four sides carry their own messages, so the message as an overall can be misunderstood if all four sides are not considered.

  • Factual information – this initial level addresses what the sender wants to inform the receiver of the message about. The factual side involves objective statements, such as data and verifiable facts, which constitute an integral part of the message.
  • Self-revelation – sometimes also referred to as self-disclosure, the speaker consciously or inadvertently reveals personal factors such as their motivations, values, or emotions.
  • Relationship – the speaker conveys their perception of how they relate to the receiver of the message and can reveal their opinions of each other.
  • Appeal – this side deals with the speaker’s wishes or wants, advice, requests, instructions, and potentially, the outcomes they hope to achieve through their communication.

A classic illustration by Schulz von Thun involves a scenario in which a passenger in a car informs the driver, "the traffic light is green." Depending on how this message is perceived, the driver's reaction may vary. In essence, this example underscores the complexity of communication, emphasising the four layers of communication, each of which can carry different meanings.

While it may be understood as a factual statement about the traffic lights, it could also be interpreted as an urging command for the driver to proceed. Considering the relationship layer in this statement, it may be seen as conveying a sense of willingness to assist or support the driver, but it can also inadvertently reveal something about the passenger's own state or intentions - perhaps they are anxious or a nervous passenger.

The main point to recognise in the square of communication is that the four sides can each be interpreted in a different manner, leading to potential misunderstandings. This fundamental challenge of effective communication, is one that all revenue teams and sales reps must navigate in the sales/buying cycle.

For those that understand this theory, it can be a great help in improving their (and perhaps their company’s) communication skills. By considering each component's role in any communication, sales reps can ensure that their messages are conveyed and received accurately, and that they are correctly understanding their prospects too.

Every communication you have with your prospect can unveil a different piece of information that can help you in tailoring your outreach to that specific client. It’s important to make sure you listen to everything they are saying, and not jumping to conclusions, to ensure that your prospect feels understood, valued, and can see the value you’re offering.

Sales triggers and psychology

One way to demonstrate deep understanding and strong communication skills is to work sales triggers into your outreach. Sales triggers create an environment in which sales reps can demonstrate their understanding of what a particular change in a company might mean for that company long-term. For example, a company that announces its first Chief Human Resources Officer could be looking to scale its personnel, and may also look for new HR software as the new appointment begins to make their own changes.

Top 10 sales triggers

By recognising what a change today means for a company in the coming months, a sales rep can demonstrate several things to a prospect. Firstly, it shows that you understand their business, what challenges they are facing, and what they will likely look to accomplish next. It also demonstrates you’re on the ball and time-relevant, which suggests that you’re invested in tracking their company’s progress. This in turn highlights your position as an industry expert, adding to your credibility. So, by integrating sales triggers into your outreach, you can create a meaningful connection and ensure you’re communicating all the positives that you need to, right from your first point of contact.

The subliminal messaging you present when you create the right first impression can heavily influence your prospect to consider you favourably. Alongside your sales triggers, you can incorporate psychological triggers that offer further influence to help your deals progress. Here are five psychological triggers you can try using to keep your sales process moving forwards:

  • Highlight peer adoption – one of the most influential factors driving sales is the endorsement of products or services by peers, friends, and family. This phenomenon is deeply rooted in human psychology, where we naturally gravitate toward aligning our preferences with those of our social circle. It’s also something we can clearly see impacting on sales and marketing success; customer testimonials and reviews wield significant influence and offer credibility for a business and its products (particularly when these reviews are positive). We’ve all heard the phrase, "keeping up with the Joneses," and this clearly reflects human inclination to want what others have, based on the understanding that that if it's good enough for them, then it’s probably good enough for us as well.

    In marketing, this concept finds resonance in influencer marketing, where famous or authoritative figures whom we trust or aspire to be like, recommend products. These recommendations can carry even greater weight than those from our personal network, and sales reps can capitalise on this notion by mentioning big or influential names that are already benefiting from their products or services.
  • Reframe problems as opportunities – also known as cognitive restructuring, this process is simpler than it sounds. Essentially, you need to alter how your prospect is viewing their challenges - something regularly done by most sales professionals. For example, consider a marketing team who are disappointed by a lack of response to their email outreach. They may believe the problem is that people don’t read emails anymore and so are simply overlooking their outreach.

    However, when you look at the problem, it’s clear there is an issue with the content of the message itself and its unengaging subject lines, images, or call to action. By reframing the situation, you can break down this problem into two more manageable issues that you can help them address. By redefining a customer’s pain points, you can use sales psychology to help transform your prospect’s perspectives while also highlighting the value your service or product brings to the table. Rather than writing off a prospect’s challenges, tackle them head on and demonstrate how you can resolve that issue while creating an environment for new opportunity.
  • Offer value first – the reciprocity principle is a powerful tool in the psychology of sales and works on the basis that humans are raised to be grateful and polite, so, when they receive something for nothing, they are automatically pre-disposed to feel positively about that ‘gift’. The principle suggests that if you do something for, or give something to, a customer, then they become more likely to reciprocate and do something positive for you.

    However, the reciprocity principle only works if you are giving a customer or prospect something they value. Simply targeting C-suite level executives with a physical gift won’t land. By offering something of value (such as a piece of actionable intelligence), it enables the salesperson to garner positive favour with their prospect, which can often be the difference between getting a demo or follow-up call, or not. Giving your prospect something before you expect anything back from them is also a good way to build trust!
  • Create a sense of exclusivity – it's a tactic commonly seen in online shopping with your favourite retailers often telling you there’s only two left, and it’s in three people’s baskets, or similar. By creating a sense of scarcity, you can incite in your prospects the desire to be one of the lucky few to benefit from your offerings.

    The fear of missing out (FoMO) is actually a term recognised in healthcare as a psychological condition as seen in human behaviour on social media sites. It is such a powerful motivating factor, that increasingly, marketing teams are using phrases such as “don’t miss out” in their advertising campaigns. The psychology behind this trigger is aimed at helping customers make their buying decisions much quicker, rather than delaying their decisions. It’s well known that time kills deals, so this approach aims to create a sense of urgency to keep the sales process moving forward.
  • The power of discovery – as we all know from our formative years, there is a strong human inclination to explore and learn for ourselves, rather than listen to advise or follow instructions on what we can and can’t do. This principle is true to the sales process too. While sales reps live and breathe their products and company, sometimes a prospect just won’t take what you’re telling them and will feel the need to go off and do their own research.

    Sales reps, when aware of this, can tailor their outreach to this aspect of human nature to help satisfy the prospect’s need to explore by themselves, while also maintaining focus and momentum for the deal itself. Rather than waving your prospect off with the promise of a follow-up once they’ve had time to read and research, proactive sales reps might set up a demo for them to try and show firsthand what their product or service is capable of. By creating the space for your prospect to feel they have come to a decision of their own accord, you also give them the confidence to make a positive decision in the buying process.


Sales triggers, psychology, and the Square of Communication collectively contribute to achieving sales success in several key ways. Sales triggers highlight business events or potential changes within prospective companies. These valuable insights enable sales teams to gain a competitive edge and a head start in engaging potential customers, while providing actionable intelligence, helping to tailor sales strategies to the unique needs of each prospect.

By understanding the psychological factors at play in the sales process, revenue teams can better understand their prospect’s behaviour and decision-making processes. By recognising their motivations, cognitive biases, and emotional influences, sales reps can build rapport, influence decisions, and create personalised, impactful sales interactions.

The Square of Communication theory highlights the essential components of effective communication and understanding these components and their interplay enhances communication clarity and ensures messages are accurately received and acted upon. For a successful sales rep, understanding this theory can be the difference between a closed deal or not.

It is important for sales professionals to recognise what is being communicated to them, as well as ensuring their own communication is clear. Once this is optimised, it is then much easier for a sales rep to start building other value into their outreach to keep their prospect engaged and positively motivated in the sales process.

So, sales triggers, psychology, and the Square of Communication collectively empower sales professionals to identify opportunities, connect with customers on a deeper level, and communicate effectively, ultimately driving sales success.

To learn more about sales triggers and start integrating the value they offer into your outreach, get in touch for a demo of the Selligence platform.

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