Using 'Structure' to Sell as a Change Agent

Some people say that selling is all about personal influence, some say it is about the art of persuasion, others say it is about 'the hard sell'.

I've worked with sales teams around the world and I can tell you if you're making it about these things you're making it harder than it should be. I think we place over-emphasis on old-school Cialdini-like approaches to influence and reciprocity, and spend too little time on leading edge insight into the neuroscience of human behaviour and decision-making.


If we want to take our sales performance to the next level, we need to stop acting like 'sales guys' and start acting like 'change agents.

Take, for instance, what we increasingly understand about the role of 'structure' in human behaviour. Structures dictate almost all of our behaviour – far more than our rational mind, and more so even than 'emotions' and 'story' and 'identity' that we're constantly being told to “sell to”.

If you buy a large box of popcorn instead of a small one, you will eat on average 50% more without even realising it. I don't have to convince you to, you just will. If you put the same amount of food on a small plate and large plate, you'll eat less if you take the small plate.

The structure drivers the behaviour. In a sales environment, this is gold.

Ask people that run cafes, they will tell you they sell more items on the top left of the menu than the bottom right. Or consider that you (yes, you) will buy more online than you otherwise wise if I put a button between you and the checkout that says 'people who bought this also bought this'.

It's the same reason the 'up' escalators linking two floors of a shopping mall are at different ends rather than next to each other; the structure forces you to walk past the shops in between… IKEA figured this out, clearly!

In your sales team, have you considered the following:

  • Are we ordering the content in our proposals in a way that maximises our sales volume and prince point?
  • Are we including enough peer-reviews and testimonials to create a social-proof structure – the 'people who bought this also bought this' type experience for our customers?
  • What opportunities to up-sell or cross-sell are we putting 'in the way' of our customers during the sales cycle, like the shops that are 'in the way' between up escalators?
  • How can our team go from 'making a sale' to 'building a subscription', so we get easier repeat business?
  • What reminders are we providing for our existing customer base that it's time to buy again? Or buy more?
  • Do we have a 'frequent flyer' program – a structure which ties people down to us over our competition?

These are just tiny examples of how you can drive sales results without having to actually convince anyone of anything. There's no influence, there's no 'technique'. There's just building structures.


At ChangeLabs we've advised on market positioning and customer engagement strategies with some of the largest brands on Earth, and I can tell you that the toolkit for effective selling in the 21st century is fundamentally different to the ones that have gone before.

It's not a case with 'out with the old', but it IS a case of in with the new – and a deep understanding of the drivers of human behaviour, and how we can use those drivers to increase sales volume is part of this tool kit. Understanding structures is just the very powerful beginning of that tool kit.

Stop acting like a 'sales guy', and start acting like 'change agent' and you'll take your performance, and that of your team, to the next level.

For further information on Dominic Thurbon or to enquire about making a booking for your next conference or event please contact the friendly ODE team


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Using 'Structure' to Sell as a Change Agent
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