How the buyer makes a purchase decision and psychological methods to influence it
29.03.2022 13973

How the buyer makes a purchase decision and psychological methods to influence it

In one of his previous articles, Evgeny Danchev, a permanent expert and author of our magazine, spoke about the psychological profile of a sales assistant. It was about the effective selection of applicants for the vacancy of a sales assistant. Not every employee can master the skill of active sales, since its development requires the right internal psychological attitudes. In this article, Evgeny Danchev analyzes the psychological portraits of both the buyer and the seller, since the head of a retail store needs to clearly understand what connection exists between the psychology of sales and the financial results of the store. The overall global retail trend is now towards more personalization. Against the backdrop of falling customer traffic, the seller is required to find individual access keys to each of the customers.

Evgeny Danchev Evgeny Danchev -

business coach, consultant, expert in increasing sales of the fashion market. Author of the book "A Practical Guide to Increasing Sales of Shoes and Accessories". Author of sales scripts "60 responses to customer objections in a retail shoe store" and "Standards for retail shoe sales." Creator of an online school for fashion market leaders.


When a customer walks into a retail store and starts looking for a particular shoe or bag, it is a selection process for them. The whole problem for the seller is how long this process can continue, and on the basis of what criteria the buyer will decide to exit it. Simply put: what will influence the buyer's decision - his internal selection criteria or external ones?

In psychology, there is such a thing as internal filters of human attention. At the stage of making a purchasing decision, they play a very important role. When a buyer makes a choice, a decision-making mechanism called a reference begins to work in his head.

The reference is how and with whom in the decision-making process the buyer will share responsibility in making his choice.

Not all decisions that are made in life are the right ones. For this reason, responsibility always weighs on the buyer. Each person makes a decision independently, but with whom he shares responsibility in the process of making it and what influences it, is a topic for separate consideration in this article.

For example, one buyer, choosing shoes for himself, will make decisions solely on the basis of his inner feelings and selection criteria. And this may not be enough for another, he will ask the seller several times for his opinion: “How does this model suit me, and how do I look in it from the outside?”

To make a purchase decision in a retail store, the buyer needs information, and most importantly - inner confidence that this information is enough for his decision.

In fact, the type of reference of the buyer determines what criteria he will be more guided by at the time of making a decision - internal or external.

There are only three ways for a buyer to make a decision:

1. Internal reference

Buyers with such a reference already have their own internal criteria for buying by 70-80%. They do not like it when sellers give them valuable advice and, moreover, express their point of view. They can be summed up in a single phrase attributed to Mikhail Gorbachev: "There are only two opinions: one is mine and the other is wrong."

All that buyers with this type of reference need in the selection process is to clarify some details with the seller and ask a series of clarifying questions in order to get the missing 20-30% of information and make their own purchase decision. The worst thing that a sales assistant can do at this moment for such a buyer is to make a choice for him, saying the phrase: “This model is better, take it”, “I would recommend this model to you”, or “I bought myself such model, and I recommend it to you.

Almost always, after such phrases from the seller, buyers with an internal reference lose interest in the model, or even turn around and leave the store. And all why? Because these buyers believe that the choice has already been made for them, and they really do not like it.

How can a seller even understand that he is facing a buyer with an internal reference?

Already from the very beginning of the dialogue, such buyers make it clear with short and clear phrases: “Thank you, I’ll take a look for myself; I myself see everything; I don't need your help; I’ll try everything myself for now, and when it’s necessary, I’ll call you ”...

How can a seller effectively work with such a buyer in the process of choosing shoes and at the stage of closing the sale?

Clearly answer the questions posed, be interested in the opinion of the buyer, do not express your point of view and do not give value judgments.

Examples of questions for dialogue: “Which model did you like best?”, “What do you think about this model?”, “Which of these models did you choose?”.

Buyers with an internal reference like to choose for themselves, the main thing here is to follow their interest and ask clarifying questions. They consider themselves experts, and are confident in the correctness of their decisions, based on their internal criteria and previous experience.

2. External reference "to another"

This way of making a decision by the buyer is completely opposite to the previous one. It is difficult for externally referenced buyers to make their choice alone. They, on the contrary, are looking for a person to share responsibility with him. They need an expert who will confirm the correctness of their choice, or whose opinion can be trusted.

In the process of communicating with such buyers, you can hear phrases from them: “What would you advise me?”, “What would you buy in my place?”, “Do you think this model suits me?”, “Please look at side, I want to know your opinion.

When the seller hears such phrases from the buyer, it means that he is ready to receive information from external sources. He does not have enough internal criteria to make a purchase decision. He wants to insure, as it were, by sharing the responsibility for making a decision with the seller. A characteristic feature of such buyers is the regular purchase of shoes and accessories from the same seller. The thought constantly arises in their head: “This person will not advise me bad things.”

How can a seller work effectively with this type of buyer?

It is necessary to gently and unobtrusively direct the buyer's attention to objective selection criteria and lead to a decision. Despite the possibility of maintaining a long and comfortable dialogue with external reference buyers, there is one serious disadvantage that you need to pay attention to. They can doubt for a long time, without making a decision for themselves. To avoid the buyer leaving the store without a purchase, the seller needs to periodically give feedback to the buyer using phrases such as:

“Yes, many people buy this model now”, “Now this model is a bestseller, a good choice of you”, “If I were you, I would buy this model without hesitation”, “Yes, this model suits you very much”, "Perhaps you are right - this is the best choice for you."

The main meaning of such phrases for the buyer is the safety of their decision to purchase. Since everyone buys this, since the seller advises me, then the decision will be correct.

3. External reference "to the context"

The third type of buyers is characterized by distrust in general to the opinions of other people. Their motto in life can be considered the phrase: "We consulted, and I decided."

The context in this case is a system of a larger scale (trends, fashion, external factors, statistics, figures and facts). Such buyers rather perceive the seller as a source of additional information, and ask a lot of clarifying questions: “And which models are better - Chinese manufacturers or Turkish ones?”, “Which sole is best for winter?”, “What models are in trend now? ”, “What colors are now in fashion for this season?”, “What is the difference between leather and eco-leather?”.

The buyer needs answers to these questions not to get valuable advice, but to collect and analyze the information received, and, as a rule, from different sources. These buyers can walk around several stores and ask the same questions to different sellers, after which they will make a purchase decision based on the information received. Moreover, there are buyers who understand shoes much better than sellers! They are more likely to buy from a seller who shares their point of view and adds new interesting facts to their internal “information box”.

Examples of phrases that will help the seller to work effectively with such buyers:

“According to sales statistics, high-heeled boots are now the most relevant product”, “No matter what anyone says, sports style is now a global trend in the shoe market”, “Every year the share of sales of eco-leather models is growing, there are objective reasons and factors” (for example, the struggle for the protection of animals, or the emergence of new technologies on the market that allow the production of more wear-resistant and high-quality eco-leather).

The correct strategy for the seller will not be to impose his point of view, but to operate with information about global changes in markets, technologies, or statistical data.

We have analyzed three mechanisms for making a purchase decision, which are used by buyers on the trading floor. Reading this article, I am sure you have already thought about what type you yourself can attribute your decision-making strategy to? Which one is the most efficient?

In fact, it is impossible to say which strategy is correct, it all depends on the amount of information you have to make a decision and the context in which the choice is made. Speaking of reference, I would like you to think about this: what kind of salespeople work in your company? Which one has more internal or external reference?

I hope you understand that when working with a buyer in a retail store, the seller needs to constantly change the way he communicates with the buyer, depending on the type of reference of the latter. If you do not adapt to the client, then the following situations are possible:

Therefore, the correct strategy would be to form seller-buyer pairs with adjustment by reference:

Why are these pairs the most effective in sales?

  • An external-referential buyer "for another" needs an expert to suggest the best choice.
  • An internally referential buyer needs a seller who simply helps him make a decision.
  • The external-referential "contextual" buyer needs an expert like him to speak with him on an equal footing.

How can you build in salespeople the ability to adapt to each customer in a retail store?

First, you need to draw their attention to your behavior in the sales process. In what role do they most often communicate with customers - is it an internal reference expert or an external reference assistant? Awareness of one's own strategies already leads to positive changes.

Second, sellers need the skill to calibrate the buyer's reference type. And you can get it in two ways:

  1. Constant work of the head with the personnel. It is necessary to analyze daily with sellers the results of communication with buyers and the types of psychological couples in which it took place.
  2. Training of sellers at the training in techniques of adjustment to the buyer according to the psychological profile with subsequent certification

Modern business today is, first of all, people. By developing the professional skills of sales consultants, you will always be several steps ahead of your competitors.

In one of his previous articles, Evgeny Danchev, a permanent expert and author of our magazine, spoke about the psychological profile of a sales assistant. It was about effective selection ...
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