Sell like a Psycho(Therapist): 3 Counseling Techniques to Crush Your Quota


Top salespeople do a LOT of listening - so much, in fact, that sometimes it can start to feel like a therapy session.

We poured over the American Psychological Association’s 14 qualities of an effective therapist and found something kinda crazy (pun intended). Each trait that defined a great therapist also described the makings of an effective salesperson.

Let’s dig into it and see how selling like a psycho(therapist) can help you counsel opportunities to close with these 3 sales psychology techniques.

Sales vs Therapist

PandaDoc sales trainer, Patrick, recently posted on LinkedIn about how one of our top-selling reps has an average talk-to-listen ratio of 30:70.

Salespeople and therapists have a lot in common. They both require:

Pretty surprising, right?

Let’s look at one of the qualities of an effective therapist — according to the American Psychological Association — and see how well it fits with how top salespeople operate.

“The effective therapist salesperson is flexible and will adjust therapy the pitch if resistance to the treatment offer is apparent or the client is not making adequate progress.”

So, in the spirit of helping others succeed in life and in business, we are throwing on our proverbial sweater vests and kicking back in our comfy armchairs to give you the top psychotherapy qualities you can integrate into your sales cycle.

Before we get into it, we have 2 disclaimers we need to get out of the way.

**Disclaimer #1** We’re not licensed or practicing clinical psychologists. To all our therapists out there, we understand this article might grossly oversimplify the complexity and delicate nuances of your trade — feel free to poke holes in our claims and offer suggestions.

**Disclaimer #2** For all our salespeople, we realize you’re not out here trying to treat chronic, debilitating psychopathologies — although it may feel like it sometimes. We understand there are revenue forecasts and benchmarks everyone needs to meet.

All that being said, we believe there is a lot that salespeople can learn from psychology. By arming ourselves with empirically tested, interpersonal, sales psychology techniques, we can become extremely successful salespeople.

You’ve heard of relational selling. This takes that idea to another level. Let’s get into it.

3 Sales Psychology Techniques

Unconditional Positive Regard

Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR) creates a climate where the client can express his or her true emotions without fear of rejection.

According to the American Psychology Association’s dictionary, it is an attitude of complete acceptance that many therapists use when building a relationship with a client.

How It Translates To Sales

Approaching sales with Unconditional Positive Regard is essential for building rapport quickly.

In sales, we often talk about having a thick skin and not taking things personally. Well, the same goes for psychotherapy. UPR allows salespeople to create a space where the prospect can comfortably express their emotions and feelings about the deal, or anything else, without fear of judgement or damaging the relationship.

This non-judgemental acceptance builds trust and will keep prospects coming back time and time again.

It can help to remember that prospects are doing the best they can with the skills/knowledge they currently have.

This isn’t to say that we become a doormat for the prospect.

On the contrary, UPR encourages healthy boundaries such as the call length, topic of discussion, and any limitations in what you’re offering.

Set boundaries early, but then make sure your client knows that anything said within those boundaries is completely safe. You are offering a judgement-free ear to listen, not promising to make any special concessions.

RELATED: The Rule of Three: A Super Simple Way to Balance Time and Effort in Sales

How We Can implement It

UPR is the foundation of the Client-Centered Therapy approach. We can utilize it in sales to implement a Customer-Centered Selling approach with these three techniques:

  1. Unstructured interviewing — asking flexible, open-ended questions to reveal more info on the client
  2. Active listening — listening closely and asking questions to understand the content, not just listening to respond or manipulate
  3. Restating — repeating verbatim or rephrasing a statement back to the prospect to prove that you’re listening

With UPR, your presence will generate warmth and trust you haven’t seen before. Your clients will be excited to talk to you.

Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) suggests that the way people think about a situation determines their reaction more than the actual reality of it does. Cognitive Restructuring uses that idea to change the way someone thinks about themselves and their issues.

Cognitive Restructuring is a technique used to identify, confront, and then modify beliefs by interrupting maladaptive thoughts and disputing them to create good thoughts.

By approaching issues this way, the therapist puts the client in the driver’s seat, which allows them to reduce the impact of challenges moving forward.

How It Translates To Sales

Cognitive restructuring sounds fancier than it really is. Many top salespeople already implement a form of cognitive restructuring without realizing it when they talk about “pain points” with a prospect.

You can use this sales psychology technique more intentionally by outlining the flow of a typical painful situation.

First, examine the thoughts that are and aren’t true in your customer’s situation. Develop a more balanced thought pattern and outcome that they can adopt to keep the deal moving forward. Help them realize this, so they can adopt these new thought patterns.

Focus on the thoughts that will change their feelings and behaviors.

How We Can Implement It

Most sales teams are already doing the first few steps of this technique. They just need to round out the process by experimenting with approaches that get at the root of maladaptive — or damaging — thinking.

We recommend trying out cognitive restructuring with prospects that are not the decision maker at their organization. Build relationships with your internal champion by helping them identify, confront, and modify any harmful beliefs they’re holding onto.

Here’s a quick diagram example of how the process could work:

At the end of the day, your champion’s success is your success. Nurture their growth as much as you would your own growth by getting them to think, feel, and behave more favorably and more productively.

Relationship & Conflict Resolution Skills

The Sound Relationship House Theory (SRHT) is one of the most popular frameworks that marriage and family therapists use to nurture and resolve conflict for couples and families. SRHT explains the seven components that determine if a relationships will function or fail.

These principles predict stability and satisfaction for relationships, and the theory translates pretty well when we’re discussing business partners and corporate team dynamics.

How It Translates To Sales

When was the last time you closed a deal that had only one singular person involved in the entire sales process?

Likely never.

Most business transactions are completed with multiple team members across several different departments. Often, we need all these coworkers to play nice so we can get a signature and process payments.

By using SRHT, you can strengthen these relationships through friendship, conflict management, and creation of shared meaning.

How We Can Implement It

Don’t worry. We’re not going to sit down with prospective accounts and bubble-in questionnaires with them. What we can do is build a sound relationship house with our prospect’s teams.

*Cue the eye-rolls.

But seriously, take a quick look at this diagram and pretend for a second that instead of working with a married couple, we’re looking at this from a business perspective.

The principles of a sound relationship are the same, regardless of the type of relationship. It’s built on a foundation of trust and commitment and involves many of the same principles.

You’re going to make your life WAY easier with inner-account conflict if you target just a few of the SRHT components.

For example, turning towards instead of away will help team members state their needs, bring new awareness to small, often overlooked moments that can increase productivity, and create operational harmony.

Making life dreams come true creates an atmosphere that encourages each team member to talk honestly about his or her hopes, values, convictions, and aspirations towards the company and the deal.

We’re not going to look at all seven components of the house, but if you want to learn more, click here.

This sales psychology technique builds trust and commitment from the teams that you’ll need to close a deal and promote future upselling.

Call Me Crazy, But…

The modern salesperson is more than just a quota-crushing machine. We’re in the business of helping and healing too. Sales is more humanistic than the trade gets credit for.

Adopting and adapting some of these sales psychology techniques used for healing humans in therapy will make us more effective salespeople, and it might even make us better people overall.

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