Sales resistance: It’s common because we all hate being sold. We hate being sold; we hate being closed; we hate feeling manipulated. That’s why the psychology of sales is actually all about feeling the responsibility to not manipulate when communicating with people.

  • Your listening prowess (or lack thereof) has a big impact on your client conversion rate.
  • The old sales ABC (always-be-closing) is way off -- and annoying.
  • Improve your life and your business by learning some of the skills of your favorite therapist.

Sales resistance: It’s common because we all hate being sold.

We hate being sold; we hate being closed; we hate feeling manipulated.

That’s why the psychology of sales is actually all about feeling the responsibility to not manipulate when communicating with people.

Because of social media, news outlets and entertainment via our handheld computers, we are so inundated with advertising on a nearly 24/7 basis that our natural “sales resistance” is at an all-time high. This makes it more important than ever to understand how the psychology of sales can impact our success.

Meet the expert

Portia Ryan

Portia Ryan

Portia Ryan — a Realtor, coach and psychologist — holds a master’s degree in clinical psychology as well as a post-graduate degree in naturopathic medicine.

Ryan found me online years ago, and we have been helping each other ever since. She has been a licensed Realtor for 20-plus years, serving Orange County, California, northern Arizona and Flagstaff.

Ryan has the unique qualification of licensed clinical psychologist — and this topic, the psychology of sales, is quite possibly her strongest suit. This article summarizes our 90-minute conversation on the topic.


While real estate sales has changed and evolved over the years, one thing has not changed…we’re still bartering.

Virtually nothing has changed with this aspect of the business. We are bartering for our time and services, and the best bartering involves the best communication.

We’ve all heard the sales adage of ABC: “always be closing.”

Time to drop the old ABC — it is misguided — and embrace the new ABC: “always be communicating.”

Always be communicating with a purpose, that is. Never communicate in order to manipulate.

Finding yes

Take on this purpose in every potential sales conversation: “I am going to help you find your ‘yes.'” Finding the “yes” is communicating with a purpose.

We should never close anybody for the sake of closing. You never want them to say yes before they are bought in to yes, before they are in control of yes. A premature yes will show up later as a problem.

They start with no. Your job is to help them find their yes.

The prospective client, the new lead, the online inquiry, the open house visitor — they pretty much all start with no.

They start with no because it’s the fear that we’re just going to try to close them and take advantage of them. We all do this when we walk in a store: “No thank you, I’m just looking.”

Again, it’s that sales resistance…we all have it.

So start with yes, a yes that they are bought in to. It’s their yes. Then the conversation flows from there.

And how do you get that yes? You’ll certainly get it faster by asking a lot of questions.

Use this rule of thumb: five questions and five yeses (five agreements).


Listen. Pay very close attention to your client’s language.

An effective Realtor, an effective salesperson, must be a skilled linguist. Sharpen your linguistic proficiency by paying very close attention to the other person’s word choice.

Are they visual? Kinesthetic or action-oriented? Analytical?  Emotional?

You’ve heard this before — but are you really paying very close attention to their language? Identify their language style, then mirror and match.

Mirroring and matching is basic psychology. Match emotion with emotion; acknowledge their worry, participate in their excitement, lower or raise your volume to match theirs.

Match visual. Match analytical. Match their energy, match their body language, match their choice of words.

The sooner you match, the faster you’ll reach rapport. (Tip: Try this with your spouse, your kids, the grocery cashier.)

You can shift back in to your natural style later, but the faster you get to rapport, the faster you’ll get to yes.

As soon as you have a solid yes, then the conversation flows.


So here’s where the real skill comes in: It’s the skill of juggling the perfect balance of their language with your message and questions.

On the fly, you have to adapt to their language. This improves over time; it is a skill that can be learned.

Your agenda

If you’re in sales, you have an agenda with most of your conversations.

The issue is not that you have an agenda, it is that your agenda means nothing or will fall flat on its agenda face if you fail to overcome the us-versus-them barrier.

Your agenda will completely stall if you fail to confirm, as soon as possible, that they are right and that you are listening.

The beginning

A common Realtor mistake?  We don’t start at the beginning.

The beginning is this: They have an us-versus-them feeling. They have a super big task on their hands — the task of buying or selling real estate and finding the right professional to trust with that process.

They’re afraid of being manipulated, of losing money. Have some grace around that. Start at their beginning, not yours.

Your job

Your job is this: to talk with people, adopt their language and confirm as soon as possible that they are right.

If you have the affliction of always needing to be right, flip that on its annoying head and it may change your life; it will certainly change your business results.

Ryan offers these tips:

  • Affirm what they really said. “You are right in protecting your money and having control over who comes in to your home.” Or, “I understand that you were let down by the last Realtor.”
  • Mirror and match.
  • Adopt their language.
  • Find the words behind their words. “Tell me more about that.”
  • Use the fill-in-the-blanks approach. “And that’s because …”

Adopting their language, affirming what is right…by doing that, you are bringing value; you are showing that you care.

“Only then are you earning the right to help them find their yes. It’s not a script; it’s bridge building.”

And Ryan adds that it’s the same bridge-building used in therapy and counseling.  So channel your favorite therapist and build bridges like a pro.


You asked five questions and got five agreements — five yeses. Now build a bridge.

You build a bridge from your side toward their side until you feel connected. Once connected, then the conversation evolves, and you are going to invite them on to your side of the bridge. (It’s a great visual.)

And now that you have the bridge, you get to move to your agenda.

“Can I show you how I may get your home sold?” You’re inviting them onto your side of the bridge.

“By law, I am required to tell you about the ways I might represent you. I say might because we haven’t agreed to anything yet.” Inviting them to your side.

Buying or selling a property is a major life event and is high on the GAF (Global Assessment of Functioning) stress scale.

It’s stressful.

As real estate professionals, we must be phenomenal bridge-builders. Help them find their yes.

Julie Nelson is the chief success officer at The Nelson Project, Keller Williams Realty in Austin, Texas. You can follow her on YouTube or Twitter

Email Julie Nelson.

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