Every customer experience is unique. But there are common psychological hacks that can help companies move buyers from one stage to the next. By leveraging subconscious motivators to turn casual browsers into customers, the top retail companies have dominated the commerce game.
Sales psychology tactics like social proof, scarcity, and authority are commonly used by Elon Musk. And on Twitter, of all places.
Musk, the founder and product architect of revolutionary companies like Tesla, Inc. and SpaceX, has earned himself a (slightly notorious) reputation on Twitter. His tweets have inspired new customers to get in line for the latest Tesla creation (despite missed deadlines), affected the entire tech market, and all kinds of things in between.
His messages have a reputation for going a bit off the rails. Musk even admits that his tweets are often “complete nonsense,” and some sources have speculated that his bizarre tweeting habits suggest a mental imbalance.
But one thing that’s not up for debate is that Twitter has contributed to Musk becoming one of the century’s most successful salesmen, both of products and ideas. The man’s posting frequency has only increased since 2015, and he doesn’t seem to be limited to time of day or day of the week.
An analysis of the nearly 5,000 tweets of Musk’s account shows him covering everything from media critiques to current news to new product offerings. Clear, successful tactics emerged, each of which can make any sales team more effective and memorable.
Here are our top four sales psychology takeaways from Musk’s voracious Twitter habit.
Sales Psychology Lesson 1: FOMO sells pretty much anything
Customers have an inherent fear of missing out (FOMO) on the next best thing, especially when they are bombarded with images and reviews of idols and friends using it, while buyers sit on the sidelines. Any brand can easily harness FOMO. But Elon Musk’s method of creating it puts him in a league of his own.
Sales teams looking to leverage FOMO to increase their conversion rates can tear these pages from Musk’s Unofficial FOMO Handbook:
- Share your product’s and service’s accolades and growth opportunities. Doing so suggests that respected people and organizations do value what you’re creating as much as you do.
- Emphasize your limited-time promotions and products. This creates a sense of scarcity that makes people act fast to get on board. They’re aware that if they don’t commit now, they’ll miss out on something of value.
- Celebrate the success and satisfaction of your top customers. Create an ideal for your buyers to aspire to. Show them how other customers have attained something enviable that makes them happier, more successful, and more fulfilled because they bought what you’re selling.
Musk regularly shares the awards and retweets praise of Tesla and SpaceX technology. He’s genuine in his excitement when the fruits of his labor are recognized. This shows people he’s proud of his product, his team, and their efforts, while also solidifying that there’s nothing on the market like what they’re making. This creates a sense of high value and scarcity off the bat.
He also makes sure to advertise the limited-time offers, discounts, and supply of products and features like the Tesla full self-driving option. In particular, Tesla and Musk regularly advertise price discounts with expiration dates to get people to act fast.
When his customers sign up for these limited-time offers, he makes sure to retweet their Tweets about it, elevating and celebrating those that are buying in. But this strategy alone doesn’t build rock-solid customer relationship foundations, and without some care, that trust and respect can be broken.
Sales Psychology Lesson 2: It’s easy to break the trust of fans
When it comes to learning from the social strategies of others, second-hand gold is just as good as the real thing.
Every year, a handful of well-meaning, but terribly executed, marketing campaigns completely undermine the positive relationship-building companies have done up until that point. No one saw this better than Musk after his April Fool’s tweet caused the company’s stock to plunge more than 7% overall.
This lesson emphasizes some key things about managing your internet relationships with customers. All of it boils down to this: tone often doesn’t translate online. Anyone who has tried to have a serious conversation via Messenger or text should know this.
Of course, if your brand is consistently sarcastic or joking , you can probably get away with sarcasm more often than Musk does. However, if 90% of your feed is serious and genuine, then people will take your attempts at humor at face value, often to your detriment. A good rule of thumb is to consider how something would come across to people who have no context or prior experience with your company.
Musk obviously did not take this advice to heart, and Tesla’s stock price dropped 5% on top of a 2.7% drop in the NASDAQ composite index. Thankfully, the company’s announcement the following day of increased Model 3 production atoned for the misjudgment.
However, as we’ll discuss in the next lesson, that doesn’t mean you should always avoid content that’s controversial and stirs the pot.
Sales Psychology Lesson 3: It pays to be controversial
This one is a bit counterintuitive. Most brands strike out to be liked by as many people as possible on social media. But the reality is that getting attention for making enemies can also prove productive. After all, any press is good press (within reason).
Musk is no stranger to being off-the-wall and controversial on Twitter. When he demonstrates great customer service or promotes good press, people predictably applaud him. But even when he insults other CEOs, industries, or himself, the attention and press it gets typically pays off.
If your organization stands for something, whether politically, socially, or in terms of trends in your industry, stick to it. Even if it doesn’t earn you fans every time, it pays dividends and loyalty to take a stance.
Additionally, today’s customer base is increasingly focused on ethical business. This is a great opportunity to use your platform to call out abuses in the industry and world to use your clout for good. While some buyers may say they don’t want companies to take a stand on controversial issues, more will respond positively to your company demonstrating ethics through clear-cut stances.
Musk has become known for speaking his mind in an industry that is increasingly filled with empty ideas and products just looking for a quick trick for success and profits. His genuine and transparent personality cuts through the marketing noise of the tech industry. This fosters respect among his fans and peers, even if they don’t always agree with him.
Additionally, these controversial stances—like actively going after the news media for their bias or throwing shade at other tech giants for failing to understand the future of artificial intelligence—add to the entertainment value of his feed, keeping people coming back.
Musk also dedicates part of his feed to breaking the illusion around what tech success looks like. Often, tech CEOs—and successful company leaders in general—work to paint an idyllic version of their lives to better highlight the stature of their brands. However, Musk’s choice to openly talk about his struggles and day-to-day reality fosters his identity as a trustworthy, transparent public figure. Customers know that if something sucks, whether it’s a product or his personal life, he’ll tell you about it.
Finally, Musk sticks to his guns when he’s controversial. For example, after making 420 jokes in reference to weed culture and his having smoked marijuana on a radio show, Musk doubled down when people started asking if the joke was worth it to him.
Obviously, if a company really messes up and supports or advertises a problematic stance, they should apologize to the public. However, when backlash happens in response to something your leadership believes in, standing up for your stance can earn your company respect among fans.
As is the case in the final lesson, customers like to see that the companies they support hear them and share their views, even if it’s controversial at times.
Sales Psychology Lesson 4: Customers want to be the heroes
One of the best ways to build loyalty among your customer base is to make them feel included and invested in your product and service. This can be done by regularly including their feedback about your company into your vision.
Musk has mastered this technique by not only taking the reviews of his customers seriously, but preemptively seeking out their advice before new product launches. By doing so, he increases their opinion of him, their opinion of the brand, and the likelihood that they’ll purchase the new product—in this case the Tesla pickup truck—when available.
Sales teams can learn from his methods of promotion.
- Seek the guidance of customers early in the process — People who feel like their voices and concerns have been heard are more likely to buy your newest product and stay loyal down the line. Plus, seeking feedback early on gives you valuable insight into what your customers value most, helping you create a more competitive product or service.
- Ask for their feedback again after the new product goes live — While you’re at it, highlight how you incorporated their initial ideas into the product design, function, promotion, etc. They’ll be even more likely to give additional feedback (and remain committed customers).
Musk does both frequently when exploring new products and features for Tesla and his other companies. He recognizes that his customer base is intelligent and invested in the products.
This doesn’t just give his products team valuable information, but helps them build a cult-like following by fostering creative and emotional buy-in from customers.
Learn from the best to conquer the social game with sales psychology
Using the right tone, cadence, and timing to resonate with customers on social platforms is an art few can master. But by leaning into the strategies of heavy hitters like Elon Musk, your sales team can learn from the best to build lasting relationships with customers using sales psychology.
If you’re looking to elevate your customer relationship game even further, these tactics, combined with a world-class CRM system, can foster business for years to come.