What's Love Got to Do With It Anyway? The Emotions of Selling

Have you ever found that you read in themes? You find something interesting and then you look for more books and materials about the same subject? This has happened to me recently in a completely random and unplanned way; I’ve been reading about how and why people make decisions. Or why people buy. Because it turns out Tina Turner had it right all along.

I would find why people buy fascinating even if I wasn’t in the business of selling. All this social science stuff is so interesting! Understanding how our brains work and why we behave the way we do makes me feel I have some insight into how to better manage myself. And how to make better decisions.

The Social Science of Sales

Right now I’m reading 'Predictably Irrational', the title of which just makes me want to groan. Because I want to believe that I’m different. But apparently I’m not, and neither are you.  The author, Dan Ariely, proves that we are not only going to make irrational decisions, but we will do so in a predictable manner. And even knowing this, we will continue to act this way! Startlingly, as I’m reading I’m finding myself making choices in exactly the way this behavioral economics scientist would predict I would given the results of his experiments. I guess we are all really a bunch of sheep . . .

Dan outlines a whole lot of reasons why we behave the way we do in these scenarios, most of which are based on emotion. Because it turns out, as rational as we think we are, and as much as we like to think we make decisions based on pros and cons, we really don’t. It’s all about the gut baby.

Which of course has implications for selling. And is yet another factor to consider when ‘moving’ people.

But it makes sense when you think about it. We know that people buy from people they know, like and trust. Emotion. We know that storytelling helps us connect with potential buyers in a way that makes them more likely to buy. Emotion. And we know from our own personal experience that we are more likely to buy from the company whose advertising triggers an emotion rather than the one that tells us what to do. Superbowl commercials anyone?

Using Emotions in Sales

So how can you use this knowledge to help you be a better salesperson?

You need to frame your rational, ‘I can help you solve a problem’ solution in emotional terms; the way your customer will feel after they purchase from you.  And you may even talk about how your customer may feel if they don’t purchase from you.

Geoffrey James has written about the six emotions that come into play in sales:

1. Greed. "If I make a decision now, I will be rewarded."

2. Fear. "If I don't make a decision now, I'm toast."

3. Altruism. "If I make a decision now, I will help others."

4. Envy. "If I don't make a decision now, my competition will win."

5. Pride. "If I make a decision now, I will look smart."

6. Shame. "If I don't make a decision now, I will look stupid."

Emma Brudner at Hubspot has taken these a little further and shown how to use these emotions in a sales conversation in this excellent article. Which is good. Because venturing into emotional territory can cross the line into sleazy sales a little too easily.

For me, it’s about knowing that you have a solution that will truly help your prospective client. And then it’s about using emotion to help them reach the same conclusion. Nothing dishonest or sleazy about that since everyone wins in the end.

Aligning the Rational with the Irrational Takes Practice

And remember, it takes practice to be able to use emotion successfully in a sales conversation. Sure, some people will be able to do it more naturally, like ‘magic’ as someone told me recently, but for most of us we’ll need to align our rational persuasive arguments with our innate human ability to perceive and influence emotion.

Don’t worry about trying too hard to do this; that will make it fall flat. Knowing emotion is important is the first step, connecting as human beings is really what’s it about. The practice will help make it more intuitive and more successful.

Here’s what I’ve been reading if you want to learn more about how we make decisions:

The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink