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  • Catherine Bentley

Manage The Emotions To Win The Sale

80 – 85 % of decisions are based on emotion

If this statistic seems a little startling to you, this fits with the claim of psychologists that, as human beings, we believe ourselves to be more rational than we actually are.

Making a Business-to-Business or a high value purchase is undoubtedly a serious decision and if buyers are asked how they came to a conclusion, they would likely respond “by applying logic, of course!”.

However, Antonio Damasio, Professor of Neuroscience in his book Descartes Error wrote that emotion is a necessary ingredient for almost every decision and we can see that often prospects buy solely on emotion and justify it as a “rational” decision later on.

Similarly, all too often salespeople rely completely on their “expertise”, product knowledge, service levels or competitive pricing in the hope that these will be sufficient to win the deal.

All players in the commercial environment are aware of the data-driven approach to business and the sentiment “What gets measured gets managed”. We generally associate this with bottom line KPIs but this should be equally applied to emotional aspects of business processes. Research conducted for the Forum Corporation on Manufacturing and Service Companies, showed that 70% of lost sales are directly related to emotional intelligence.

Increasingly, organistions are becoming aware that the orchestration of emotions has a real, money–in–the bank effect on sales success.

This means that sales professionals really do need to take an honest look at how the components of the sales process make both themselves and the customers feel – a concept which has been labelled the 2 dimensions of emotions in selling.

This piece takes a look at the most prevalent emotions from each perspective   – how they manifest themselves and offers a few tips in how best to manage these for the desired outcomes.

All seasoned sales people are aware of the need to empathise and to tune into the customer – so the starting point has to be recognising the emotions of the buyer and making the emotional connection – without this, the chances of closing a sale diminish considerably.

The ‘Buyer’:

Writers, philosophers and scientists give varied accounts as to how many and the type of emotions which human beings experience but sales expert Geoffrey James claimed that the following 6 feelings should be constantly on the seller’s radar:

  • Greed – For the buyer this is the lure of reward, financial or otherwise, for making the right decision. Major ways of appealing to this emotion are emphasising personal benefits and concrete ROI.  Important here is the use of carefully constructed language to include words such as: “valuable”, “reward”, “exclusive”, “gain”, “distinguishing”, “profitable”

  • Fear –This is the fear of failing to make a timely and appropriate decision and ultimately, the fear of losing an opportunity and is often a very powerful motivator. With this emotion, the sales person needs to highlight the potential cost of inaction  – unfavourable results, lost opportunities and rapidly changing competitive landscape. The type of carefully constructed language to be used here is: “consequence’’, “competitive threat”, “time-to-market”, “agility”, “market-share”, “cost”, “reputation”

  • Altruism – This is the desire to make a decision to help others and make a morally responsible choice. In this situation, the emphasis is on the benefits for individuals, employees, customers or partners. The type of language relevant with this emotional appeal is: “benefits”, “ameliorate”, “improve”, “widespread”, “help”, “fulfilment”, “noble”

  • Envy – Here the emotion is the fear of competition gaining ground. Man is generally a competitive species and will rise to the threat of a competitor on the horizon. The salesperson could mention competitors by name and frame the benefits in terms of competitor’s gains and share industry reports and information. Relevant language in handling this emotion is: “competition”, “best in class,  “leading”, “edge out”, “stay ahead”, “maintain reputation”

  • Pride – This is much about the individual wanting to be recognised and respected, (sometimes bordering on arrogance) and can be a very strong selling tool. Research from CEB highlights that buyers are more attracted to offers with “high identity value”. Harvard Business Review defines this as follows: “Identity value describes the ways an offering might impact how employees perceive themselves by, for example, boosting their pride, helping them win respect, or strengthening their sense of security”. Strategies for appealing to this emotion include presenting outcomes in terms of self-image, offers to feature the company or individual, and citing case studies of other clients’ awards and successes. Appropriate language for connection to this emotion includes words such as: “image”, “respect”, “credibility”, “profile”, “powerful”, “reputation”, “prominence”, “influence” and “prestige”

  • Shame – This emotion centres around the fear of loss of stature. Appeal here should be made to past issues/mistakes and the potential problems with inaction. The type of language which can be used here centres around: “mistake”, “avoid”, “inertia”, “disappoint”, “remorse”, “fail”

Clearly, the discerning sales professional will create good rapport with their client and choose which emotion to appeal to, depending on the buyer’s personality, observed behaviours, the specific context and the particular emotional hooks present in the offer. The most highly relational sales professional will use the power of language and facilitate empathy to create connection; the appropriate communication process is key. Those who put this into action consistently produce excellent results. Conversely, those who fail to identify and respond to customer emotions typically generate inconsistent or mediocre sales performance.

The ‘Seller’:

In any type of commercial process, discussion or negotiation, the sales professional will have their own cast of emotions, which are equally vital to the selling process. Being able to recognise these emotions in his or her self and channelling them appropriately sets the foundation for outstanding sales performance.

For the sales professional, 5 emotions have been identified as those critical to manage throughout the process and these are divided into negative and positive emotions. Interestingly, the 2 negative emotions are shared with common customer emotions: fear and shame.

  • Fear – This emotion of the salesperson may be to fear a lack of progress towards a goal or the fear of rejection or failure. In general, the habits, which arise from this emotion, are negative self-evaluation, approval seeking, focus on the physical symptoms of fear and protective actions, such talking too much or being too introspective. Like all habits, once recognised these can be overcome, changed and/or strengthened, by persistence, practice and patience; this applies to the full ‘cast of emotions’

  • Shame – For the junior or mediocre salesperson, this emotion is the negative association with failing to win the deal or reach targets. Peer and team pressures are likely to exacerbate and will steer the sales conversation entirely towards the ‘sellers’ aims, not the buyers. As with Fear, this is often manifested by a lack of real ‘connection’ with the buyer: not listening, being ‘pushy’ or demonstrating a lack of sincerity

  • Confidence – A confident sales professional will usually demonstrate excellent listening skills and be empathic to the buyers concerns, issues and challenges. Prepared and calm, the confident salesperson will facilitate two-way conversation, mostly in the buyer’s favour; optimism and motivation will help guide the sales conversation towards an outcome favourable to both ‘Buyer’ and ‘Seller’ – a positive Next Step

  • Pride – having pride in the work, organisation and product involved is an emotion connected with positive feeling and usually transmits to the customer, engendering confidence. Similarly, pride in working jointly with the customer to solve his/her problems builds trust and hence solid relationships. However- care has to be taken in over-emphasising ‘pride’ in the language being used as this can be mistaken for arrogance. Pride therefore must be tempered with empathy and recognition of the buyers’ needs and challenges at all times

  • Enthusiasm – The successful salesperson exhibits enthusiasm, which is firmly based on understanding, empathy, motivation and optimism. This, aligned with mutual purpose and carried out at the right pace and time, often generates similar customer enthusiasm for the solution, product or service – advances in neuroscience have highlighted that we are all recipients of empathic emotions via ‘Mirror Neurons’ in the brain. Thus, enthusiasm naturally plays a significant role in ‘Influence

Even the most experienced and capable Sales Professional can encounter the negative ‘cast of emotions’ at some point, this is normal. However, the most successful sales people, usually with higher Emotional Intelligence, are able to harness the power of emotions as a strategic resource, to positively influence the customer or buyer; this is achieved by ‘reframing’ any negative emotions through the process of aligning thought with the ultimate purpose; that is, to achieve the optimum outcome for both parties.

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