Customers make decisions at the gut level. Here's how to use the customer's emotions to your advantage.
Customers make purchasing decisions because they have carefully considered a set of good information, right?
Buying decisions are always the result of a change in the customer's emotional state. While information may help change that emotional state, it's the emotion that's important, not the information.
All buying decisions stem from the interplay of the following six emotions:
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."
Every successful sales approach either creates or augments one or more of these emotional states. When enough of these emotions are present inside the buyer's emotional state, a buying decision becomes inevitable.
Understand Your Customer's Beliefs
However, these changes in emotional state can only be accomplished when the sales approach takes into account the customer's belief system. It is this belief system that determines how each emotion play out.
For example, if a potential buyer sees IBM as her main competition, the "fear" and "envy" emotions will be vivid if the sales approach emphasizes competing with IBM. (In the high-tech world, this is called "waving the blue flag of death.")
By contrast, if the potential buyer is an executive at IBM, she might be more afraid (and also a tiny bit envious) of competition from an unidentified upstart firm with the potential to disrupt a cash cow product.
Similarly, a sales message that "this is a green product that saves the environment" might score high on the "altruism" scale of some crunchy-granola executive in Seattle, but fall dead flat when presented to a decision maker who is politically conservative.
In other words, if you're going to create the emotions that drive decision-making, you need to know not just the audience's current emotional state, but also the beliefs that they're using to evaluate the emotional weight of anything that you might present to them.
And that means research. The more thoroughly you research your audience, the more likely you'll be to understand their current state and the better you'll marshal emotions to change that state.
What You Need to Learn
It is only in this context that information finally comes into play. The emotional change you're seeking in your customer will probably result from the expression of new information and the reframing of old information.
Remember, though, that it is not the information itself that is important, but the emotional effect that the information has on your audience. This is an essential distinction.
For example, suppose you're trying to sell an inventory control system to a high-tech firm. Your research indicates that
the company has been dinged by investors for having high inventories, and
its main competitor has just implemented a "just in time" inventory system.
That's just information. What's really important is the emotional effect that those two facts will have when juxtaposed with one another–based upon the prospect's likely belief system.
Similarly, let's suppose your research also reveals that the prospect's CIO was just replaced and the new CIO was promoted from the ranks. What's important in this case is that the new CIO may lack confidence and is probably be risk-averse.
This handy bit of information helps you focus your sales approach to play upon the new CIO’s likely belief system (i.e., "If I screw up; I'll look stupid and may lose my job").
In future columns, I'll explain how to craft sales presentations that have emotional punch, so stay tuned. The best way to do this is to either to sign up for the weekly "insider" newsletter or the @Sales_Source Twitter feed.
GEOFFREY JAMES writes "Sales Source on Inc.com," the world's most-read sales-oriented blog. His new book, Business Without the Bullsh*t, will be published in early 2014. To get weekly blog updates, sign up for his free "Insider" newsletter. @Sales_Source