Do you ever feel at a loss for why your customer decided to buy from the competition? You had the perfect pitch! Your data was clear, your argument was succinct, your logic was flawless, your recommendation was a perfect fit. So what happened?
The truth about decision-making, including buying decisions, is this: almost all people make emotional decisions and then justify them with logical reasons. They use intellectual alibis to support the emotional decision they made.
According to an article by Psychology Today, “Most people believe that the choices they make result from a rational analysis of available alternatives. In reality, however, emotions greatly influence and, in many cases, even determine our decisions.”
The business benefits or financial benefits of a solution (increase in profits or cost savings) aren’t the ones most likely to motivate a customer to choose your solution (though they do play a role) – it’s how you make them feel. The emotional benefit will inspire a decision maker not just to hear you out, but to take action.
How can we use this knowledge to understand our customers and help influence their decision-making process?
The Science of Emotion
Neuroscience tells us that any big decision is made using both sides of the brain: logic and emotion.
Antonio Damasio, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Southern California, has long studied the role of emotion in the decision making process. As part of his research, Damasio studied individuals that suffered brain damage in the part of the brain where emotions are generated. While these people were able to function normally otherwise, they could not feel emotion. They had one other trait in common: their inability to make decisions. They could process information and describe their thoughts logically, but could not make even the simplest of decisions. They had no sense of how they felt about their options, and therefore could not arrive at an ultimate conclusion.
This research made it clear how critical emotion is in arriving at a final decision. When it comes to sales, this is a critical piece of information to remember. Emotion is equally, if not more, important than logic. Because the truth is, people make emotional choices and then support that decision with logical reasoning.
Your value prop and data sheets won’t get you very far. It’s about how you make people feel.
*Note: Of course, there are scenarios where sales are strictly transactional. For example, if a small business needs to buy a copier and you sell copiers – that’s pretty straightforward. But that’s a very small percentage of sales opportunities.
Where we can distinguish ourselves and win against the competition, or create a wider audience for our solution, is when we tap into emotions. We need to get our customers to emotionally experience the solution that we offer. That’s what sales reps are really selling: some emotion or connection that gets people to take action.
Emotion in Selling
As we’ve established, emotion does play a huge role in decision making. This reality is generally accepted in the world of B2C sales, and the B2B buying process is no exception to this rule. People typically don’t appreciate or understand the role that emotion plays in decision-making for B2B sales; although those buyers are making large purchases for a business, personal emotions still hold a great amount of influence.
When asked, buyers say that the personal value of the vendor/ product/ solution/ decision is 2X as important to them (for the decision) as the business value. This insight, among others, comes from an article, “Logic – as if! How emotions steer purchase decisions, even in B2B.” That same research also finds that 71% of buyers who see personal value will purchase that product or solution.
Why is that? Because we want to “feel” good. Note to sellers: focus on personal value.
So how can we connect to the emotional side of our customers’ brains? How can we make it personal for them?
How to Connect to Emotion with Your Customers
It starts with determining an understanding “What is the emotion?” or “What is the personal value?”
This is hard to do, and many sellers rarely find this out. In discovery, good sellers will ask about decision drivers: “What are your purchasing criteria?” Formal decision drivers are the actual response sales reps get from the customer.
But great sales reps, sellers who really understand the emotional component, get that there are informal (unstated) decision drivers as well, often even more powerful than the stated ones. Customers themselves may not even understand that these are at play.
As a sales rep looking to guide and influence the decision making process, you need to figure out what those informal decision drivers are. How? Look at people’s behavior. Talk about previous decisions. Ask people, “Who made this decision? What was important to them?” Because after a decision has been made, people (usually) are able to understand that emotion was at play and be able to articulate it. They’ll be able to tell you what went into making that particular decision.
There are things that are personally important to the decision-maker that will not show up on a list of purchasing criteria or formal decision drivers. That is what you need to uncover. That’s what a trusted partner does in order to help their customer make the best decision for them and for their business. Figure out what they care about. Without understanding those personal drivers, you’ll have a hard time connecting to emotion for your customer.
This idea is not a magic solution, it’s not a silver bullet, it’s about understanding what drives people.
At the core, every one of us has the desire to feel uniquely valued and understood.
Connecting to Emotion Creates Action
Of course you have to explain what your product or solution does, how it functions, show ROI, etc. We’re not saying that should all be ignored. You have to connect to the formal decision drivers as well – that’s a requirement. But beyond the features and benefits and logical explanations lies the tiebreaker. What will cause the customer to decide to partner with you over the rest of the competition?
We call this idea the Shift Principle, and here’s the gist of it: when you’re asking someone (your customer) to make a shift in beliefs or a change in behavior, they have to emotionally experience the payoff.
People need to feel the benefit of having something, or the pain of not having it, in order for a shift in behavior to occur. The payoff can be negative or positive, it can be pain/problem, or payoff/benefit. What matters is that people emotionally connect to the situation and the solution. You want to move them from the logical side of the brain to the emotional side – because that’s where people make decisions. That’s where a shift in beliefs and behavior can occur.
And keep this in mind: the bigger the shift, the more you’ll need to rely on emotion. It’s like asking someone to change clothes versus changing religions. You’ll need a lot more emotion to pull it off.
Summing It Up
If we were to distill this idea down into a formula, it would look like this:
Action = Belief + Care
ABC. In other words, for people to act, both belief and care are required. Most sellers, or most people trying to influence someone, focus on belief (logic). What do I want my customer to believe about my solution? They try to “prove” their solution or their idea or their argument.
But we should really be focused on care (emotion). How do I get my customer to care about my solution? I.e. how do I get them to emotionally experience the benefit? That’s the key.
If you’re looking for more tangible insights and techniques for how to connect your solution to your customers emotions, check out this blog on our site.