Research confirms what youve probably suspected: buyers are deeply irrational
A group of scientists from CalTech, Carnegie Mellon and MIT reviewed studies examining how people buy. Most economistsand many sales training programsassume buyers make logical decisions about what they need and whats in their best interests. Most buyers believe their decisions are the end result of a sensible, step-by-step process. But these neuro-economic studies reveal the automatic, unconscious process thats really going on:
This research has profound implications for anyone involved in any way in sales. Traditional selling approaches focus on logic and reason: features, benefits and reasons to buy. But if youre engaged with the customer at that level alone, you could be wasting your time: the real decision has already been made.
Understanding the Emotional Process
Some people shy away from emotional appeals when theyre selling, because they think its risky or unprofessional. But the emotions are there, whether or not you talk about them. If you dont engage the customers heart as well as her head, youre at a disadvantage.
Heres how you can sell more effectively by appealing to a customers emotions, rather than sticking to the logical, reason-based sales approach:
1. Dont Put Too Much Stock in Buyers Official Reasons
for Buying or Not Buying
Listen to what your customers arent telling you. Theyre not trying to mislead you; they simply dont have access to their own unconscious decision-making process. Youll gain much better insight by paying attention to unconscious cues, such as body language, volume and voice pitch, and words suggesting their emotional state.
By determining their hidden pain, you will find the real reason they are unsatisfied with their current situation and will be in a better position to offer an alternative. Acknowledge their frustrations and angers, and use them as a tool to develop a better relationship.
2. Understand the Emotional Component of Every Sale
Encourage the customer to express emotion. Listen until you understand. Then listen until the customer understands that you understand.
Research also shows that the more thats at stake, the more these unconscious emotional forces come into play. People can be quite dispassionate when theyre making low-risk purchases. In such cases, a logical selling approach is more likely to work well. But when theres a lot on the linea lot of money, a promotion, a career, an entire businessemotional or even irrational considerations can overwhelm logic.
One way to help keep the buyers decision-making process on track is by framing the issue properly. Studies show that people will react very differently to a proposition when its presented as insurance rather than a gamble. Thats because the risk of loss is a much stronger motivator than the opportunity for gain.
3. Respect the Buyers Emotions
Keep in mind that the risk of loss is emotionally more powerful than the opportunity for gain. We drive even though its statistically safer to fly. We fear terrorists but not cholesterol, which kills far more people.
Buyers take a great risk when they let their guard down with you. Dont judge. Address your buyers concerns even if you dont agree with their logic (or lack thereof). Trying to sell before resolving their concerns may be premature and undermine their decision-making process.
Empathy is your most powerful selling tool. Get on the same emotional page as your customer. Your best chance to win the sale is by staying tuned to those buying emotions. Save the factual information for lateryour customer will need it to justify why she picked your company over the three other vendors that had lower prices.
Lets say youre talking with a prospect: So, youre looking for a new supplier. Can you tell me why?
Your prospect replies, The company we currently order from has trouble shipping products on time.
You empathize. Shipping delays? Wow. That must be frustrating
Your prospect leans towards you, his voice rising. You bet. Last time it happened it was my wedding anniversary; I was waiting for a shipment with my wifes favorite natural beauty products. Instead of taking her out to dinner, I was stuck on the phone for half of the evening trying to fix the whole mess .
Those emotions are driving this customers decision-making process, and you now have an opportunity to become a part of it. This isnt about manipulation; its about old-fashioned, honest empathy. It requires putting yourself on the line, right along with your buyer.
4. Take Emotional Risks
If your customers are going to put themselves on the line, youve got to be willing to do so, too. When youve tapped into their emotions, you become part of their decision-making process. Lets continue the conversation with that in mind:
I appreciate you sharing your concerns with me. Believe me, I understand the importance of delivering on a promise. I cant guarantee well never make a mistake. But I am going to give you my work phone number, my cell number and my pager. If anyone has to miss their anniversary dinner because we made a mistake, itll be me, not you. Thats not a promise from my companythats from me.
Its crucial to connect emotionally with your customer; itll be easier to play ball if youre both in the same stadium. Once you understand the neuro-economics guiding your customers thinking, you and your customer will both be on the winning team.
PAUL CHERRY is president of the sales and leadership
consulting firm Performance Based Results and the author
of Questions That Sell based on PBRs latest research
on what salespeople need to ask in order to win.