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Does Emotion Have Any Place in Sales?

Emotion plays a vital role in almost all decisions we make, including buying decisions.

By John Martinez

Mar 2017

DO EMOTIONS INFLUENCE WHAT WE BUY?

Neurologist António Damásio argues, in his book Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, that emotion plays a vital role in almost all decisions we make. This includes buying decisions. Through his studies of patients whose emotional areas of the brain are damaged, he found that no matter how intelligent these patients were, they were unable to make even the simplest decisions because they didn’t know how they “felt” about their options. 

WHY DO WE MAKE COMPLEX DECISIONS WITH OUR “EMOTIONAL BRAIN”?

Now, we’ve all been taught through our entire lives that we should do everything in our power not to make decisions emotionally. So, why would humans be hardwired to do so? The answer is this…due to the shortcomings of our short term memory, we can only process decisions with 2 or 3 variables rationally. However, our “emotional brain” (made up of the Amygdala, Prefrontal Cortex, Hippocampus, etc.) is able to process 3 to 4 million bits of data at a time. Our “emotional brains” are extremely powerful in comparison to our “rational and logical” brains. An interesting study that clearly illustrates this idea is the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT). The Iowa Gambling Task is widely used in research of cognition and emotion. A recent review listed more than 400 papers that made use of this paradigm. 

WHY CAN’T I REMEMBER MAKING ANY EMOTIONAL DECISIONS?

So, how can a salesperson overcome objections? Unfortunately, they can’t. Only prospects can get over their own objections. It’s the salesperson’s job to help them do that through strategic questioning. If a salesperson doesn’t know what a prospect’s concerns or objections are, they cannot help them. If we believe that decisions, including buying decisions, are made based on emotion, why is it that we are unable to think of countless examples of our own decisions being made emotionally? Why does Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman say that 95% of our purchase decisions take place unconsciously? 

The answer to these questions is that our conscious/rational/logical mind will always make up reasons to justify our unconscious/emotional decisions. 

WHY DO WE THINK OUR DECISIONS ARE LOGICAL/RATIONAL?

The answer to this question can be found by looking at some recent studies of patients who have undergone a Corpus Callosotomy (a surgical procedure to control generalized seizures, primarily atonic seizures, by cutting the corpus callosum). The corpus callosum is a band of tissue that connects and transmits messages from one side of the brain to the other (between the logical side of the brain and the emotional side of the brain). These studies have shown that even when the “rational or logical brain” had no idea what was going on with the patient, it would always shamelessly fabricate a reason to justify whatever the patient was doing. Our logical and rational brains simply justify why we’ve made the emotional decisions that we do. It allows us to feel good about our emotional decisions.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE TRY TO SELL ON LOGIC?

We now know, beyond any reasonable doubt, that decisions with more than a couple of simple variables are made emotionally. However, many salespeople still try to sell on logic. We do need logic to justify decisions, but we need to trigger emotion first in order to motivate our prospects to take action. Only after a sense of urgency is created should logic be used to justify the decision that has already been made by the prospect (whether the prospect realizes it or not). This has a bigger impact on sales than you might think because we also now know that humans can’t be empathetic and logical at the same time through the work of Anthony Jack, an assistant professor of cognitive science at Case Western Reserve. This means that if we sell on logic, we actually shut down our prospect’s emotional brain and its ability to make a complex decision.


CONCLUSION

The importance of emotion in decision making cannot be ignored, especially in sales. The most successful companies in the world recognize this. They use a specific questioning strategy designed to take their prospects from a rational problem to that problem’s true personal impact. If your sales team does not have a process in place to uncover emotion, I can guaranty you’re losing deals. Ignore this lesson at your own peril.

JOHN MARTINEZ
Midwest Revenue Group’s founder, John Martinez, is a sales development expert and a highly sought after consultant who brings humor, insight and real-world advice to his audiences. Midwest Revenue Group is a sales development firm that helps companies and professional service firms achieve improvement in sales performance. His practical, street-smart approach to prospecting and selling has helped hundreds of sales executives, business owners and independent sales professionals increase their sales and profits with more control, greater confidence and less effort.  

FIND OUT HOW YOU CAN IMPROVE YOUR SALES PROCESS AT MIDWESTREV.COM.

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