Here’s a scenario: A senior executive must buy a new technology solution to help their business keep up with the competition. You might assume they’d make this decision based on hard facts, carefully considering the pros and cons of each product on the market before making a decision.
Surprisingly, however, hard facts aren’t always the deciding factor in purchase decisions. According to Harvard Business School professor and neuromarketing pioneer Gerald Zaltman, author of How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market, 95% of purchase decisions take place subconsciously.
In other words, we often reach a conclusion based on an intuitive, emotional response and then back up that decision with logic. And it’s that justification that sticks in our heads, since we usually prefer to think of ourselves as rational and logical.
While facts play a significant role in the sales process, emotion is crucial to buying decisions. We’ll explore the roles of facts and emotions in sales to give marketing and sales professionals a better idea of when to go with fact-based sales appeals, when to use an emotionally based approach and how to strike the correct balance.
To increase sales, you must understand and convey hard facts about your products and services. The right facts can actually change someone’s emotional position about a purchase.
For sales and marketing professionals, it’s best to focus primarily on facts when dealing with straightforward, low-cost products and when working with analytical buyers.
As a general rule, logical selling works best for straightforward or low-cost products. In these situations, the facts are often enough to convince someone to buy. The prospect is likely already familiar with the product’s basics and wants to focus on critical parameters like these:
Companies that offer simple, low-cost products usually sell in high volumes and have plenty of product and sales data to consult. For example, if you sell a consumer packaged product to retailers, your pitch should be highly factual and include retail sales data, consumer research and industry data.
Buyers in this type of industry are pressed for time and don’t want a long, involved sales presentation with emotional appeals. Get to the point, using facts and data.
The decision-maker’s personality and decision-making style will affect the type of sales pitch you should make to close a sale. Some buyers are highly analytical and only want to hear data-based information when making purchase decisions.
For example, if you’re selling a stairway, your pitch will be significantly different when you’re selling to an engineer versus an interior designer. The engineer might want to know about load capacity, strength and material makeup, whereas the designer may be more concerned about the colors and finishes you can provide and how the client will feel about it.
Before crafting your sales pitch, talk with the decision-maker to get a sense of what information they value most. Is the buyer a “big picture” person or a “prove it to me” type?
Fact-based sales appeals have unique benefits, but they also have some downsides.
Appealing to a prospect’s emotions is particularly important when you’re selling a complex product, when you’re pitching a solution to a complicated problem or when the prospect is receiving competitive proposals from various companies.
When your product is complex, such as a machine learning setup or a multipart business security system, it’s easy for the prospect to get bogged down in facts and figures. If your product has myriad specifications, your sales pitch can become confusing, boring or both. The prospect may end up getting frustrated or tuning out.
Instead of focusing on your product’s specifics, tell stories about how it solved problems and created positive outcomes for other customers who have something in common with the prospect.
When companies have complex problems, the managers who are tasked with dealing with these issues may have a range of emotions:
Because of this stew of emotions, solutions – like management consulting – that address complicated, problematic situations are well suited for an emotional sales appeal. Considering these sales typically have a high price tag and plenty of accountability to the organization’s higher-ups, include facts that the prospect can use to back up the decision to buy from you.
Sometimes, companies will issue a public request for proposals (RFP) from many different businesses in a particular space. They will outline the scope of the problem or the product they need and the specific deliverables they expect.
Companies will turn in their proposals without knowing what their competitors submitted. The idea is that the company issuing the RFP can logically compare proposals side by side, looking at prices, solutions, experience and capabilities.
The problem for the prospect is information overload. It’s challenging to remember all the data from each proposal. To stand out in the bidding process, use emotion in your written proposal and in-person presentation.
When you’re competing in a crowded field, concentrate on two elements:
Like fact-based sales appeals, emotion-based appeals have benefits and downsides.
Emotion-based sales pitches have the following benefits:
Emotion-based sales pitches have the following downsides:
There are seven key principles of the psychology of sales that give insight into someone’s psychological responses during a sales setting: reciprocity, commitment, liking, authority, social, scarcity and unity.
You must get the emotional side of sales right because, while facts can help, for most complex or expensive purchases, our emotions are in charge.
As a sales professional, you can lose on the spreadsheet but still win customers over the phone. Even if your solution isn’t as strong as your competitors’, or your competitors have greater resources than you, you can build trust with the buyer.
For example, if your company is smaller, you can emphasize the excellent customer care you’ll provide and how your company can offer more flexibility and convenience. Facts and figures may not matter as much if your solution addresses the prospect’s pain points.
With the proper research, a salesperson can find the correct approach for each prospect. For instance, a product’s environmental aspect might appeal to a company’s altruistic side if they’re prioritizing sustainability. If your prospect was a recently promoted executive, they may be cautious and risk-averse. Your job is to convince them that your offering is risk-free.
Follow these tips to connect with a prospect’s emotional side:
Tim Pickard contributed to the writing and research in this article.