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Updated Jun 03, 2024

Facts vs. Emotions: When to Use Each Tactic to Make a Sale

These two sales approaches have pros and cons and are helpful in different circumstances.

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Jennifer Dublino, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
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When buyers are asked why they chose to purchase a particular product, they usually say they considered its features, benefits and price carefully. However, hard facts aren’t the only factors that influence purchase decisions. According to Harvard Business School professor emeritus and neuromarketing pioneer Gerald Zaltman, author of How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market, 95 percent of purchase decisions occur subconsciously. We often reach a conclusion based on an intuitive, emotional response and back up that decision with logic. 

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.

When to use facts to make a sale

To increase sales, you must understand and convey hard facts about your products and services. The right facts can change someone’s emotional position about a purchase.  

For sales and marketing professionals, it’s best to focus primarily on fact-based selling when dealing with straightforward, low-cost products and when working with analytical buyers.

Use facts when selling simple, low-cost products.

As a general rule, fact-based 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 the following:

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 gathered from your point-of-sale reports, consumer research and industry data. 

Buyers in these industries are pressed for time and don’t want a long, involved sales presentation with emotional appeals. Get to the point using facts and data.

FYIDid you know
A confident sales pitch is crucial to fact-based selling. Do your homework to ensure your facts and data address potential clients' pain points.

Use facts when working with analytical buyers.

The decision-maker’s personality and decision-making style can determine if fact-based selling is the right approach to closing 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 selling to an engineer vs. an interior designer. The engineer might want to know about load capacity, strength and material makeup. In contrast, 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?

Pros and cons of fact-based sales appeals

Fact-based sales appeals have unique benefits but also come with some downsides.

Pros of fact-based sales pitches

  • Fact-based sales pitches are fast: Fact-based sales appeals are quicker to present and you may not even need to make an in-person sales visit.
  • Fact-based sales pitches require less finesse: Fact-based sales appeals usually require fewer marketing skills and less sales nuance than emotionally based sales appeals.
  • Fact-based sales pitches are suitable for analytical buyers: Analytical decision-makers who want a fact-based, cut-and-dried approach will appreciate and respect a fact-based sales appeal. 

Cons of fact-based sales pitches

  • Fact-based sales pitches may lead to information overload: A fact-based sales appeal may go nowhere because too much information can lead to “analysis paralysis.” Potential buyers may become overwhelmed and put off the sale.
  • Fact-based sales pitches may be ineffective: If the facts behind your sales appeal aren’t compelling or don’t match up to a competitor’s information, you’ll lose the sale.
  • Fact-based sales pitches can seem dry: If you’re dealing with “big picture” decision-makers, a fact-based sales appeal may strike them as uninteresting. 
TipBottom line
Create a sales manual detailing policies and processes for fact-based vs. emotion-based selling. Your sales team can use this guide to overcome objections and customize sales pitches for specific situations.

When to use emotions to make a sale

Appealing to a prospect’s emotions is particularly crucial when selling a complex product, when pitching a solution to a complicated problem or when the prospect is receiving competitive proposals from various companies. 

1. Use an emotional sales appeal when selling complex products.

When your product is complex, such as a machine learning setup or a feature-rich 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 with something in common with the prospect.

2. Use emotions when providing solutions to complex problems.

It’s crucial to understand customer emotions when they’re dealing with complex problems. Managers in such situations typically have a range of emotions, including the following: 

  • Frustration with the adverse outcomes the problem causes
  • Shame at not already having fixed the problem
  • Anxiety and productivity-killing stress because their job may be on the line if they can’t fix the problem. 
  • Hope that they will find a solution and receive recognition from the executive team

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 their decision to buy from you.

2. Use emotion when the prospect has many competitive bids.

Sometimes, companies issue a public request for proposals (RFP) from many businesses in a particular space. They outline the scope of the problem or 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 prospect’s problem 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 competing in a crowded field, concentrate on two elements:

  • Touch on the emotions your solution will create: Share the emotions your product or service will produce for the decision-maker, their company and the business’s stakeholders. For example, a firm bidding on a company’s website redesign can subtly mention the following:
    • The pride of having a beautifully designed site and a successful website launch
    • The elimination of shame by reducing the number of website bounces
    • Happiness about reducing website visitors’ frustrations, such as slow page load speed
    • The possibility that the decision-maker will be promoted for improving website conversions
  • Show the prospect that you’re the right choice: Help the prospect feel confident and secure about choosing your company. Emphasize your extensive experience in the industry, awards your company has received, technical capabilities, guarantees or warranties, customer service and case studies with results from similar companies.
TipBottom line
Appeal to a prospect's emotions — including pride — by emphasizing how your solution can help them provide a great customer experience for their patrons and buyers.

Pros and cons of emotion-based sales appeals

Like fact-based selling, emotion-based appeals have benefits and downsides.

Pros of emotion-based sales pitches

Emotion-based sales pitches have the following benefits:

  • Emotion-based sales pitches build relationships: An emotion-based sales appeal can help you grow customer relationships and create a more personal rapport with decision-makers.
  • Emotion-based sales pitches are highly effective: When done correctly, emotionally based sales appeals can be highly effective for sales lead conversions.
  • Emotion-based sales pitches humanize your company: Approaching decision-makers from an emotional space can humanize your company and product.

Cons of emotion-based sales pitches

Emotion-based sales pitches have the following downsides:

  • Emotion-based sales pitches sometimes neglect facts: Avoid neglecting crucial facts and features and getting carried away with the emotional side of your solution. You don’t want to be “all sizzle and no steak.”
  • Emotion-based sales pitches may turn people off: If you take an emotion-based sales appeal too far, your presentation can come off as a high-pressure sales pitch, resulting in resistance.
  • Emotion-based sales pitches may not work for everyone: When dealing with highly analytical prospects, an emotion-based sales approach may not work. 
FYIDid you know
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.

Tips for using facts to make a sale

If you decide that fact-based selling is optimal for a specific situation, consider the following best practices: 

  • Have all pertinent facts at your fingertips: Gather all relevant facts before interacting with a potential customer, including your product’s features, price, delivery and uses. While consulting product documentation may be acceptable, memorizing this information is best. It will show you’re well-informed and competent and help you close the sale quickly before the customer seeks other options.
  • Determine the most pertinent facts to emphasize: Conduct research to determine what’s most important to the prospect so you’re prepared with facts they’ll appreciate. In initial conversations, ask the prospect the following:
    • Are they under a deadline or a time crunch? (Deliverability will be crucial in such situations.)
    • Have they used another similar product in the past? Why are they interested in switching? (Their answers will reveal specific features and product quality levels they need and expect.) 
    • What is their budget for the product? (Their answer will help you determine price sensitivity.)
  • Know how your competitors compare: Know exactly how your product compares to competitors. Your product may be weaker in one category but stronger in another — and you should be prepared to explain how. This is especially important if the prospect is already familiar with the competition.
  • Be aware of everyone involved in the decision: Different facts might appeal to an executive than resonate with a lower-level purchasing agent. Ask to talk to everyone involved in the decision so you can discover each person’s priorities and pain points.
  • Be honest: If you lie or exaggerate about the facts, it will surely backfire. While you may get the sale initially, you could open your business to refund requests, complaints, potential liability and reputational damage. It is better to forgo a potential customer than create a problem situation. 

Tips for using emotions to make a sale

Approach emotion-based selling with the following best practices: 

  • Identify emotions associated with prior experiences: If your prospect had a previous experience with your company or a competitor, ask how it went. Were they happy, disappointed or angry with the product, company or salesperson?
    • If the customer had a good experience with a competitor, ask what eventually went wrong (if nothing went wrong, they wouldn’t be talking to you). Identify the emotions associated with that experience verbally. For example, if the product quality was lacking, you can say that must have been disappointing. 
    • If the customer had a bad experience with a competitor, offer assurances that they will never encounter that type of situation if they buy from you. Highlight your customer ratings, referrals, warranties and guarantees.
    • If the customer had a previous bad experience with your company, products or salespeople, apologize and explain how things have changed.
  • Align with the customer’s values: If the customer’s company has an environmental focus, for example, highlight your product’s eco-friendly packaging. If the company is active in the local community, emphasize that you represent a family-owned business, not a national chain.
  • Discover the decision-maker’s emotional situation: For example, if your prospect is a recently promoted executive, they may be cautious and risk-averse. Your job is to convince them that your offering is risk-free. Meanwhile, if the prospect is seeking a promotion, they will be motivated by big wins. Discuss how your product can save the company time, money and productivity compared to what it has been using.
  • Create a sense of urgency: Use urgency to entice the prospect to close the sale. For example, emphasize that a product is limited in availability or is available at a limited-time promotional price.
  • Don’t get too personal: People don’t want to feel like their emotions are being exploited. Keep it professional and low-key. To take the pressure off, tell stories about other customers with similar pain points and how happy they were after they made their purchase and used the product.
author image
Jennifer Dublino, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
Jennifer Dublino is an experienced entrepreneur and astute marketing strategist. With over three decades of industry experience, she has been a guiding force for many businesses, offering invaluable expertise in market research, strategic planning, budget allocation, lead generation and beyond. Earlier in her career, Dublino established, nurtured and successfully sold her own marketing firm. Dublino, who has a bachelor's degree in business administration and an MBA in marketing and finance, also served as the chief operating officer of the Scent Marketing Institute, showcasing her ability to navigate diverse sectors within the marketing landscape. Over the years, Dublino has amassed a comprehensive understanding of business operations across a wide array of areas, ranging from credit card processing to compensation management. Her insights and expertise have earned her recognition, with her contributions quoted in reputable publications such as Reuters, Adweek, AdAge and others.
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