Dale Carnegie once said, “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion.”

Carnegie's right. While the logical details of a sale are obviously important, all things being equal, your buyers will make decisions based on how they feel about you and your product. In fact, research shows that when decisions are reduced to pure logic, it becomes nearly impossible for people to choose between multiple options.

Clearly, feelings are powerful. But how do you appropriately leverage them in a sales process?

The seven emotions below are ones that can have a powerful influence on purchasing decisions. Read on to discover why each matters, and how you can tap into it in your next sale.

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7 Emotions That Drive Buyer Decisions

1) Fear

Why it matters: Buyers are compelled to speak to salespeople when something’s not working the way it should. When a broken process is causing them to miss their goals or prevents them from advancing in their career, they’ll be afraid that sticking to the status quo won’t bode well for them.

How to leverage it in a sale: You should never create a false sense of fear or intimidate your buyers into making a purchase. But in discovery, find out what they stand to lose if things continue the way they’re going, then show how your product will solve those problems -- hence taking away their fear.

2) Frustration

Why it matters: People want their lives to be easier and people want to excel at their jobs. When something that’s crucial to getting things done is broken, they fail to achieve either of these goals. The frustration they’ll feel is a powerful driving force to getting a solution.

How to leverage it in a sale: Ask your buyer why they’re talking to you. What’s not working today? In their day-to-day, what do they struggle with? What are the ripple effects on their larger organization? The more you let them talk about their gripes, the more ready they’ll be to hear your fix. In this way, your prospects are priming themselves to buy.

3) Hope

Why it matters: Your prospect is frustrated with the status quo, but the flip side of their annoyance is hope that things will get better. You can’t just focus on the bad -- to close a deal, you have to lead prospects toward their better tomorrow.

How to leverage it in a sale: Ask your prospect, “In your ideal world, how would [process] work? What would you like your day to look like?”

This way, you’re not only uncovering their goals, you’re discovering exactly where their biggest pain points are. You can now tailor your pitch to speak to their hopes for a better future.

4) Excitement

Why it matters: Excitement is imperative for breeding a sense of urgency and keeping the prospect engaged in the sales process. If they’re bored or disinterested by your conversations, they will have no incentive to keep speaking with you.

How to leverage it in a sale: For some prospects, technological innovation and newness will be enough to get them going. Show these buyers demos and let them get their hands dirty so they stay engaged. For others, hearing about the new things they’ll be able to accomplish is the key to driving enthusiasm. Figure out what exactly gets your prospect going and then play to that.

5) Anger

Why it matters: Anger is one step past frustration. You’ll sometimes encounter anger when things have reached a breaking point -- a decision needs to be made immediately because a process or tool is so broken that a key project has ground to a halt. You might also see anger rear its head when a prospect who’s extremely passionate about your product faces internal blockers.

How to leverage it in a sale: First, acknowledge the anger. You don’t want to get your prospect so riled up that the conversation devolves into anger, but recognize that it’s there. Then, figure out the source of the anger. If it’s coming from the buyer’s day-to-day frustrations, determine their top priorities and circle them back to hope. But if they’re facing internal resistance or other blockers, channel their emotion into something productive and help them sell your tool to the economic buyer.

6) Fear of missing out

Why it matters: Fear of missing out is a very specific subset of general fear. It’s not always an individual fear of Prospects don’t want to be the ones who are responsible for their company missing out on the next big thing or getting left behind by their competition.

How to leverage it in a sale: Show your prospects case studies of customers similar to them who have seen success with your product. Circulate third-party research that demonstrates the business pain your product solves isn’t just a trend -- it’s becoming a necessity to address, and not moving quickly will leave your prospect leagues behind the industry.

7) Desire to be first

Why it matters: This is a simple issue of business acumen. Every company needs a comparative advantage to survive, much less flourish, and successful businesspeople (whether or not they’re entrepreneurs) usually have a competitive drive fueling them.

How to leverage it in a sale: Appeal to your prospect’s competitive nature by explaining benefits in a way that highlights exactly the business advantages this will provide them. Soundbites like, “[Feature] will help reduce overhead costs by 20% below industry average, freeing up resources for [other priorities]. This gives you a head start in [business area].”

How do you use emotion to drive sales? Let us know in the comments below.

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Originally published Aug 5, 2016 8:30:00 AM, updated October 29 2019

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Emotional Selling