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You Can’t Reason Your Way To A Sale

Do you want the good news first, or the bad? The good news is, it has never been easier to reach large numbers of people. The bad news? It has never been more difficult to actually connect with them. And creating emotional connections, quickly, as in seconds, is vital if we are to earn someone’s time and attention, and eventually, their business.

Research shows that over three-fourths of our sales and marketing messaging consists primarily of bombarding our audience with large amounts of infill and information, features and specs. Well, I’m here to tell you that is not going to put you on the path to persuade, move, convince – and sell. Here’s why. It’s not the way our brains work, the way we are wired.

You see, reasons lead to conclusions, while emotions lead to actions. And every single decision we make, including every buying decision certainly, is rooted in – and driven by – emotion. So when cutting through today’s buying clutter, creating emotional connections quickly and early is vital, whatever it is we are selling or marketing.

The Affective Domain

This reasons>conclusions/emotions>actions categorization isn’t my take, and it isn’t new. It comes from The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, known as Bloom’s Taxonomy, formulated by a group of researchers led by Benjamin Bloom in 1956. However, it is new to take the way we are wired as humans, apply these learning domains, particularly the affective domain, involving our feelings, emotions, attitudes and decisions, and lay them over a selling preamble.

To amplify this a bit, we learn mental skills, acquire new physical skills and develop our attitudes as we perform the activities of our daily living. These domains of learning can be categorized as cognitive domain (knowledge), psychomotor domain (skills) and affective domain (attitudes). The affective domain is categorized into five subdomains, which include:

Receiving Phenomena: the awareness of feelings and emotions as well as the ability to utilize selected attention.

Responding to Phenomena: active participation of the learner.

Valuing: the ability to see the worth of something and express it.

Organization: ability to prioritize one value over another and create a unique value system.

Characterization: the ability to internalize values and let them control our behavior and actions, including buying decisions.

How it works in real life

Here’s a little story that demonstrates how it works. Let’s say you go into see your doctor for your annual physical. A couple of weeks later you get a letter from him or her with a bunch of numbers around such acronyms as HDL, VLDL, and LDL, accompanied by a long, detailed explanation about a need to make “lifestyle changes.”

The doctor is trying to reason _with you in the hope you will _conclude it is in your best interest to modify your diet and exercise regimen so you can live longer. Does it create a change in behavior? Probably not. In fact, the odds are nine to one against you changing.

John Kotter, a former Harvard Business School professor, says, “Behavior change happens mostly by speaking to people’s feelings.” In other words, by creating an emotional connection.

Let’s go back to our post-physical lab numbers. What if instead of that long, detailed explanation of lab work results your doctor sent, they delivered a short note that simply reads, “You must change your behavior, or you will die. And soon.” That likely will get your attention. Because it has made an emotional connection.

Why we fail in sales

Appealing to people’s emotional side to make a sale seems like a pretty basic concept. And we can understand that buying a boat, or a car, or clothes are all emotional decisions, right? But what about expensive real estate, high ticket medical devices, consulting services, even insurance policies? Surely those are deliberate, planned, pragmatic decisions, made after lots of research. We can’t imagine that serious people would make serious decisions based on emotion, because we view our own emotional decisions as irrational and irresponsible.

“In recent years, psychologists and behavioral economists have shown that our emotional decisions are neither irrational nor irresponsible,” writes Michael Harris, CEO of Insight Demand, and author of _Insight Selling. _“In fact, we now understand that our unconscious decisions follow a logic of their own. They are based on a deeply empirical mental processing system that is capable of effortlessly processing millions of bits of data without getting overwhelmed. Our conscious mind, on the other hand, has a strict bottleneck, because it can only process three or four new pieces of information at a time due to the limitations of our working memory.”

Hence, you cannot reason your way to a sale! And why would you want to? Do you want to aim your sales and marketing efforts at a part of the brain with virtually unlimited capacity? Or the part that can only process a handful of your features and specs before becoming overwhelmed? It’s not much of a choice. And neither is choosing whether to quickly create an emotional connection right at the start of an engagement.

In closing

Gerald Zaltman is the Joseph C. Wilson Professor of Business Administration Emeritus at the Harvard Business School and a former member of the Executive Committee of Harvard University’s Mind, Brain, and Behavior Interfaculty Initiative. He says that 95% of our purchase decisions take place unconsciously. And that the reason we’re all not more aware of this is because our conscious minds will always make up reasons to justify our unconscious decisions.

Think about that. Our conscious minds will always make up reasons to justify our unconscious decisions. Wow.

If you want to influence how a customer or prospect feels about you, your product, your service, your messaging and so on, provide an experience that creates the desired emotion. Help them. Arouse their brain, Pique their curiosity. Create an emotional connection. Do that in the first few seconds of an interaction, and you’ll earn the opportunity to move, persuade, convince – and eventually – sell.