How to Sell Based On Emotion And Not Logic

emotional selling

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Updated June 15, 2023.

So many retailers try to sell on logic when shoppers buy based on emotion.

But you can't feel a fact.

And yet many retailers feel product knowledge is the one reason someone will shop with them. It can be, but if the employee cannot connect on an emotional level with the customer first, they'll never be able to share all the product knowledge you've spent years teaching them.

Make sense?

I was interviewed this past week, and the host went on and on about how wonderful he thought the Apple store experience was. He held Apple up as his holy grail of how to sell.

Really? I asked. Then I related my last experience when I entered the store and was asked, “Can I help you?” I replied, “I have a new Apple TV, and can’t pair the second remote.”

I was instructed to “Go over there to the woman at the TV.” My guide pointed to a woman who was staring at a video game screensaver on a TV. I went over and repeated my problem.

She answered, while still looking at the TV much of the time, “You can pair one remote and one phone or one iPad and a remote but not two remotes.”

I answered, “My old one had two remotes….” She answered while turning back to the game, “It is what it is.”

No emotion. No compassion. No understanding of the frustration or confusion I might feel. I would never buy anything from someone like her. Even if she was knowledgeable, she left me feeling stupid and powerless. 

I would never willingly return to a store where behavior like that was acceptable.

Even if the store is an Apple Store. And, I own a ton of Apple products.

Unfeeling, uncaring, and clueless seem to define too many retail employees, and shoppers have noticed.

And during the pandemic, interactions became strained, which only worsens the situation today.

Shopping with an associate who understands how to sell based on emotion can also help the shopper avoid emotions: I've gained a few pounds and don't want to feel unattractive until I lose weight; I've got some new wrinkles and don't want to feel older; I've been stuck in my house for months and don't want to feel afraid of being around people.

I think as we came out of the nightmare of shutdowns and limited occupancy, many retailers still struggled because logical, analytical, and unfeeling employees have killed the customer experience.

Let me ask you...

If we are all truly logical buyers, who among us would buy the new iPhone 12? A Tesla? A Tommy Bahama sport shirt? An Omega watch? A new pair of Moussy vintage blue jeans? A new pair of Oakley sunglasses?  

There is a train of thought that says we are in a replacement-only economy and that retail is bloated. We all have enough of what we need, and the only retailers who will survive will be those direct-to-consumer brands focused on replacement items.

In short, they believe there is no need for new.

And that’s right…if you assume that we live in a logical, analytical world.

But we don’t.  Customers live in an emotional world.

Their partner left, so they want to look better and get on with their lives.

Their baby is bored with their toys, and the parents want to see a smile.

A gay couple gets married, and their friends want to celebrate them.

The woman who works at home has a new hobby and wants the thrill of making something with her own hands to escape Zoom meetings.

The man has a friend with a beautiful garden, so he wants to grow something too.

Fill in the blank.

We buy on emotions. On feelings. On dreams.

Emotions are the one thing you need to have in every sale, or every sale is at risk of being lost.

Emotions are what we really sell in a retail shop. The hope for younger skin, the anticipation of using a new piece of equipment, the joy of the perfect gift - the list is endless.

People buy on five basic premises:

  1. Self-esteem. "If I buy now, I'll look smart."
  2. Dread. "If I don't buy now, I'll get in trouble."
  3. Shame. "If I don't buy now, I'll look foolish."
  4. Generosity. "If I buy now, I'll help someone else."
  5. Jealousy. "If I don't buy now, someone else I know will get one first."

And if you understand that, you must understand there are three ways you must use emotion to make the sale.

Three Ways How To Use Emotional Selling

1. Show the customer that you are interesting, fun, smart, trustworthy, and engaged.

Your employees have to sell themselves. They must understand they can't wait to "hit it off" with a shopper. They must be trained to understand emotional selling takes effort, focus, and finding a way to open their heart to a stranger before the stranger opens their heart to the associate.

When a salesperson doesn’t engage with emotion, the merchandise cannot get sold. You’ll be stuck with a sea of signs ditching items at 40% off… on this day, this weekend, and next month.

Suppose your employees are so jaded, so bitter, so overworking retail that all they care about is getting hours, and they are unable to feel the rush of endorphins when the perfect look, fit, or item is discovered. In that case, they’ll add nothing to the shopper’s experience.

You might as well put them back in a stockroom or have them sweep the floor.

2. Be emotionally curious about a stranger.

Ask emotionally connecting, open-ended questions. What are you looking to achieve? How will you use it? Did you have one before? What was your favorite and why? Questions like these allow salespeople to connect with a customer to see what emotion is driving the purchase from the shopper.

When you tap into a customer's emotions, you can discover how long they’ve been thinking…dreaming, really…of buying this item.  

Why today? What’s in it for them? How do they become a hero to their spouse, kid, or even to themselves?

Yes, even if it is a vacuum cleaner, socket set, or engagement ring, there is often a hero aspect to a purchase.

And hero buying is emotional...

3. You have to sell the merchandise you have.  

While a customer might come in asking for a model you don’t have, that doesn’t mean they aren’t open to what else you might have.  Once you’ve sold them on you and used your curiosity to engage them, you can use that connection and trust to sell them something they hadn’t considered but would make them just as happy...maybe even happier.

Just how much do most employees encourage emotion in shoppers?

In my experience, not much.

They may be efficient when you ask a question, but do they initiate wonder, inspire extra purchases, or encourage you to try on additional items you didn’t ask for? Not often.

And don’t mistake finding a different size for creating emotion.

Don’t mistake unlocking a dressing room for engaging us.

Don’t mistake triple reward points or coupons for making shopping fun and rewarding.

When traffic is down, that doesn’t give you a pass to assume we just don’t want what you have to sell.

As shoppers return during the pandemic, they need to feel something when they decide to come into your store.

When traffic is down, that means you have to up your game with the only lever you really control…your employees.

You can’t have employees who turn the other way when they see someone on the sales floor or don't over-exaggerate their smile under a mask.

You can’t have them asking the same robotic question, "Can I help you find something?" and expect customers to open their arms to what you offer.

You can’t just offer discounts as your lead generation. There has to be substance there when customers arrive at your doors.

The purpose of connecting emotionally before using logic to sell your merchandise is to avoid the shopper feeling empty-handed even if they leave with their purchase. We return items we have no emotional connection to at a greater rate than the ones we do. 

You have to train your employees to find a way to sell themselves as a person first, to be curious about each stranger, and then to sell the full gamut of merchandise so each customer’s search is successful and they leave happy they made the effort to come to you.

See also, 5 Ways To Sell Customers A New Identity Using Emotional Selling

In Sum

I wrote this blog during the throes of the pandemic.

It would have been easy to say, How can you talk about selling at a time like this?

I did it because the holidays were coming. We didn’t need more reality.

Most of us felt powerless to stop the world, the madness, the news cycles, and the vulnerability.

For our customers, every holiday season is a time they can choose to put a smile on someone’s face, start a new life together, and put their hope for a better world into a concrete form.

Can a gift do that?

I think so.

But it is up to retailers worldwide to use their retail sales training to show their employees that they embody that hope.

That they can allow their shoppers to experience an emotion outside of world events. This pair of sneaks, blouse, or ring symbolizes my belief in you...and us.

We need something to pick us up. Today. And every day.

Because to paraphrase composer David Friedman’s song, The Truth About Christmas

We want it to be nice...We want it to be fun...The holidays make me see that everyone’s like me. The pain I’m going through is pain they’re all feeling too. And it’s so encouraging to know we want the same things: To be loved, to be happy, to have hope.

It’s all based on emotions, and our belief that we can make the world a better place.  

The holidays are just around the corner.

Engage your heart; your shoppers’ hearts are counting on you to give them hope.

SalesRX has an entire speed training for seasonal workers and a complete course on hiring the best employees. Check it out below. Learn More About SalesRX