In sales it’s common to hear, “People buy based on emotion then justify after the fact with logic.” If you’re in sales that’s not a newsflash but it’s worth exploring little more because the implications go beyond sales when it comes to your ability to influence people.
Feelings are incredibly powerful and no matter how much we’d like to believe we’re rational creatures who occasionally act emotionally, the truth is, we’re actually emotional beings who occasionally act rationally. Economists would have us believe that people always act in a rational manner, trying to maximize gain, but if you’ve read Dan Ariely’s work, Predictably Irrational orThe Upside of Irrationality, then you know quite often people don’t act in rational ways and don’t always maximize their gain.
Why is this so often the case? I believe it’s because of how we’re wired; how our brains work. When I say the word “elephant” if you’re like most people you have a picture of an elephant in your mind. Your picture might be an African elephant with tusks, a smaller Asian elephant without dusks, the lovable Dumbo, or perhaps an elephant toy you played with as a child. Whatever the case, you had a picture in your mind and that’s because we translate words into pictures.
Next in the process come feelings. Your elephant picture might generate certain feelings for you. Perhaps you had memories of a movie you saw and remembered seeing an elephant, maybe you thought of a trip to the zoo, or you had feelings because of the toy you played with. Those thoughts turned into a picture which led to some feelings for you.It’s those feelings that ultimately lead to action. So the process is this; words create pictures, picture lead to feelings, and feelings culminate in actions. Understanding that to be the case we’re confronted with
the reality that the words we use can make a big difference in influencing people’s behavior.
I was in Indianapolis towards the end of 2010 to conduct a sales skills workshop and we spent time on this very topic. I put up some word sets and asked people questions like the following:
Which do you prefer; buying or owning?
Which appeals to you more; spending or investing?
Would you rather buy a cheap car or an inexpensive car?
If you’re like the vast majority (more than 9 in 10) who took an online survey I conducted, or those who participated in my workshop discussion, then you prefer owning things, investing your money and you’ll buy the inexpensive car, not the cheap one. Why were the results so lopsided? Simple, the preferred words translate into more positive feelings despite the fact that in each case both words might be used to mean the same thing.People typically say they prefer to own something rather than to buy it because that word makes them think about the pleasure of possessing and using something as opposed to pulling out their wallet to pay. Don’t you think the smart salesperson will talk about the benefits of owning their product or service instead of buying the product or service? Sure they will!When it comes to investing rather than spending it’s because people see that as a way to grow their money whereas spending feels like sending you money away forever. When it comes to budgeting you might have a better chance of getting some things approved by talking about “investing in” as opposed to “spending on” because investing will make your budget committee a little more focused in their potential return.Lastly, cheap conjures up thoughts of poor quality but inexpensive simply means something doesn’t cost much. So the unsuspecting person trying to sell their car only hurts their chances to make the sale because they advertised the price using the word cheap.Again, words lead to pictures
which generate feelings that prompt behavior. With that understanding you need to pause, consider your audience and consider your message. What will they think and feel because of the words you use? I’m not going to tell you everyone will react as you want because you use a few different words here and there but sometimes all it takes is moving a few more people to ultimately make a big difference. A few extra sales could make the difference in being #1 instead of #2, or winning an incentive contest. Or perhaps one more person on the budget committee will see the value in your suggestion resulting in you getting the green light. You can bank on this; making some strategic changes won’t hurt your chances to persuade but they might increase them significantly.Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.