Emotional Selling 101: How to persuade customers to buy through feelings

Let me take you back to the basics; we buy things because we want them. You do it. I do it. Everyone we know does it. We want the latest iPhone, we want to own a Bentley, we want coffee from a local cafe, and we want good antivirus software. We want a lot of things. It’s what humans do.

The thought-provoking question though is asking ourselves, why? Why do we want these things? Want is a catch-all word that encompasses many different base feelings. I want the latest iPhone, but the base emotion behind that could be fear of missing out if all my friends have it. I want a Bentley because of the pride I feel driving what I might believe is an exclusive car.

Emotions. There are a lot of them. Brands should be considering customer emotions in their marketing strategy.

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It’s an easy argument that all purchases we make are rooted in an emotional want or need. By extension, it should also be easy to argue that brands should be looking to pull on emotional triggers to sell their product or service. Many of the biggest brands already are. It’s called emotional selling. Read on to find out what and why you should be using it.

What Is Emotional Selling?

Emotional selling is the practice in which brands target a customer’s emotional experience to entice them into buying what they sell. What distinguishes emotional selling from other sales management strategies is that it focuses on the customer instead of the product or service.

It is an effective strategy because it highlights how a customer will feel after buying a product. Let’s take a short step backward into the 90s and early 00s; every fashion ad was being modeled by women with perfect bodies, perfect hair, and perfect skin. While the clothing may have been the selling products, the Ads were projecting, “You’ll feel less like you and more like these girls if you buy our gear.” Emotions were on sale too.

They sold through envy and shame, but they did sell. There is a whole different discussion about the ethics of the practices employed, but it worked.

Emotional selling is a unique sales management strategy in that it requires the brand to have a solid understanding of the customer. It leaves brands with a dilemma, do they cast their net wide and connect on a more surface level? Or be much more specific, use a rod and reel, and connect on a deeper level?

Targeting more specific customers often means fewer conversions, but higher quality conversions.

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Wide-Net Approach

The benefits of using a wide-net emotional selling approach are clear; the more you engage prospective customers, the more conversions. However, it does mean that the emotional engagement with each customer will be diminished. It’s also liable to unintentionally engage with those outside the target group, who may have an undesired emotional response.

Rod and Reel Approach

This is the opposite of the wide-net approach to emotional selling. The benefits are less apparent on the surface but, ‘rod and reel’ is equally effective when properly utilized. It takes more time during the market research stage as it’s highly focused on customers. By targeting fewer, more select customers, there is more room to connect with their emotions which can lead to much higher conversion rates.

This approach to emotional selling allows for a more personalized customer experience, which could entail showing a customer the product or demonstrating how it works. Such intensified contact allows salespeople to adapt their emotional selling based on how interactions with the customer progresses.

Examples of Emotional Selling

While emotional selling is often employed best in an interpersonal environment such as face-to-face or over the phone, the concept can also be observed in other marketing forms like Ads. Below are two great examples of emotional selling in effect to engage with the feelings of the customer to encourage sales.

Apple’s 911 Watch Ad

At the beginning of the year, Apple released their Ad campaign for their Apple Watch Series 7. The campaign featured instances where people contacted emergency services to help them in dangerous circumstances.

Apple’s 2022 Ad engaged with customers in an array of ways.

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The marketing series was an emotional rollercoaster ride. Viewers felt relief that responders saved the callers. They felt a sense of fear that they, or a loved one, could find themselves in a similar scenario. Customers who already owned Apple Watches felt a sense of pride and loyalty that their brand of choice was helping to save lives.

Toyota’s Super Bowl Ad with Jessica Long

Toyota released a powerful, emotionally-charged Ad campaign from 2020 to 2021 featuring the story of Paralympian Jessica Long. The ad detailed her beginnings in a Russian orphanage, her move to America to be with her adoptive parents, and her subsequent incredible sporting achievements.

The Ad stirred feelings of positivity and perseverance through the notion that anything is possible. At the end of the Ad, a message reminds viewers that Toyota is a proud sponsor of Team USA, stirring an association between the brand and patriotism or pride. It is no mean feat considering that Toyota is a Japanese company.

Toyota’s 2021 Superbowl ad featured 16-time paralympic gold medalist Jessica Long.

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What Are the Benefits of Emotional Selling?

The main reason emotional selling is successful lies in our fundamental human condition. We’re immensely emotional creatures. From a brand’s perspective, this means that with the right strategy, you can sell a product by tapping into that human condition.

Below are some of the key benefits of utilizing emotional selling:

  • It builds a relationship with customers - Selling to the emotions of customers requires a personal understanding of who those customers are and their needs. This allows brands to develop a more meaningful relationship than if they were to use traditional marketing methods.

    Customers turn away from a brand because they feel unappreciated. By connecting personally with customers through emotional selling, brands can foster a sense of loyalty.

    The salespeople in in-store emotional selling can add a physical element to their strategy. Open body language, showing products and offering them a chance to try before buying builds rapport.

    Emotional selling through online channels may seem trickier than in-store, but when coupled with trust-building virtual tools such as screen sharing, rapport can still be built quickly to engage on a personal level.

  • Validates customers’ decision making: We have all been in a position before where we made a purchase, usually online, only to have buyer’s remorse. Among many reasons, it is usually because the purchase didn’t feel emotionally validated.

    Assume I’m eyeing up a pair of shoes; they look amazing, and the reviews are positive. I don’t necessarily need them; I just want them. But the brand selling them invests 10% of their earnings into protecting the rainforest, I feel validated to make the purchase. I get what I want and it serves a good cause elsewhere.

    Emotional selling best validates customers’ emotions when the brand closely aligns with their ethics. Again, it requires thorough research, but the reward can be substantial!

Emotional selling can be the most effective method of advertising campaigns

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For brands that operate online or are selling an online/software service, customers must be able to view instant demos without having to go about installing more software and wait. Validation that the purchase is the right thing to do should happen rapidly.

  • Raise brand awareness through word-of-mouth: Through validating customers’ emotional purchases and building personal relationships, customers are inclined to share their positive emotional experiences with friends. It is a great way to generate more conversions organically. This is because friends, in my experience, often share priorities, which makes them ideal new customers.

    Friend recommendations can be more trusted than recommendations from people we don’t know, like influencers, bloggers, or other affiliate marketing sources. Not to say the two shouldn’t be employed simultaneously, quite the contrary—especially if a brand occupies a power niche ripe for affiliate marketing.

    What are the best niches for affiliate marketing? Typically those where products can be easily recommended online, such as the gaming industry, health & wellness, beauty & cosmetics, etc. Niches where products can have an emotional recommendation. ‘I love this cream because…’ is more powerful than ‘I love this leaf blower because…’

    Another unique niche market or industry that merits its own mention is education. It is different from the above because something that can be marketed at one education institution can often be marketed at every other one, domestically or internationally. This is thanks to schooling being fairly uniform (excuse the pun).

  • **Develops emotional intelligence of employees: Shifting the focus onto brand employees now. For emotional selling to work in an interpersonal setting, such as the phone or in-store, salespeople need to be emotionally intelligent to close an emotionally triggered sale.

    Developing this emotional intelligence in employees comes with many benefits to a brand. Unsurprisingly there is a correlation between emotional intelligence and overall happiness, which is a good thing. Employees with higher emotional intelligence will also naturally be more adept at emotional selling as it requires quick thinking and commiserating with a customer.**

While emotional intelligence is critical to making emotional sales over the phone, simply being polite and having a rapid ASA at a contact center is vital to making that feeling-triggered conversion.

Positive Emotional Triggers to Engage in Selling

A sense of community is a basic human desire, selling it as a bonus of a product can be an incredibly powerful strategy.

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Pride: Customers are likely to purchase a product or service if they feel it will give them respect from others. For instance, someone might buy a Rolex watch because they think others will assume that they are successful and look up to them.

Altruism: Customers may purchase a product or service because they think doing so is the correct or moral thing to do. For instance, someone who buys a more expensive winter jacket because it’s made from recycled plastics.

Loyalty: Customers often continue to buy a product from a brand because they feel connected to it. For instance, people buy each iteration of the iPhone because their history with the product feels although it’s a part of who they are.

Belonging: Similarly to customer loyalty, customers often repeat purchase products when the brand offers a sense of community. For instance, people who subscribe to a particular gym chain because of the sense of belonging with others who are members.

Not So Positive Emotional Triggers to Engage in Selling

Greed - Customers may feel they need to purchase something simply because it exists and they currently don’t own it. An example would be someone who buys every model of a classic car brand, even if they don’t drive it. A more positive spin on this angle would be collection.

Fear - Often, especially during political or social uncertainty, customers think they need to purchase something because they feel the fallout of not doing so. An example would be customers buying state-of-the-art security cameras because without them, they could be in danger.

Wanting to feel secure and protected is another basic human desire, fearing being vulnerable can be a powerful emotion that encourages purchase.

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Jealousy: Customers can feel the strong desire to own something because they have seen someone else own something they don’t. For instance, a child seeing their friend with the latest game console and then badgering their parents for one. They don’t want to be left out!

Shame: Have you ever been at the grocery store and then been asked by the cashier if you want to add a donation to your purchase? And then you did so, even though you didn’t want to? This is a perfect example of shame being used as an emotional trigger to encourage a customer to make a purchase.

Impatience: When in a rush and need to finish something as quickly as possible, instead of finalizing the transaction, you get offered yet another option, and it feels like it will be faster to accept and buy than say no and be hounded for even longer. A prime example of a salesperson taking advantage of the fact that sometimes making a purchase is faster than the alternative.

Emotional Creatures Respond to Emotional Selling

The key message of this guide is to inform brands that emotional selling works because humans are, by very definition, emotional creatures.

Of course, emotional selling isn’t going to net a business a big break on its own. The service or product being sold has to be of good quality, market research needs to be conducted extensively, and the customer has to be in the right place (physically and mentally) to connect with the strategy. Emotional selling can even be combined with cold-calling so long as the agent is emotionally intelligent and can connect with their customer.

Emotional selling can position a brand ahead of its competitors through making emotional, feeling-based connections. A competitor may have better prices, but if they do not instill a sense of community, pride, and loyalty, they will struggle to outperform.

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About the author

Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered contact center solutions for enterprises for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Grace Lau also published articles for domains such as Tapfiliate and Easy Affiliate. Here is her LinkedIn.