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Beyond Insurance

The buyer's decision: Logic or emotion?

Is the heart stronger than the head?

By Scott Addis

Do buyers make decisions based on logic or on emotion? Let's examine the case of Clyde.

Clyde was a brilliant business executive who was respected by all who had dealings with him. While people responded to his warm and caring nature, it was his decision-making ability that truly set him apart. Clyde was precise, systematic and rational. He took great pride in using logic to sort through complex issues to reach conclusions—especially when it came to purchasing decisions. Clyde had a stock expression: "Just give me the facts. There is no room for emotion in business decisions." 

Last spring, Clyde was diagnosed with cancer in the right side of his brain. The doctors advised Clyde and his family that the right side controlled his creative abilities—his center for intuitive thinking. The left side, on the other hand, was his center for reading, writing, speech, language and memory—the analytical part of the brain. By all accounts, Clyde's surgery was a success. The tumor was removed, and he was told that he would be able to resume a full and productive life. Clyde could not wait to get back to work.

Upon his return to the office, he was greeted with a hero's welcome. The decisive leader was back—or so people thought. While Clyde looked terrific and spoke eloquently, there was something wrong. Something missing. Clyde's executive assistant and management team soon noticed that he was spending countless hours deciding whom to call, what project to tackle, where to eat lunch and even which pen to use to sign his name. It was evident that Clyde had lost his ability to make decisions. Even the simplest decision seemed impossible for Clyde. He was pathologically indecisive. He had a grave condition: "analysis paralysis." Clyde's remarkable business career had come to a screeching halt.

This story, a composite example based on what the medical community has observed in cases of brain tumors, provides evidence that people make decisions emotionally and support them with logic. This includes even people as systematic and rational as Clyde.

Antonio Damasio, the renowned neurobiologist, studied people who had suffered damage to the right side of the brain where emotions are generated. Damasio concluded that while these people may seem "normal," their ability to make decisions is severely impaired. They can logically describe what they are doing but find it extremely difficult to make decisions. The research showed that emotions are essential for making choices. In fact, emotions drive 80% of decision-making, and logic only 20%.

So what is logic? It is reason supported by facts. What is emotion? It is a feeling that leads us to act and react. Emotion describes the intensity of how our body and mind will respond to an event. Emotions drive us toward pleasure or away from perceived danger. Perhaps emotions are best described as signals from the subconscious that steer the decision-making process. This is especially true when logic sees all choices as equal.

Emotions in buying decisions

The single most important motivator in purchasing decisions is not data or facts. It is emotion. People buy from you when they feel comfortable, when they feel they can trust you, and when your process feels natural and reassuring. People rationalize their purchasing decisions based on facts, but they make decisions based on feelings.

It is always the heart that is touched first. So what does this mean to you and your business? 

Although you may take great pride in the "features and benefits" of your offerings, it is imperative that you assess the degree to which you are able to stimulate positive emotions for those you serve. To accomplish this, you must deeply engage your customers' emotions in addition to, and even above, their intellect. The simplest strategy is to find out what keeps your customer up at night as well as what drives him or her. Your discovery of the customer's goals, passions and struggles opens the door for a strong and lasting relationship—an emotional connection that transcends price and product.

A range of emotions affects the customer's purchasing decisions: fear, greed, pride, envy, anger, pain and guilt, to name a few. In the business of insurance, compliance and risk management, fear is a real motivator: fear of risk, fear of loss, fear of injury, fear of lawsuits. All of these fears are emotions that drive purchasing decisions.

Engineering the customer experience

Harley-Davidson, Disney, Starbucks, Urban Outfitters and Southwest Airlines are examples of organizations that are masters of understanding the psychology of the customer. They know how to engineer the customer experience to capitalize on emotions in decision-making. The success of these outstanding firms lies not only in the quality and integrity of their products and services, but also in the emotional connection they forge with the customer. They go right to the heart to create intensely loyal followers. Why else would a person find pleasure in tattooing his or her body with logos making reference to Harley-Davidson? 

Jeffrey Gitomer, the renowned author of The Little Red Book of Selling, says: "Some people are headstrong. Some people are heart-strong, and most people, especially salespeople, don't understand that the heart is the filter for decisions. The head is attached to the price; the heart is attached to the wallet. If you jerk the heartstrings, the wallet comes popping out of the back pocket." 

It is noteworthy that top-notch marketing and advertising agencies use emotion-based communications to the fullest. They know that our brain consists of three separate brains: the original sensory brain, an emotional brain and a rational brain. The emotional brain is reported to send 10 times more data to the rational brain than it receives in return.

Customer loyalty to a brand is an outcome of emotion and requires more than trust and respect. Customer loyalty requires an emotional attachment. It is this component of emotional sentiment that turns the loyal customer into a social brand ambassador who proactively enhances brand equity by generating word-of-mouth recommendations. Brand loyalty, once achieved, acts as an effective barrier against competition. And it all starts with the engineering of the customer experience to create emotion!

Ten strategies to elicit emotion in the purchasing process

Numerous strategies are effective in eliciting emotion in purchasing decisions. A suggested top ten list is:

1. Positive Attitude. Emotion works hand in hand with logic. Your positive attitude influences the customer's emotions in purchasing decisions.

2. Listen. Far too often, we get so caught up in delivering our ideas that we don't hear the voice of the customer. Ask questions and listen. Getting the customer to talk about his or her issues creates emotion.

3. Empathy. Empathy demonstrates a true understanding of the customer's emotional state.

4. Goals, Passions, Struggles. Create the setting for the customer to talk about his or her goals, passions and struggles.

5. State of Mind. Do not start by talking about your products or services. Rather, strive to grasp the customer's state of mind. Your quickest route to an emotional connection is to understand the customer's feelings.

6. Benefits, Not Features. A feature is an attribute of a product or service. A benefit is the way a product or service will solve the customer's problem. Benefits create emotion. Features do not!

7. Story Telling. Use stories in your presentation to entertain, inform, advise, warn and educate. Stories are a powerful way to stimulate strong emotion.

8. Visuals. Create vivid, powerful images in the customer's mind. Research substantiates that the brain is wired to react to visual stimuli.

9. Testimonials. Customers want to feel reassured about their purchasing decisions. Testimonials increase credibility and comfort in the sales process. The more specific the testimonial, the more power it has for the customer.

10. Future Vision. A vision is an inspiring view of the future. It creates pride. It gives direction. Emotion is created by taking the customer to a future place and time and looking back. Future visions are filled with anticipation.

What drives the purchasing decision: logic or emotion?

The winner is: Emotion!


People rationalize their purchasing decisions based on facts, but they make decisions based on feelings.











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