In a recent business seminar, I asked audience members to think about the last car they had purchased. I asked them to reflect on what went into their decision, their most important considerations. At the top of the list were fuel efficiency, price, and safety. No surprise here. Ultimately, however, they chose the car that "felt right," the one they could see themselves driving. Their final purchase decision had more to do with the vehicle's style and color, comfort, (for some, speed), brand, or whether it had a great sound system, than with fuel efficiency or price.
This story reveals something important about how consumers make decisions - they use both reason and emotion. Working together, logic and feelings help us sort through the maze of options available in the modern market place.
Few sales managers would dispute the important role that emotion plays in consumer decision-making. However, many start from the proposition that consumers are primarily rational actors - individuals who arrive at a final decision only after a careful, cost-benefit analysis. This perspective is especially prevalent when it comes to big-ticket purchases. The reality is emotion plays as much, if not more, of a role in consumer decision-making than does rational thinking.
According to human behavior expert, Joseph Turner, "emotions give each alternative a value, thereby, providing a yardstick to judge and select among alternatives." In this way, customers choose products, even if unconsciously, in terms of how well they satisfy basic emotional needs, such as significance, security, identity, and so forth. I may want an economical car, but I also want one that is stylish and conveys status. Ultimately, logic helps us form initial threshold assessments, for instance, what we can and cannot afford, and, then, it is our emotional judgments that drive the final purchase decision.
What does all this mean for the business owner or sales person wishing to boost sales?
First, discover early on what motivates a customer and strive to satisfy within those parameters. Don't push a Prius when all a person wants is a Sentra. Conversely, don't be afraid to up-sell on options if you sense your customer values design or other intangibles. Communicate the emotional and material benefits offered by your products or services. Keep in mind that for many customers, a restaurant is not only a place to eat, but also a place to meet others and be seen.
Second, focus on value not price. Determine the level of value a customer demands and point him/her in the direction of suitable products. If you provide services, negotiate around level and type of service, not cost.
Third, allow customers to engage your products, the earlier in the process the better. Make it simple. Let them touch, test, and experience samples. This allows them to form an emotional connection with your offerings which substantially increases the likelihood they will buy one or more of your products or services. Car dealers have known this for a long time - let someone drive a car and it increases the chances they will buy it.
But other business segments are doing it too. Online eyewear retailer Warby Parker is a great example. The company ships pairs of sample frames to interested consumers to try on, wear around for a while, and then ship them back. All this is free. Given Warby Parker's extraordinary success, this has been an incredibly effective strategy for allowing consumers to form a connection with the company's products.
If you follow these three tips - discover what motivates your customers, focus on value not price, and let your customers develop a deep connection with your product or service - you'll convert more sales conversations and develop a tribe of raving fans.