You, your client, and the role of emotions in the sales process

You, your client, and the role of emotions in the sales process

In February, I was invited by the director of the Sales Center at Indiana State University to speak on the importance and value of emotions in the sales and negotiations process. Below is part 1 of a 2 part series in which I address this topic. The first part addresses the opening story, defines what emotions and feelings are, and explains how emotions impact sales and negotiations.


Indigo Ink: You, Your Client, and the Role of Emotions in the Sales Process (Part 1)

Opening Story:

My four-year-old son and I love to go the zoo. In our case, the Dallas Zoo. Our favorite exhibit is the “Cheetah Encounter.” Our love for this exhibit began when we visited the exhibit together for the first time.

When you think of a Cheetah, what do you think? I think majestic, smart, agile and assertive. A great predator and an amazing creature that I was about to see for the first time up close and personal!

So there we were, front row, excited, and here comes the trainer for Winspear, the zoo’s cheetah. She said to the crowd, “now everyone, look to your right, it will only last a few seconds, but you will see an amazing animal. Are you ready?!” The door opens, and here comes running this.. wait… it was not a cheetah, it was a dog! A black lab by the name of Amani comes happily running out and jumping..

We all look at the trainer surprised. “Well, there is something I have to tell you,” the trainer said. “Yes, cheetahs are very powerful, but they are also very shy animals. Through research, we now know we need to help them to feel at ease and manage their emotions before they can come out and be friendly and comfortable with crowds. So, Amani, the dog, plays a key role in the cheetah exhibit. Amani has to come out first, meet the crowd, and then goes back to meet Winspear. The dog lets the Cheetah know, ‘it’s ok, they seem like a really nice crowd.’ This calms down Winspear and allows him to be at ease. As soon as this happens then Winspear is ready to come out to meet the crowd.”

And he did. The dog went back and a few minutes later the trainer announced, “Everyone, meet Winspear the Dallas Zoo cheetah!”

The door opened, and yes, this majestic and quick cheetah came running out in what seemed like lightspeed across the exhibit. Winspear then followed the trainer and proceeded to walk in front of the crowd in a way that confirmed how beautiful and assertive cheetahs actually are.

Amani the dog does something very powerful for Winspear the cheetah: he helps him to control his emotions so he can perform to the best of his ability. And this is the point I want to make today: We need to invite emotions to sit at the table with us so we can have strong performances and, equally important, create value for everyone involved.

But to talk about emotions we need to know first what they are.

In psychology, emotion is often defined as a complex state of feeling that results in physical and psychological changes that influence thought and behavior, they are instinctual. It is also important to know emotions usually proceed feelings. 

Feelings are reactions to emotions. A feeling is the mental picture or portrayal of what is happening in your body when you have an emotion. As neuroscientist Dr. Sarah McKay explains, “Emotions play out in the theater of the body. Feelings play out in the theater of the mind.” Both are two sides of the same coin.

And one last thought on Emotions: emotions can act as primary or secondary emotions thus impacting our sales and negotiation process, our behaviors.

  • Primary emotions are reactions to external events.
  • Secondary emotions are what you feel about the feeling itself.

Anger, for example, can be a primary or a secondary emotion. Have you ever experienced road rage? In the moment road rage seems like anger. However, when questioned about the experience, people often realize that what’s behind that anger is fear — a fear of getting into an accident because of somebody else’s actions. Secondary emotions become more intense over time and are complex, ambiguous and difficult to understand.

So what is the impact emotions have on sales and negotiations?

Emotions have an impact on how we react and behave in the world. According to Dr. Damasio of the USC Brain and Creativity Institute, emotions are smart devices that, rather than making you think through the problem, deliver a solution and take care that we act right. Think of them as an autopilot. If there is an opportunity or threat, you are going to act on it.

This means our emotions and our client’s emotions, if addressed, can serve you well or cloud your judgement and become a barrier. For example:

  • Showing that you care and that you will behave honestly in ambiguous situations where it may be easy to cheat may lead your potential client to trust you.
  • On the negative side, anger, resentment, anxiety, frustration, fear and envy can make you lose track of long term gains, complicate negotiating, and intensify negative feelings and outcomes.

So now that you know what emotions and feelings are, I encourage you to observe those that you experience more often in your line of work and assess how they can serve you well or cloud your judgement.

Read more from Dr. Laura Muñoz here.

Why Indigo?

Indigo is a color that is formed by mixing other colors. I see business and its issues in the same way; businesses are formed by issues that can be seen from several perspectives and thus, it is important to recognize those components as more than just black and white.

Indigo Ink is a collection of articles on Marketing, Sales, Entrepreneurship and Exchanging Ideas from Dr. Laura Muñoz.

Muñoz is an Associate Professor of Marketing with the Satish & Yasmin Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. She received her Ph.D. in Marketing and International Business from the University of Texas – Pan American (now the University of Texas of the Rio Grande). Her main research interests are in professional selling and on those topics that emerge from the intersection between marketing and entrepreneurship. Her research has been published in leading journals such as the Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, Marketing Management Journal, Marketing Education Review, and the Journal of Business & Entrepreneurship.

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