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“People buy on emotions and justify with logic.”
– David Hoffeld 


The following is from the book The Science of Selling, by David Hoffeld.

Remember the Sales (Buying) Formula:

BD=f(SW, ES)

BD is the buying decision, f is the function of Six Why’s and ES Emotional State. We are going to discuss ES now and the effect it has on the buying decision.

Is that old sales saying above really true?

Well in the past we could not prove it, there was no scientific evidence to prove it one way or the other but all that has changed recently.

“Recent studies have proven the brain uses emotions to assign value and mark something as good or bad. It’s how the brain distinguishes between what matters and what is irrelevant.”

In much the same way, buyers use their emotions to determine the persuasiveness of your ideas and the significance of your products and services.

Social psychologist Chip Heath says, “That’s what emotion does for an idea – it makes people care. It makes people feel something”.

Positive Emotions

That’s not all emotions shape our perceptions and choices. Experiencing positive emotions boost comprehension, enhances the mental capacity to make decisions and increases receptiveness to persuasive request.

Study after study showed that creating positive emotions increased sales in a wide variety of situations.

Even things like “I’ll throw in my pet frog when delivering a price showed people paid more that when the little joke was not used.”

Negative emotions

The brain in this state tends to be more cynical, struggles to perceive value, rejects ideas and solutions that are in the person’s best interest. Many sales die for no other reason that the buyer is in a negative emotional state.

Leadership expert John Conger wrote “we tend to think our colleagues use reason to make decisions, yet if you scratch below the surface we will always find emotions at play.”

Now let’s share the good news – studies show emotion state can definitely be altered. Meaning if the buyer is in a negative state when you sit down with them you can change it.

But first let’s talk about how to identify the state they are in. We must be aware of both verbal and non-verbal clues and signs.

In one study at UCLA they found the following:

  • Words used accounted for only 7% of the message communicated
  • Tone of voice was responsible for 38%
  • Facial Expressions composed 55%

Training yourself to begin looking for nonverbal behaviors is fairly simple and once you commit to it and practice it, it will become second nature. Our subconscious brain does this all the time, even children read these nonverbal signals without knowing what they are doing.

Now how do we change the emotional state of buyers. This is where it gets a little harder and practicing these strategies is the only way to get good at it.

Strategy #1 – Use Emotional Cognition

Science shows that people “tend to catch other people’s emotions”. You know it is true but study after study shows when people encounter someone demonstrating a strong emotion, like happiness or sadness, it evokes the same emotion in them.

The key is to project your positive emotional state both verbally and non-verbally more expressively than your prospect and they will begin to mirror yours.


  • Use voice inflection – “Research shows that the brain gives more precedent to nonverbal speech sounds that express emotion than the words that express the same emotion.” Use strong voice inflection is a straightforward way to alter buyer’s emotional states.
  • Verbally Convey Strong Beliefs – studies show the passion, knowledge, and positive emotions the presenter/teacher displays the more motivate the student/buyer is to learn. I’m so confident…., 98% of people….the reason I believe so strongly… examples of how to create strong beliefs in your conversations

Strategy #2 – Leverage the Hawthorne Effect

Scientific studies show that people’s behavior, productivity, etc. increase when they know they are being observed. It was discovered and verified many times in the last 60 years that when people are being studied and they know they are being observed their productivity increases.

Ok how does that help us with altering emotions?

Well, we are not aware of our emotional states and neither is your buyer. So, examples of how to point out a negative emotional state in a professional but caring manner might be…

  • “John you seem distracted today. Is everything alright?”
  • “Sally is something wrong? You seem upset.”
  • “Bob, is this a good time to discuss this? You seem to have something else on your mind.”
  • An old favorite of mine when calling and “catching someone” on the phone is “Hello Jim, this is Rick — is this a bad time?” You would be shocked – this works almost every time regardless of their emotional state at the time. They will say no it’s ok, but if you ask “is this a good time” they will many times say not really.

When you bring to the attention of the buyer their negative emotion they will typically follow their natural inclination to suppress them by saying “No I’m fine”, or “Yes, I was thinking about xxx but please go on.” We are weakening that negative emotion and prompt them to give you their full attention.

Warning: you must exude true compassion when asking these questions. If not they will become combative.

Strategy # 3 Discuss Topics that naturally trigger Positive Emotions

Studies show that sales conversations that start with casual chit chat result in more favorable outcomes. Pre-call planning so you can talk about family, hobbies, vacations, etc. I know this is sales 101 but now you know it is effective and scientifically proven to help you succeed in building your client base.

Strategy #4 – Change Non Verbal Behavior

This is another sales technique we have all been taught but rarely use. Mirroring and leading buyers to move, change positions or begin to use positive emotional non-verbal actions.

Behavioral science has proven that when buyer physically move, their level of emotional responsiveness will often shift as well. If a prospect is leaning back in the chair (negative emotion) you might say, “Bob would you mind leaning forward so I can show you this chart?”

The most powerful emotion changer is a smile. Positive emotional state can be induced with a simple smile and/or humor, but getting a smile from your buyer is a signal you are on the right path.