If you’ve ever heard me speak, you’ve probably heard me say this at least once: People make buying decisions based on their emotions.

I stand by that sentiment wholeheartedly. Case in point: Toilet paper.

In our house, we use a specific brand of toilet paper. The only place I’ll buy it is at Costco, so you’d think I’d have enough of it stocked up regularly that we’d never run low. That’s not always the case. There have been plenty of times when our regular Costco trip gets cut short and I have to make my way to the closest store (which happens to be Walgreens out here in the boonies where I live) to stock up on a few extra rolls to get us through. The problem? Walgreens doesn’t have the same brand we use in our house.

I cringe every time I hit the cash register.

In reality, it’s the same double ply white stuff that’s not going to get used for anything glamorous, so why should I have such an emotional response to the purchase?

Because there’s sentimental value in toilet paper.

Ever since I moved in with my husband years ago, we’ve used the same toilet paper. When I go over to my aunt’s house, I know she’ll have a different style of toilet paper on hand. It’s part of her home’s DNA.

Before we dive too deep into the world of bathroom behavior (because really, no one wants me to go there), I’ll get to the point:

Using Emotion to Sell Just Works

There’s an emotional knee jerk reaction for just about everything we buy.

The brand of clothing we purchase has more to do with the emotional sentiment behind it than the look. Bargain hunters love checking out and knowing they got a good deal at TJ Maxx or Old Navy. High-end, outdoorsy people love sporting the Columbia or Patagonia brands because they feel good to wear both emotionally and because they know the quality behind the product.

The type of car you buy is emotional too. My husband grew up in Texas and has always driven a truck. We sold his truck a few years back because we wanted to save on gas money, but the sentimental feeling of owning a truck never left him. Fast forward to a few weekends ago, and I found myself staring into the face of him as a kid on Christmas as I pulled up into the driveway with a new Tundra for him to drive. Tundras, by the way, are all “born in” Texas. This wasn’t just any truck. There was emotion behind those set of wheels because it brought him back to his Lone Star roots.

Think about the last purchase you made. What did it make you feel when you whipped out your credit card?

Using emotion to sell works from toilet paper to trucks.

That part is clear. The tricky part becomes figuring out how to tap into those emotions to make the sale.

Getting the Emotional Response Starts With the Story You Tell

If you’ve never heard of Mark Manson, you’ve missed out. He’s one of my favorite writers because he cuts through the crap and goes straight to the heart of what everyone’s thinking. Often times, this involves using the F-word (in fact, his latest book has the F-word in its title – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life).

If you’re sensitive to that kind of language, you might want to steer clear of his work. If you’re not, you’ll appreciate it.

In a recent blog post, he said this:

“Emotions are the result of your mind comparing your external environment to your expectations.

The same way you feel hot and cold when you walk outside (you step into the air, your skin moderates the temperature relative to your body temperature and then sends a signal to your brain saying, “it’s hot” or “it’s cold”), your emotions do the same for complex psychological phenomena…

…Emotions are designed to create strong incentives for us to take action and do something to get rid of conflict between our expectations and our environment, either by changing our environment or changing our expectations.”

Check out that last part – emotions are designed to create strong incentives for us to take action and do something. Isn’t that the goal of sales? To get a person to take action and do something? Yes and YES!

If your sales copy inspires more of a yawn than a lean in, you’re losing money.

I wrote about a coffee company that does this spectacularly well. They tap into the emotions of their target audience – veterans and law enforcement – to sell something as simple and seemingly mundane as caffeine.

If the story you’re telling doesn’t reflect the story of your customer, you’re not inspiring her to want to make a compelling change between her expectations and her environment, so she won’t take action. She’ll move on to another brand of toilet paper or truck that moves her in some unique way to want to move forward.

And that’s the beauty of using emotion to sell – you can move people.

Suddenly, you’re not just asking for money in exchange for a product or service. You’re asking for thank you certificates with President’s heads on them in exchange for something that’ll tap into a complex psychological phenomena and make a person feel something.

And that? That’s worth every bit of effort into your marketing.

You owe it to your customers. You owe it to yourself. Using emotion to sell isn’t about growing your bottom line. It’s about giving your customers something to get excited about.

At the end of the day, isn’t that why you show up at the office? To bring something valuable and exciting to the world?

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