October 6

Maximise Commercial Success using both Fact and Emotion


As we continue to deal with the lockdown and ongoing restrictions due to Covid-19, our economy has felt the pinch. There is not a business out there that will tell you that they are not working harder to maximise commercial return.

For over a decade now, I have specialised in the financial management space where I deal with many executive level, numerate CAs. I always strive to be logical, factual and professional. Being too emotional is not professional, right? So, as I engage daily with highly educated professionals, surely I should focus on the facts? This paradigm of mine, which is commonly held, was challenged when I recently read about research that was done at Harvard Business School by Professor Gerald Zaltman. In the study, it was found that 95% of decisions are made subconsciously.

He found that we arrive at a decision intuitively and then back up the decision with facts. Thus, whilst facts are important, it is the emotion that holds more sway. What is that perfect balance to influence decisions in your business and in the market at large? Basically, facts work best when you are trying to sell a simple idea or product and intuition sells a complex idea or product best. This is because as the idea becomes more complex, so the information increases and our conscious mind can only deal with 3-4 new pieces of information at a time. So, if I give you too much information you will get “analysis paralysis”.

The question still begs, is it not unwise to make key decisions based on emotion? We often think that it is irresponsible and immature to do so but another study conducted in Iowa by behavioral economists found that our emotional decisions are more rooted in logic than we think. This happens as our subconscious is able to work through large amount of data without becoming swamped.

I found it so interesting that these studies showed that emotions are in charge when we are considering a high cost, complex investment. Having a strong relationship with the person who you are trying to influence is therefore naturally imperative here. If you understand the person and their pain points you can focus on the solution that will be most effective.

Salesforce.com explained this well when they wrote about the 6 subconscious reasons people buy into a product or idea. Every decision, they say, is based on one or more of these motivations:

  • Greed - If I do this, I will be rewarded
  • Fear - If I don’t do this, I will be in trouble
  • Altruism - If I do this, I can help someone
  • Envy - If I don’t do this, someone else could win
  • Pride - If I do this now, I will look good
  • Shame - If I do not do this, I will look stupid

When I read this, it all makes so much sense.

So, next time you are trying to influence or drive an outcome, do not forget to understand the facts and, more importantly, the emotions involved.


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