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How and Why to Sell With Emotion Instead of Logic

Some consider sales to be a logical process. Salespeople in the old model of selling present a prospect with the “logical” facts about the product or service to them to purchase — facts such as how the product works, the best pricing, and customer testimonials. While these details and features are important, it’s far more effective to sell pulling out the prospect’s emotion rather than just trying to use logic to sell them. 


Why Emotion is Necessary for Purchasing Decisions 

Research has proven that we buy based 100 percent on emotion. And, Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman noted that 95 percent of all purchasing decisions take place unconsciously. In other words, the prospect doesn’t hear all the logical reasons why they ‘should’ buy. They either emotionally want to or they don’t — and most of this emotional reasoning is unconscious. 

This is the basis for the Neuro-Emotional Persuasive Questions (NEPQ) that I teach. Rather than going through a list of logical based questions or telling facts to engage the prospect intellectually, this new process of selling engages the prospect on an emotional level. Specifically, these questions help the prospect to persuade themselves. People don’t like to be persuaded by others, and are usually resistant at first to a salesperson’s attempts to change their mind. This is where ‘selling’ or being sold to can feel pressured and backfire. Rather, think of the emotional selling process as the means of guiding the prospect to their own conclusions. 


NEPQ for Emotion-Based Selling

Specifically, part of NEPQ includes what are called “Solution Awareness Questions.” These are geared toward pulling out the prospect’s emotions because they help them to emotionally attach to their desire to solve a problem that they have. Consider, for example, that you sell an automating technology that helps business owners follow up on emails after an appropriate amount of time. The prospect may not first believe that they have a problem with their email response. But, if you help them through the NEPQ process with the right questions to pull out emotion and have them attach to the idea that having more responses from their own leads will make them more money, they’ll more than likely want your solution.

Solution Awareness Questions are part of Step Four in what I called the “Engagement Process.” The following lists all seven steps and the specific types of NEPQ questions that you’ll need. 


Step One: Connecting Questions. Right off the bat, it’s critical to orient the prospect in the notion that the conversation is about them and what they are looking for — and not you and your agenda. Through these connection questions, the focus is taken off of you and onto the customer. 

Here’s an example of a connecting question in a conversation between a salesperson and a prospect:

Prospect: “Hi.  I'm calling about your ad I saw online, could you tell me what it’s all about?”

New Model Salesperson: “I'd be happy to.  And I was just curious, what was it about the ad that attracted your attention in the first place?” 

This puts the focus on what they’re looking for, and guides them to remind themselves out loud why they were interested in the first place. A second connecting question can be, “Was there anything else that attracted your attention?” 


Step Two: Situation Questions. These questions seek to understand the potential customer’s current situation, and if your product or service is a fit for them at this time as a result of their situation. For example, if you sell a social media content planning service, you could ask, “Can you tell me what you use now for content planning?” 

One way to say this and guide the conversation into a situation question is to abide by the following script: Before I go through who we are, what we do, and all that kind of boring stuff, it might be appropriate if we knew a little bit more about your company and what you do for advertising now to see if we could actually even help you … for example, what forms of advertising do you use now to generate leads?” 


Step Three: Problem Awareness Questions. These questions probe deeper into the customer’s current situation. They seek to guide the prospect to their own problem awareness, and help you and your prospect explore what their challenges are, what the root cause of the problem is and how those problems are impacting them. Think of these questions not as a process for only you to determine their problems, but for the two of you to determine them together. It’s likely that through these questions, the prospect may recognize a problem that they never have noticed before within their life or their business.

Simply ask first if they like their current situation, depending on what it is that you sell. An example: “So, Kim, do you like the insurance policy you have now?” 

Then, based on what they say (yes, no, or a description as to why or why not they like it), continue to ask questions to better understand what they like or don’t like about what they currently have. It's equally important to find out what they DO like about their current provider, service, product, or occupation.  Why?  Because you will need to know what's important to them about their service or what they are using now so that you’ll know if your solution can also give them that as well. If your potential customer says they like their current provider, the way for you to diffuse that is to ask, “It sounds like things are going fairly well for you … is there anything you would change about your investments if you could?” (If you are selling financial services).


Step Four: Solution Awareness Questions. Now that there is an awareness of the problem, these questions will help the prospect understand that there is a solution to their problems. The ‘better’ the solution can feel to them, the more likely they are to emotionally attach to it. Before, they didn’t know they had the problem or were only peripherally aware of it, and now, the NEPQ process has helped them to establish and understand their problem, the root cause of it, the impact of not solving it, and why your solution is so critical. If you had told your prospects your solution right away, YOU may have been the one who ended up owning the problem and the solution.  This would mean that your potential prospect would be far less attached because they weren’t involved in the process.  As you can understand, this is far less persuasive.

Here are the two basic questions you will ask your prospect:

  1. “What have you done about changing your situation?” 

And …

  1. “What would you do if you could?”

Realize that many of your prospects are looking for ways to solve their problems.  They might have explored different ways to do that but came up empty or tried other things and didn't succeed in solving their needs.

The way for you to find out what they have done, if anything, is to ask variations of the following question:

“Have you been out there looking for anything that would give you what you’re wanting?” 

Step Five: Consequence Questions. Not only should prospects emotionally attach to a solution, but they should fear what will happen if they don’t fix the problem. These questions are intended to guide the prospect to an understanding of the consequences of not changing their current situation. 



“What if you don't do anything about this problem, and your situation gets even worse?” 

“What if the product or service you’re thinking of doesn't get you the results you want?”

“Have you considered the possible ramifications of not doing anything about your situation”?

You’re simply taking a problem that they themselves have told you they have and want to solve, and you’ll ask them a question around that problem that allows them to think about the possible consequences of not doing anything to solve that problem.


Step Six: Qualifying Questions. Think of qualifying questions as a way for you to know how important it is for them to change their situation and solve their problem, where the problem is reaffirmed, and the solution necessary to alleviate the problem is re-stated, too. Again, you will not be telling the prospect the problem and solution. These questions will lead them to repeat the answers they already came to — one more time to convenience themselves and see the situation and why they have to change. 


The qualification process is actually more important for your prospects than it is for you, because it reinforces and imprints in their mind the decision to change their situation with you. Examples include: 

“Why is that important to you now though?”

“How would that make you feel to do that?”

“Is this important for to change your situation?”

“How important is it for you to solve this problem?”


Step Seven: Transition Questions. Finally — and only after all the other questions have been asked — will it be time for a transition, in which you can go over how your solution will help them to solve their problem. 

You will notice that within the NEPQ process only 10% is presenting how your solution will solve the problems they just told you and more importantly themselves they have. You are just guiding the prospect to bring out their feeling side through the right questioning. Selling is far more effective when you have mastered how to bring out emotion from your potential customers.