Return to: GROK Dot Com 2/01/2001

Buying is Not a Rational Decision

You've heard me say it many times: to succeed out there in commercial cyberspace, you've got to speak to the need your customer feels. I don't say it just because I think it sounds clever - I've got lots of good reasons, not to mention all of the history of successful selling to back me up. And remember, online the customer rules like never before. You go ignoring your customers' needs and feelings and you won't be online for long. It's one of the caveats in convention sales training, too - if you want to sell, you've got to think like your customers rather than try to make them think like you. Or in Grok-talk, you gotta surf a mile with their mouse.

But underlying that is an even deeper principle:

PEOPLE RATIONALIZE BUYING DECISIONS BASED ON FACTS, BUT

PEOPLE MAKE BUYING DECISIONS BASED ON FEELINGS.

Excuse me for shouting, but it’s that important. The single biggest motivator in buying is not data, nor is it facts, it’s emotional response. Humans buy when they feel comfortable, when they feel they can trust you, when the process feels natural and reassuring, and when they come to the feeling that buying will make them feel good. (And by the way, Martians are no different.) Fail to address that, and most of your prospects will bail out sooner or later in the process. Tap into that correctly and your conversion rate will go up dramatically.

No, this isn’t some kernel of interplanetary wisdom I imported from Mars. You folks have known this about yourselves for a long time. My job is to tap you not-so-gently on the head and point out you’re not using it in the design and implementation of your site.

Even a cursory search on the Internet gets you this sort of information:

People buy on emotion and justify with fact. You may resist this statement. You may want to shout, "No! No! No! I am a rational, cognitive human being! I make calm, considered, well-thought-out decisions! I do not buy on emotion! … By the time you've finished this book, I hope you'll have this principle scrawled across your time manager, emblazoned on your desk blotter at work, taped to the dashboard of your car, and posted on your refrigerator at home.”

All buying decisions are emotional.

People have both logical and emotional buying motives. Recent consumer surveys show that, in most cases, 20% of the decision to make a purchase is logical and 80% is emotional. Logic is reason supported by facts. Emotions are feelings that cause us to act and react and can be a large influence in our buying habits.

What is more important when persuading people, facts or emotion? Easy question, huh? … I don't mean to imply that customers never want cold, hard facts. Of course they do. You should always have them available and prepared in a very professional manner, and present them when the time is right. But it is not facts that convince customers to go with your company. It's emotion.

Picture someone going into a bookstore to browse for something new to read. While exploring the shelves, the thing that will compel her to browse a book first and foremost is the cover. It might be the color that is eye-catching, or a picture on the cover, or a design, or the way the title is printed. Yes, she might read the blurb about the book, but only after the “presentation” attracted her by how it made her feel.

Now think of a parallel non-retail example. Let's say you are hiring someone to oversee backend fulfillment. You’ve culled a handful of resumes that present you with lots of facts about the people who seem most qualified. Do you just call the one with the most “points” and offer them the job? No, the next step is you meet them face to face. One applicant has all the right qualifications and presents himself well, but you’re looking for that Certain Something that convinces you he's your guy, and you can’t feel it. Another applicant has similar qualifications, but she comes across as charming, effervescent, determined, a team player and an innovator. Bingo! Your Certain Something Meter lights right up. Who are you going to hire? Qualifications being reasonably equal, you're probably going to choose the person you feel better about.

The truth is, you probably decided which person you were going to hire based on your emotional reactions even before you gave the final decision any focused thought. Deep within humans is a core of essential values that ultimately governs how you interact with the world. The filters between this core and all the physical stimuli outside you are your thoughts and emotions - and emotions lead the field when it comes to the decisions humans make. Far more often than not, a person knows how she feels about a particular choice long before she has articulated it in actual words. Most of the time by far, thought clarifies, justifies and rationalizes what is fundamentally an emotional impulse.

How this can help your conversion rate ought to be pretty clear by now. There's tons of stuff out there clamoring for your prospects’ attention - lots of products and services, lots of competition, lots of messages. So how are you going to distinguish yourself? What is it about you and your enterprise that’s going to reach out and grab those potential customers and proclaim, "We’re the people you want to be doing business with!”? The answer: your ability to deeply engage your prospects’ emotions in addition to, and even above, their intellect. Your design, layout, copy, balance between graphics and text, download speed, even your colors and fonts, much less your overall information architecture and usability, all either draw your prospects in or push your prospects away - emotionally. And your implementation of online expert sales processes, or not, will determine precisely how well you engage different personalities in the different ways they prefer to be engaged, as well as how effective you are in guiding them to a buying decision that feels right.

It works online the same as it does offline (and why did anybody ever think otherwise?). Folks want to buy from businesses that make them feel good. If you're going to close more sales, you must acknowledge their need for trust. You must mirror their values. You must inspire confidence. You must appear empathetic. You must communicate that you are responsible and dependable. You must offer them a delightful shopping experience (this is not to say you must entertain them … that's proven to detract from buying). And through it all, you must convey persistently that you understand their emotional needs as well as their material ones.

According to one company out there, "The most successful salespeople possess the noteworthy ability to effortlessly get into the buyer's mind and create exceptional value based on "the buyer's" thinking." They’ve got it right, they just haven’t articulated it right. “Thinking” from the buyer’s point of view helps you get them feeling all of those things we just listed, which is what gets them to want to buy from you. If you can get their Certain Something Meters vibrating, you are well on your way to distinguishing yourself from the crowd and increasing your online sales, by a lot.

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