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Dan Hill: Emotionomics; Leveraging Emotions for Business Success

In business, the reason for ignoring emotions has been that, according to the popular view, emotions can’t be quantified and put into a spreadsheet. The thinking goes that, if emotions can’t be measured, they can’t be managed. If they can’t be managed, they can’t be planned for and have no viable meaning.

Emotion drives reason more than reason drives emotion. The brain’s hardwiring makes us more primitive than we might think. Feelings happen before thought, and they happen with great speed. Conscious thought is only a small portion of mental activity. Visual imagery and other non – verbal forms of communication predominate. We perceive matters in ways that emotionally protect our habits and biases.

What is known as the original brain, supports our senses. In fact, this part of the brain began as a small clump of tissue atop the spinal column, facilitating smell, which is still the most robust of people’s five senses (Ackerman, 1990). Reptile brains didn’t make it past this developmental point. In humans, this part of the brain is notable for engaging in pattern matching, automatically benchmarking current experience against previous encounters. This ability allows us to orient and gauge levels of safety and comfort. The second part of the brain, the limbic system, is our emotional center and evolved with the first mammals. It turns sensory perceptions into emotional and physical responses. It also interfaces with the newest brain, the rational brain, which forms the third part of the modern human brain. Thus, one could say that the limbic system serves as our Grand Integrator, linking the sensory, emotional and rational parts of the brain. Its key activity is to assign gut – level value to the situations we encounter. The neocortex was the last part of the brain to develop. As the rational part, it often gets called the mind. Its frontal lobes are the executive center of the brain, where complex data is processed. Social mammals evolved this part of the brain. The size of the neocortex is directly proportional to the size of the group they live in because having to track more relationships requires more brain power (Baker, Greenberg and Hemingway,2006). Given our complex societal ties, humans have the largest neocortex on the planet.

The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.

Born from observations of human behavior instead of abstract theory, behavioral economics involves a handful of essential concepts. For the purposes of simplifying the discussion here, those concepts have been put into one of two realms: either categorization or loss aversion.

  • Framing: making a choice more attractive by deliberately comparing it with inferior options.
  • Mental accounting: placing artificial limits on the amounts we’re willing to spend in certain categories.
  • Prospect theory: judging pleasure based on a change in condition rather than on how happy we are.
  • Anchoring: evaluating new information strictly in terms of what our baseline of knowledge happens to be. Recency: giving undue weight to recent experiences.
  • Familiarity: having a bias towards the status quo.
  • New – risk premium: inflating the cost of accepting new risks while casually discounting familiar risks.
  • Fear of regret: not making a decision out of fear, so as to avoid making a mistake.
  • Decision paralysis: failing to make a decision involving lots of choices for fear of making the wrong one.

When Ekman and Friesen created their facial coding system , they relied on two facts that make it a natural and highly effective tool . The first is that human beings have more facial muscles than any other species on the planet. This fact alone makes analyzing the face a gold mine of data. Second, the face is the only place on the body where our muscles attach directly to the skin.

These are the three universal qualities that characterize emotions:

  • a feeling component – physical sensations, including chemical changes in the brain;
  • a thinking component – conscious or intuitive appraisal;
  • an action component – expressive reactions (like smiles or scowls), as well as coping behaviors (fight or flight).
  • Sometimes an optional sensory component exists: a sensory component – sights, sounds, etcetera, which intrude and serve to trigger the emotional response.

There are seven primary emotions. One emotion is essentially neutral: surprise. Five are negative: fear, anger, sadness, disgust and contempt. The other is positive: happiness. Moreover, happiness can be divided based on two different kinds of smiles, true smiles and social smiles.

When the primary emotions get combined (as they usually are in real life), a much richer palette of emotional response emerges.

Surprise – Our ability to express surprise appears at birth. Unlike the other six core emotions, surprise is neither inherently positive nor inherently negative. Its valence depends on what we perceive after the surprise has passed. Eyes go big. Eyebrows fly high. Mouth falls open.

Fear – This is the single most important emotion. The ability to express fear appears about five to nine months after birth. Fear opens the face, which will blanch and, in extreme cases, tremble. Here’s how the face may show fear: Eyebrows lift up and in. Eyes widen. Chin pulls wider. Lips stretch back horizontally. Jaw drops open.

Anger – The ability to show anger appears three to seven months after birth. The angry face contracts – like a snake coiling to strike – and its appearance becomes more concentrated and intense. When a person becomes red – faced or boiling mad, blood floods the face’s capillaries. Here’s how the face may show anger: Eyebrows lower and knit together. Eyes narrow into snake – eyes. Lips tighten or form a funnel.

Sadness – In business, sadness as expressed in the marketplace is usually about buyer’s regret. Sadness appears between birth and three months. Generally speaking, sadness makes the face sag, giving a person a long face frown. Here’s how the face may show sadness: Wrinkles form a mid – forehead puddle. Eyebrows drop, but inner corners rise slightly. Corners of eyes crease in a wince. The trench running between the corners of the nostrils and the upper mouth corners deepens. Lip corners sag or form an upside – down smile.

Disgust – Is an adverse reaction shown when we attempt to distance ourselves from an offensive source. Disgust appears between birth and three months. It involves a lifting up and away, like a gag reflex, as we try to protect ourselves from poison. Here’s how the face may show disgust: Nose turns up and wrinkles. Upper lip rises, sometimes as part of an upside – down smile. Lower lip pulls down and away.

Contempt – Is less physical and more attitudinal – one might say moral – in orientation than disgust. Here’s how the face will show contempt: A unilateral expression (the left side of the face is generally more expressive than the right side), with one upper corner of the mouth curling into a sneer. The skin beyond the lip corners pulls inward towards the lip corners, tightening and narrowing the lip corners. Pulls the skin below the lip corners up towards those corners, flattening and stretching the chin bass skin.

Happiness – Here’s how a true smile looks: Skin near the outer corner of the eye pinches together into crow’s feet. The upper eyelid slightly droops and skin under the eye may gather upward, deepening the lower eyelid furrow. The corners of the mouth move up and out, and the cheeks lift upwards.

With a social smile: The face becomes rounder as the corners of the mouth move up and out and the cheeks lift upwards. The activity around the eyes that would cause them to twinkle or gleam, thereby indicating the presence of a true smile, is missing.

As Gerald Zaltman has noted in How Customers Think (2003). A great mismatch exists between the way consumers experience and think about their world and the methods marketers use to collect this information.  

To help them achieve true emotional buy – in:

  • Reflected beliefs
  • Belonging
  • Telling a story

A beliefs strategy means consumers no longer think about which brand to buy. CRM provides data without any intuitive feeling as to what it all conveys. Given the strength of both religious and secular beliefs, never defame them. Figure out which values are for real and which are less imperative. Unfortunately, all too often, companies choose the what (their products, service, etcetera) over the who (their customers). As company grows in scale, it tends to become increasingly distracted by internal dynamics, losing sight of customers in the process.

Customers, however, have much bigger stories to tell. Executives who understand that an emotional connection is central to the creation of a viable relationship will want to get a bigger perspective. Pride isn’t a trivial emotion. As a mixture of happiness and anger, pride has an edge to it.

Because brands are social in nature, we rely on them to reinforce our sense of membership in a tribe. In other words, great brands leverage our innate impulse to belong to an inner circle. Great brands make it possible for us to feel unique. In order to successfully tell its brand’s story, a company must make sure that all elements of the tale relate to the target market and appeal to their desires. Recurring emotions form the basis for traits, which in turn create personality. Branding isn’t a feature or even a benefit. It’s a relationship based on an emotional connection. Nothing in business is less tangible, and therefore more purely emotional, than branding.

Reward customers for their loyalty by mirroring the beliefs that frame their top – down processing. Figure out what values emotionally matter most to the target market and make sure your brand can truly deliver on representing them.

Remember that a brand is social in nature because we rely on it to reinforce our status as members of the tribe with which we identify. The community we join serves as a bridge to adoption by giving us the extra confidence to declare the brand our choice. In contrast, amorphous brands lacking symbolic power don’t help consumers impress other people or help orient them to the group that feels right. Tell a story that involves a vibrant brand personality whose enduring traits resonate in harmony with the key associations by which consumers know and accept the brand with enthusiasm. A company whose name doesn’t invoke mental imagery is in trouble.

The basis of great design is to be both awe – inspiring and emotionally relevant. Advertising needs to be emotionally absorbing. People are awash in information and glad to tune out what they don’t need, which is why it is increasingly difficult to create a successful ad.

  • Stage 1: Awareness – This stage is about noticing something, becoming aware of it.
  • Stage 2: Narrowing – Survival instincts help explain the next, narrower part of the funnel. To function most effectively and ward off threats, people have to focus first and foremost on what they feel will matter most.
  • Stage 3: Attention – This is the consideration stage. Here emotions serve as motivators, fueling our response as we contemplate the advertising.
  • Stage 4: Decision – This is as far as research can go in validating, prior to launch, whether advertising is likely to drive marketplace response.
  • Stage 5: Action – Only the post – launch tracking of sales results is truly relevant here. By this point, emotions have reached the critical point of serving as enactors.

Three primary methods to assess awareness:

  • Assessing exposure.
  • Assessing viewership.
  • Assessing recall.

Creating a relationship with the target market requires a mix of impact and appeal. When everything is said and done, what does persuasion mean? As science has shown us, it’s really about what resonates emotionally and can motivate behaviour.

Nothing in business relies more on face time and emotions than sales. Promoting likeability and trust is everything.

There’s been talk about the problems of using a rational, functionally oriented, features – attributes – and – benefits sales approach for some time now. But the extent to which an emotionally informed relationship approach to sales has been adopted remains an open question. Without a more comprehensive understanding of why to change and how to proceed, companies will be tempted to stay with what they know, regardless of the disadvantages involved. As a result, the reality of sales is that every prospect is afraid of being ripped off and every salesperson is afraid the prospect won’t commit.

In stark contrast to a rationally oriented seller’s approach, which emphasizes the offer, an emotionally oriented approach recognizes the prospect’s emotions as central to the process. Great salespeople are characteristically upbeat, resilient and caring. Salespeople should always interact with prospects in a manner that builds equity. Then if difficulties arise, there’s enough trust and rapport to keep the buyer/seller relationship viable.

From the prospect’s point of view, the approach and dialogue steps are uncomfortable because change can be scary. During these steps’ prospects ask themselves, why should I meet with someone new? Why should I change? Often their unconscious emotional response is fear. Prospects may want to mask this discomfort, to both themselves and the salesperson, through intellectual alibis such as that it is not a good offer, not the right price, or the wrong timing, and thereby resist a meeting.

There are two cycles in sales process. Cycle one when customer is happy with previous purchase and cycle two if customer is not happy with previous purchase. In the cycle of satisfaction, people are financially and emotionally bonded to the status quo. For those who have recently purchased (A1), create awareness but try for no more. Maintenance (A2) is different. There, gently show the offer’s superiority to inspire the envy that might just lead to a future sale. In the cycle of opportunity, create comfort (B1), respect (B2) and reassurance (B3) in order to leverage emotional equity and close the deal (B4). Along the way, nurture delight, pride and hope in prospects. But be especially careful to demonstrate fairness so that prospects trust that their purchase experience will be a happy one.

That being said, there are two stages to the cycle of satisfaction and they involve slightly different emotional realities. Here the purchase stage (point A1) indicates that prospects have just recently bought an offer. So, there’s little to no chance that dissatisfaction has emerged yet. As a result, a salesperson can really only present the alternative offer, as an act of creating awareness, because emotionally there is no viable strategy other than to be generous and congratulate those prospects on finding happiness with an offer that works for them. In that way, the salesperson is being a friend and may accrue emotional equity for the future. Only slightly more promising in terms of sales potential is point A2 in the cycle of satisfaction. The difference here at the maintenance stage is that some time has passed since the purchase. So, while these prospects remain happy about their choice, they might be less emotionally committed to it because they have come to realize its limitations on their own. A salesperson shouldn’t induce disappointment. At the maintenance point in the cycle of satisfaction, the most a salesperson should be trying to achieve emotionally is to create a slight degree of envy in these prospects. They may sense that the salesperson’s new, alternative offer could be superior. A hard sell shouldn’t be attempted, however.

In contrast, the cycle of opportunity is longer but far more promising in terms of the ability of the salesperson to emotionally connect on terms favorable to building a relationship and enacting new sales.

  • Potential application. On the left at point B1, prospects have either no immediate need and/or haven’t yet separated themselves emotionally from an offer that didn’t fully satisfy them. Either way, their goal is to feel comfortable during the approach step. An emotionally savvy salesperson will recognize that prospects at this point in the cycle are limited opportunities for now. Emotionally, the most that should be attempted is to inspire either delight in what the new, alternative offer can achieve or relief that a viable alternative exists.
  • Approaching application. At point B2, prospects are emotionally prepared to go beyond the approach step and on to the dialogue step. They may need or want a new solution in the not – too – distant future, but they’re not there yet. For now, what they want more than the offer the salesperson is selling is to be shown respect. In turn, they may then develop respect for the salesperson who is investing time and effort in getting to know them, thereby building the relationship, rather than simply trying to make a quick sale. Emotionally, the key here is to play to the prospect’s sense of pride.
  • Immediate application. With a pressing need or interest (B3), prospects can be taken right through the approach and dialogue steps on the way to the presentation. That’s not to say the salesperson isn’t an important focal point or that comfort and respect don’t have to be established. Those factors matter. Nevertheless, the reality is that prospects will be open to learning more readily about the offer. Assurance that the salesperson, company and the offer all check out well and are consistently aligned will protect the hope prospects are inclined to feel.
  • Including purchase (B4), where prospects faith in fairness is paramount while negotiating the factors of price and timing, those are the four stages of the cycle of opportunity. Note how those four stages also relate to the four first steps in the buying process. Furthermore, note the importance of preserving a feeling of yearning in prospects. That’s the overall picture. But since the focus right now is on the approach and dialogue steps, two additional considerations should be introduced before moving on to the presentation step.

What’s the difference between a need and a want? The first is more rational. The second is pure emotion. Lead with wants. Follow with value. Close with price. Salespeople make the mistake of rushing to emphasize the rational utilitarian aspect of an offer. Establishing value during the presentation step.

The six principles of influence:

Prospects will initially focus on whether they enjoy the salesperson’s presence, meaning whether they like the person they are with. Over subsequent meetings, if the interactions have been supportive and pleasant, familiarity will grow and the degree of liking will increase. But up front and at first, prospects are alert – even wary – and must be put at ease. Likeability is especially pertinent during the approach step, when establishing comfort for the prospect is vital. The other three emotional influencers are compatibility, reciprocity and consistency. While emergent during the approach step, they mostly come into focus for prospects during the dialogue step, as follows: Training programs that tell salespeople to mirror and match the prospect’s body language are half right. Ultimately, even more important is identifying and respecting the prospect’s belief system. Remember that nothing is more innate or deeply emotional than a person’s worldview. Reflecting a prospect’s beliefs respectfully is imperative because people are comfortable with and like those who are like them. Both liking and compatibility can be reinforced through favors or small signs of courtesy that invite reciprocity from prospects. Not only do people feel socially obligated to return favors, doing so makes them feel good. Through such acts of mutual generosity an emotionally savvy salesperson can add glue to the budding relationship. Consistency matters because during the first few encounters a prospect is still trying to figure out who the salesperson really is as a person. A consistent manner will help increase comfort in the belief that the personality on display will stay the same once the deal is signed and support services may be required. Consistency demonstrates integrity. As such, it also sets up the quality of assurance that will make the presentation itself far more effective. Last two principles, authority and scarcity, are indeed more rational in nature.

During the approach and dialogue steps, we saw that the focus of the prospect’s attention is primarily the salesperson. Then during the presentation step, the focus expands to include the offer itself. And now during the negotiation step, the focus on the offer shifts again to include price and timing – though the underlying emotional issue is ensuring a sense of fairness.

Negotiating about price means value has been established and the prospect is interested in the terms of the offer. Serious negotiations then come down to three conditions: the size of the need/want, the fit of the offer to the solution, and the strength of the salesperson’s relationship with the prospect.

In preparing for a career in sales, people should take the initiative to examine both their own personal brand equity and the brand equity in the company they are considering for employment.

Giving inadvertent offence. Where’s the fine line in challenging the prospect’s ties to his or her current supplier? You’ll know if you see the prospect tense up: the lower lip may tighten, for instance, or else the person’s eyes narrow. Then you had better cross back over the line as quickly and smoothly as you can. Coming on too strong. Sales situations often involve fear: notably the prospect’s fear of being cornered. How might you tell? The answer lies either in upraised eyebrows and wrinkles that emerge on the forehead, or else the prospect’s mouth subtly pulling wider. Should you see those signals, slow down and try to get the prospect back into a selling atmosphere that feels more comfortable. Failing to establish likeability or credibility. Sometimes you can lose the sale almost immediately by not creating rapport with the prospect. Then you may see the nose wrinkle or upper lip rise in a sign that you’ve been rejected. Even more fatal: the corner of the mouth tightens in a sign of contempt because the prospect doesn’t find your claims believable. Ignoring lack of satisfaction. Repeat sales and word – of – mouth endorsements are the surest way to build volume easily. But if disappointment surfaces, in the form of buyer’s regret, the inattentive salesperson may not notice the corners of the mouth pulling down or the cheeks lifting obliquely away from the mouth in what looks to be a smile but is, in fact, a sign of sadness. Seizing on opportunities for momentum. There’s a difference between a true smile and a social smile that plays mostly around the mouth. With a true smile, the eyes twinkle, the upper eyelid droops and the outer eyebrows may droop, too. Real pleasure as signaled in these ways should alert the salesperson to reinforce the statement or benefit that inspired it; to do otherwise is to miss an opportunity to enhance the volume of the sale, the profit margin or both. Being deceived. At least flat – out rejection by a prospect doesn’t waste your time. Much worse are the maybes that are really no. Be wary of smiles that don’t have a natural rhythm or flow to them. Moreover, frozen smiles or Charlie Chaplin – like grimace smiles are actually a warning to move on.

A common mindset in sales force management is to think of the salesperson as a conquering hero, who wins the war but doesn’t have to worry about the peace because the money’s been made. The problem with this scenario is that nobody else really wants the salesperson to be victorious. That’s certainly true of prospects turned customers, and may even be true of general employees or fellow sales force members at the salesperson’s own company.

Consider survey results regarding the top five frustrations people have with salespeople. The first three are poor communication skills, lack of knowledge of the customer’s company, and overly aggressive selling. But the fourth and fifth greatest aggravations both involve the crucial follow – up step: slow delivery or failure to deliver fully on what was promised (Davis, 1996).

Individual sales volume will of course be part of any evaluation. But it’s also worth considering giving weight to the degree to which the salesperson interacts well with post – sale customers and fellow employees. As to just what kind of non – monetary incentive or bonus a salesperson might receive for superior performance, one idea is a tangible reward like a desirable high – tech device or a holiday package.

So, to be effective, sales force directors, managers and their sales teams must accomplish the following:

  • Move beyond the common orientation that implicitly and unknowingly treats salespeople as heroes and casts the prospect as prey to be subdued through aggressive, rational arguments. Emotionally smart hires will be attuned to taking a truly relationship – based approach to sales.
  • Make the buying process about the prospect at every stage, from approach through negotiation and follow – up. Salespeople should take the time to ask questions and clue prospects into the degree of pain they’re feeling with the status quo, making a change to the new offer easy to consider.
  • Then provide post – sale assurances that the purchase was wise, including documentation of good news concerning the offer and its implementation, to help alleviate any unresolved fears and cement the bond between buyer and seller. These steps will allow the salesperson to influence future decision criteria. Avoid buyer regret by addressing prospects needs post – sale.
  • Also be proactive about dissipating inter – company and inter – sales force envy before it becomes corrosive. Both initiatives will be more likely to happen if the right coaching and reward structures are in place. Ideally, bonuses should be determined by calculating not just complete sales but also the degree to which satisfaction exists in the hearts of customers.

With customer service, what’s really at stake is a person’s sense of self – worth There are two good reasons for opening a discussion of customer satisfaction and loyalty with customer service.

Any kind of wait rankles people. From a psychological and emotional perspective, there are three key reasons that delays and inconvenience matter so much to people and are, therefore, in need of being resolved by companies.

From the consumers point of view, they consist of:

  • Loss of control: being forced to wait or otherwise suffer inconvenience against their will means that consumers have relinquished control.
  • Doubt: delays and inconvenience lead to inefficiency that makes consumers wonder if the company is a failure in general.
  • Avoidance: difficulty interacting with a company can create the suspicion that consumers are being avoided, especially when technology seems to serve as more of a shield than a bridge.

In a study funded by the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals ( SOCAP ), 80 per cent of the people surveyed agreed with the statement: I’m frequently frustrated by the way companies use technology to avoid talking to me.

Good customer service requires overcoming the fears of everyone involved. Customer service is something companies seek to avoid. For companies, customer service isn’t a profit center; it’s a cost center. Thus, the goal becomes containing the cost of customer service in order to protect profit margin. Most companies view it that way. They rarely, if ever, see customer service as an emotional opportunity to safeguard or even enhance value.

To be effective, retailers, e – tailers and customer service providers must accomplish the following:

  • Create easier access. Emotionally, the key is to welcome people.
  • Reward curiosity. Connect with consumers through engaging atmospherics and empathetic interactivity so as to provide delight.
  • Provide support. Help consumers feel secure by connecting them to their fellow shoppers or super-agent service veterans.

Emotions are important in workplace too. It is important to understand them in those aspects:

  • Compatibility: in joining an us, employees don’t surrender their me. Instead, they subsume it, believing that the greater us will feed the me. So, company leaders and managers should ideally be able to establish themselves as more than credible. They should also be unselfish, empathetic people, who look out for lower – level employees and can connect with them emotionally. To that end, gauging the emotional aptitude of personnel is crucial. Knowing credentials and skills isn’t enough. What’s missing? Intangible factors like personality, energy level and interactive abilities.
  • Cohesive culture: to offset the risk of isolation, successful leaders and managers don’t just read the situation around them in emotional terms; they also foster a cohesive culture in which employees in general, and direct reports in particular, feel invited to participate and collaborate. To that end, they seek to surround themselves with talent. Thus, people will be as smart as or smarter than themselves (both rationally and emotionally) and will be recognized for their abilities and promoted for their good work. The outcome is a less stressful and more relaxed workplace, with all parts working in sync.
  • Trust: there’s nothing complicated, in the end, about both being a successful leader and making the manager / employee relationship work. In a word, trust is the key. Everything depends on those with less power being able to feel that the other party is looking out for everyone’s best interests. People don’t always have to like each other. But they must be able to share both rational and emotionally oriented information to avoid the paralysis that comes with mutual alienation, during everything from macro – events like an organizational change to the annual performance review.

What are Welch’s four Es? They consist of having a competitive Edge, being a good Executor and being Energetic while Energizing others. What’s the new, fifth E.  Emotional intelligence: a competency that two studies by the training firm Hay / McBer have confirmed to be what successful leaders have most in common.

People skills matter. They’re not soft, although they’re definitely emotional. Instead, they help a leader to connect with others – not through using emotions to manipulate perceptions, but by using emotional intelligence to understand where people are coming from.

Effective leadership is a visionary and process – oriented combination: executives focus on what will be, while their managers receive guidance in order to handle what is.

In M & A processes employees react in different ways:

  • First up are the winners – those employees most likely to benefit from organizational change and to feel pride at the prospect of an enhanced company identity – for whom some of those seven reasons may come into play. But those reasons will be felt far more strongly by other employees. In addition to the winners, there are three other de facto worker groups that emerge during change.
  • The switchers – These high achievers can readily go elsewhere, and may not have the patience for the turmoil and paralysis that come with change. That’s especially true if this change seems wrong – headed to them.
  • The survivors – These are the employees who will do anything to hold on, for reasons varying from trying to protect a pension to lacking the energy or talent to go elsewhere.
  • The losers – Those badly affected by the change may turn into the walking dead because of a loss of hope combined with increased fear or even anger. They can harm the winners, motivate the switchers to go and make the survivors even more bitter. Therefore, this group must be removed from the company ranks as quickly as possible to avoid infecting others with their negativity.

Feedback and performance appraisals:

  • Clear goals.
  • Authentic buy – in.
  • Credible, complete assessments.
  • Clear developmental path.
  • Genuine pay / performance link.
  • Focus on learning.
  • Engaged follow – up.
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