Use Emotion to Win Clients

by Marcia Hoeck

I was talking with a prospective client recently who said he felt like he was selling root canals — he’s a business consultant, and works with clients to help them with their financial and operational procedures and tracking.

It’s all about systems and accountability. His clients desperately need him, and they know it. He can make a big difference in their businesses, and he can show them the huge positive effect working with him can have on their bottom lines.

But they don’t want to do it. His advice is almost too logical, and they’re not motivated. Ouch.

Emotion trumps logic
Neuroscientists and psychologists have proven that the more rational a message, the less likely it is to trigger the emotional circuits in our brains that activate behavior and decisions. Rational messages and logic have to work a lot harder to move people, while emotion is one of the most powerful sources of motivation to affect human behavior. (It is no accident that the words “motivation” and “emotion” share the same Latin root, “movere,” which means “to move.”)

Somehow, this guy needs to find a way to reach his potential clients with an emotional message, so their brains can make the connection.

When having conversations with clients, of course we want to be focusing on results — the logical, rational part. But we want to make sure we’re framing those results in the most powerful way, using emotion, so the client can really “hear” the benefits and the ways they or their business will be transformed by them.

You need to engage both sides of the brain
You know that the right brain is the creative brain. It’s great for getting people engaged. Wonderful for tapping the senses — with sounds, feelings, tastes, smells, and pictures. Fantastic for patterns, metaphors, analogies, role-playing, visualization. And terrible at categorizing, analyzing, placing things in order, and comparing elements. For that, you need the left brain.

Here’s the bottom line: people use both parts of their brains when making buying decisions — it takes both the right (emotional) and left (logical) brains to really seal the deal.

Which part of the brain is used when can give you clues for the sequence, timing, and key elements of your client conversations. Pitches that short change one side of the brain or the other, or present information in the wrong order, usually leave prospective clients’ brains without the right information to make a decision.

Emotion first, logic second
Here’s how the brain wants to receive information: the right brain perceives something it wants emotionally first, then the left brain uses logic to justify getting it.

So use your creativity to the max when trying to win clients. Engage them with your words. Use sounds, smells, props, and other elements to touch them emotionally. Let them really feel what it would be like to work with you, and move them with your solutions.

If you’ve used the power of emotion to make clients really want what you offer, they’ll naturally seek the logic to back up a decision to work with you. This is when you wow them with the facts of your results. Easy peasy.


emotions trump logic

Here’s how the brain wants to receive information: the right brain perceives something it wants emotionally first, then the left brain uses logic to justify getting it. People use both parts of their brains when making buying decisions — it takes both the right (emotional) and left (logical) brains to really seal the deal.


Quick Tips
1. Figure out the emotional benefits behind the logical ones your work can bring to your client, and lead with them. To do this effectively, you’ll need to know what makes the person you’re presenting to tick. For instance, don’t just tell her your solution will revitalize the company’s brand; if you’ve done your homework and know that, as marketing manager, she’s looking for visibility within her own company, you can show her how your solution will allow her to bring value to the company in a way that also makes her the hero for having thought to do it. What motivates your clients, really? Do your homework.

2. When presenting, always remember you’re talking to a person, first, who represents a company, second. Think of that person has having a sign in front of them that says, “What’s in it for me?” because he does, whether he shows it or not.

3. It’s helpful to remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs when linking your work with client emotions. After physiological needs, like hunger and thirst, and then safety needs, are met, people move on to wanting belongingness, love, and acceptance. After that comes achievement, approval, and recognition — all of which your design solutions can impact.

4. You instinctively do this when designing for your clients’ customers — you use emotion to bring them in. Using the same strategies when presenting to your own clients will help them to understand the value of your work . . . and how you can really help them.


Dig Deeper!
1. For more interesting brain information, see this excellent article on the rise of the Conceptual Age (right brain) over the Information Age (left brain) from Wired magazine, “Revenge of the Right Brain.”

2. Don’t forget also to read Daniel Pink’s best seller, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future

3. And check out Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for a better understanding of what drives all of us.


7 thoughts on “Use Emotion to Win Clients

  1. Ana

    I love this message! This particular article has caught my attention. Adding a personal touch is all it takes for a successful working relationship, as well as to increase your chances of receiving more positive responses along the way. Cheers!

  2. Marcia Hoeck

    Hi Ana and Mark,
    Hey, thanks for taking the time to comment — I LOVE this subject! Sometimes we try so hard we forget the easy part — like using emotion.

    I particularly like the part about the more rational a message, the less likely it is to trigger the brain circuits that activate behavior and decisions. Studies have been done of political races to that effect — one has only to remember the popularity of a figure like Bill Clinton to see how this hits home, especially when we follow that by watching a less emotional politician try to win with logic. No contest!

  3. Matt Perelstein

    Heck yeah, Marcia! Right brain rules!

    we are on a personal mission to teach the world about the wonder and joy of having high EQ (right-brain functioning). The most popular type of therapy right now is CBT (cognitive behavioural) which works well, but it’s mostly left-brain focussed (as is most of our education system in the US). We are adding the essential right-brain component to make it CABT (cognitive-affective behavioural). You just can’t ignore the power of our emotional right-brain, and how much that affects our lives!

    EQ + IQ = LOL !!
    and
    EQ > IQ

    Great article — Thanks — I will send others here to read it!

  4. Debbie Pokornik

    Great article Marcia! So much of life is about balance isn’t it? Right brain & left brain; yin & yang; masculine & feminine…. it always amazes me that we have to be reminded of this again and again. It appears we do, however, and your article is an excellent reminder. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

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