Decision-Making: Emotional or Intellectual?

By September 8, 2015Decision Process

head-and-heartIt’s an important question. Understanding the answer (and the thinking that leads to it) is vital for anyone selling anything.

A client of mine – who is also a very successful sales leader and entrepreneur – puts it this way:  “People make decisions emotionally and justify them intellectually.” For significant business decisions, I think that’s almost right.

The problem I have with the statement is the word “justify.” “Justify” implies that the decision maker is not totally rational. Maybe not totally knee-jerk crazy or lazy, but certainly less than a bona fide businessperson. The word implies that once the emotional buying trigger gets pulled, it’s game over. Come hell or high water the decision maker will pull out all the stops to construct what appears to be concrete reasoning to support the emotionally reached conclusion.

If that were true, the only critical skill a sales pro would need to learn would be how to discover and touch on the right emotional trigger events. “Justifying” the rest would either be unnecessary or pretty much take care of itself. The fact is, it ain’t that easy!

Business people make decisions emotionally and validate them intellectually before implementing.

Decision making is both emotional and intellectual. Focus on the words “validate” and “before implementing.” No decision maker – anywhere – ever – can survive making decisions emotionally and then filling in the logical gaps with whatever makes the decision appear to look good. Decision makers do make emotionally based judgements, and they make them very, very quickly. They also know that this emotion-only stage of the decision making process produces nothing more than a happy hypothesis. Good decision makers thoroughly test the hypothesis using various scenarios and hard data analysis.

Think about it, sales leader. That’s how you made and make all of your important decisions, right? So coach your sales team in helping customers work through both the emotional and the intellectual parts of their decision processes. Customers aren’t knee-jerk crazy or lazy. You and your reps can’t afford to assume they are.


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