Emotional Data, Execution and Tactics, Leadership, Marketing Strategy, Messaging, Positioning, Sales and Elevator Pitch, Sales Strategy

Emotional Barriers: The Invisible Walls Keeping You From Closing the Deal

by: Grant Gooding

Whether you realize it or not, you are fighting two critical mental battles with a prospect to get them to buy.  And, if you don’t win both of them, you are unlikely to close the sale.

These two battles are (i) removing emotional barriers and (ii) creating emotional motivators; ideally, done in that order.  Every organization at least attempts the latter, creating emotional motivators, by using value propositions and sales messages; but very few ever consider the emotional barriers that are keeping those motivators from working.  

Not to be confused with functional or logistical barriers that might make a sale improbable or impossible (such as geography, tech stack, compatibility, etc.), emotional barriers are like your psychological immune system; they protect your biases and attack outside ideas that are contrary to your beliefs and experiences. Emotional barriers are the walls that you need to break down in your prospect’s mind so they can accept the emotional motivators which are your value propositions and sales messages.

The following are two examples of common emotional barriers and how to break them down.

Example 1: The Price Barrier

A simple example most people in marketing and sales can relate to is disclosing the price of a good or service. Typically, the price isn’t disclosed until the end of a pitch (this is even the case in many digital and retail funnels).  This is a classic and often-used sales technique.  The theory is that you want to give yourself as much opportunity as possible to communicate features and benefits so the price-to-value ratio shifts in your favor.  However, what sales and marketing people rarely take into consideration is that without having a reasonable idea of the price, our fear-based brain will fixate on the likelihood of affording the price and the prospect will miss some of the emotional motivators embedded into the pitch.  

How to Remove the Price Barrier:

Taking down a price barrier before the presentation is a way to ensure your prospect can accept the value propositions and sales messages you worked so hard to create.  An easy way to break down this emotional barrier is to say something to your prospect at the beginning of the conversation such as “I want you to know that you can afford what I am about to show you.  If you couldn’t, I wouldn’t be here and I would have a tough time staying in business.”  A simple comment like this will remove this powerful emotional barrier, show your prospects that you have empathy, and strengthen your emotional connection with them.  Now that they can free their mind of their price barrier, you have given their brain permission to accept the emotional motivators and value propositions of your product, service, or appeal. 

Example 2: The Past Experiences Barrier

Our brains are wired to prioritize past experiences. In his book “Blink,” Malcolm Gladwell talks about the power of thin-slicing: our ability to gauge what is important from a very narrow period of experience. In the context of emotional barriers, our brain thin-slices negative experiences and uses them as a heuristic, or mental shortcut, for future interactions. This mental shortcut becomes a formidable emotional barrier to closing a sale.

The past experience barrier is particularly challenging and frustrating because it is unlikely to be quickly overcome.  As an example, let’s say a customer has experienced delays and inaccuracies in deliveries from your company.  Over time, a heuristic forms in the mind of this customer.  That heuristic might be “They can’t get things to me on time or accurately.”  Then let’s say you try and upsell a great new service to this customer.  Even if you have corrected the delays and inaccuracies, the heuristic will still be true in their mind and you will still have to fight an emotional barrier.  This emotional barrier might be something like “If they can’t get the basics right, how can they handle something complex?”  This barrier will prevent your company from ever upselling a more complex product or service until this barrier is removed. 

How to Remove the Past Experiences Barrier

One way to remove this barrier is to show the customer that their heuristic is incorrect.  However, using words or interpersonal communication to remove this barrier will not likely work.  If you simply say that we have fixed our order accuracy and delivery processes, this claim is counter to the experiences of the customer and the heuristic in their mind.  Just making this claim will likely lead to feelings of distrust and further decrease the probability of a sale.  Instead, use a logistical method to remove a logistical barrier.  Send a report to the customer showing that their deliveries (and maybe all deliveries to all customers) were on time and accurate for the last several months.  This approach will break down that emotional barrier and make that customer open to the benefits of your new service.

Understanding and addressing emotional barriers is not just a sales technique; it’s a critical component of effective communication and relationship-building in business. These barriers, whether they stem from price concerns, past experiences, or the litany of other barriers that exist, act as formidable walls preventing prospects from fully engaging with your value propositions. By recognizing these invisible walls and strategically dismantling them, you provide a clear path for your emotional motivators to resonate deeply with your prospects. This approach not only enhances the likelihood of closing the deal but also fosters a foundation of trust and understanding with customers and prospects. Ultimately, the key to successful sales and marketing lies not just in what you are offering, but in how you navigate the emotional landscape of your prospects.

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