Are customers rational or emotional? They are both. Sticking to the rational needs only will get you an agreement but unlikely the sale. I like how this 20-a-day for two decades smoker explains her journey to quitting: “I had meant to give up smoking for years. Yet, despite all the horrible labels on cigarette packets and health warnings everywhere, it just never felt to me as if it was really doing me that much damage. I had two children and had stopped smoking throughout both pregnancies only to start again afterwards. So, it seemed as if I minded enough not to damage them, but had set aside covering my own health.”  Crazy, huh?

How effective are warning labels on cigarettes?

But you see, bereft of the emotion she was going through, you are reading (and possibly judging her) as a rational person.  Are customers rational or emotional? Even  grotesque images on cigarette packets showing damaged lungs with the warning that, ‘Smoking causes lung cancer’ struggle to trigger emotion.  Rationally the smoker  knows it’s bad for her but emotionally she reasons, “I know what I’m doing.” Or, “As a mother, (emotion) it’s bad for my unborn child, but not for me (rational).” Much like the Kenyan voter who is rational in his views about leadership, until he gets into the voting booth and emotion overwhelms him. And tribe takes precedence.

Difference between rational and emotional buying (or selling)

Rational needs are objective and include financial, technical even strategic. Emotional needs are different and can include professional, social and psychological needs.  I wish it was that clear cut when selling, though.  Alas!, it’s not.  Let’s look at two examples to simplify this. A lady passenger at the bus stop will likely board the matatu where the tout woos her with ‘Karibu siste. Umekaa smart.” (Welcome, my sister. And you smart). All said while opening the door for her. Rationally she wants to travel. But the tout know how to win the sale: emotionally.

Rational and emotional needs examples

Due to peer pressure (emotion) a fellow might rationally call a land agent wanting to buy a plot in this area his peers are.  On viewing the land, possibly rationality kicks in and he says, ‘But it’s so far. Let me rethink.  Meanwhile, show me something closer to town.’ The seller knows the buyer’s budget, and that he is setting himself up for a dignified exit. How? The price close to town is definitely much higher, to which he will state, ‘This is beyond my budget’ and a sale is lost. 

So the progressive seller says:, ‘Predictions are that with the by- pass  coming up next year , your investment will more than double. Why? There will be a migration on people from town to this area. In fact, in two years’ time the price of land here will be out of reach for many. Those that buy now will be laughing all the way to the bank then.” That response is laden with appeals to both rational and emotional needs.  For instance, the reference to, ‘Those that…’ appeals to the peer pressure.

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