Back to Sales Management

A Complete Guide to Emotional Selling

Written by:

Sean McAlindin, a business and arts writer, has a decade-long experience in music and culture journalism and recently ventured into business writing.

Edited by:

Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.

A Complete Guide to Emotional Selling

A Complete Guide to Emotional Selling

Humans, by nature, are emotional creatures. Think about it. Many of the biggest decisions of our lives are guided by emotion. Marriage, parenthood, and even our career choice. In fact, emotions are the number one trait that separates us from the apparent “intelligence” of AI. Simply put, emotions are our identity. 

As such, appealing to emotion is a tried and true way of making sales. But what exactly is emotional selling? How does it work on our psychology? And how can we use it to strategically make sales? 

In this comprehensive guide, we will examine the definition of emotional selling and the role of emotions in the buying process. We will also identify core emotions that can be targeted to make sales along with great examples of sales campaigns for each one. 

We’ll also discuss helpful tips for getting the most out of emotional selling. Finally, we’ll cover the benefits of emotional selling and share a few more examples of memorable emotional selling campaigns. 

After reading this article, you will have a complete understanding of the highly effective sales and marketing strategy known as emotional selling. Ready or not…it’s time to get emotional.

Key Takeaways

  • Emotional selling appeals to the human aspects that define our life experience. As a result, it can actually be more effective than logical sales tactics.

  • Emotion is hard-wired into our brains causing us to make subconscious associations and decisions before we think about them rationally. This makes it a perfect way to open the door to a potential sale.

  • Emotional selling can be used with a wide variety of both positive and negative emotions. Each has its own benefits and use cases depending on what you are selling and how you want consumers to perceive your brand.

  • Mastering specific strategies and techniques for leveraging emotional selling can increase your chances of success. We’ll be sure to cover them all.

  • There are numerous benefits that come along with emotional selling, all of which we talk about in this article.

The Definition of Emotional Selling

There is a saying that logic ends where emotion begins. This means emotion has the magical ability to influence us to make decisions that would cause any rational person to pause and reconsider. 

While this may sound a bit dodgy when it comes to big life choices, it’s the way we humans operate. As a result, knowing how to play to emotion can be an extremely useful tool when it comes to persuading someone to buy something.

We all want things. But the question the salesperson should be asking is: why do we want them? The answer is sometimes logical, but, more often than not, it’s rooted in emotion.

Emotional selling is a sales strategy that leverages customers’ feelings—rather than logic—to influence a buying decision.

Instead of selling the features or benefits of the product, it hones in on how the customer believes they will feel before, during, and after the purchase. Although there are many approaches to emotional selling, one common theme is that the focus of this sales strategy is almost always on the customer, not the product.

In basic terms, emotional selling targets a customer’s emotional experience to sell them something. It relies on activating a subconscious desire for wanting a product or service, as opposed to a rational, logic-based explanation. 

Emotional Selling statistics

For the salesperson, this requires making genuine connections with customers about their feelings, needs, and desires. It means identifying and drawing out specific emotions that will move a customer to pull the trigger and make a purchase. For marketers, it’s all about activating powerful core emotions that can build positive connections with your brand in the minds of consumers. 

Historically, a sales pitch has always been about the product. You talk about the amazing features, durability, or value. These are mostly rational arguments. But research shows we are more likely to buy things because of the way they make us feel, rather than on an objective analysis of product features. 

Emotional advertising content performs twice as well as rational content. (IPA Databank)

In today’s competitive business landscape, simply presenting your services isn’t enough to captivate your audience and drive sales. Consumers are seeking more than a money-for-product transaction. They want to connect with brands on an emotional and personal level. 

This is where emotional selling presents a distinct advantage over other marketing techniques. By exercising the power of emotions, businesses can forge deep connections with their customers, establish trust, increase brand awareness, and ultimately boost sales. 

The Role of Emotions in The Buying Process

Scientifically speaking, why is it so effective to target emotions in sales? Why can’t we just explain how good our product or service is and then wait for potential customers to stampede through our doors? It’s because emotions come first in our brains. 

95% of purchases are influenced by subconscious factors. (Harvard Business School)

This is how our minds work. Stimuli from the outside world pass through our thalamus and go straight to the amygdala, an ancient part of the brain that processes emotion, and then travel to our neocortex where rational thinking happens.

The amygdala processes information a split second earlier than the neocortex. That’s why sometimes we act irrationally. It’s because our neocortex didn’t have enough time to intercede.

A strong emotional trigger can create an “amygdala hijack,” during which we experience intense joy, stress, excitement, anger, or anxiety, depending on the input. Masters of emotional marketing know how to use “positive hijacking” to push people to try new products and short-circuit their fear of leaving their purchasing comfort zone.

The key factor of emotion in sales is that it pushes people towards quick and decisive action. In response to an emotion, humans are compelled to do something, sometimes without even thinking about it. By creating a strong emotional experience for your customers, you naturally encourage them to make a decision about your product, whether they realize it or not.

This is the basis of impulse buying. People mostly buy things based on how they make them feel, regardless of price. The thought of affordability, which is rational, only comes later after the emotion has already kicked in.

As part of our primitive survival instincts, emotions quickly stimulate a direct course of action. In the case of sales, rather than fight or flight, our instincts tell us to buy or walk away. But even if, as a prospective customer, we choose to walk away, the emotional residue of our interaction with the brand/product will linger. 

In addition to processing emotions, the amygdala also boosts memory by enhancing perception and triggering the release of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, to boost attention. The stronger the emotional arousal following the experience, the brighter the memory of that experience. 

This is how you can use emotional marketing to create brand impressions that last. The trick is to make the emotional association with your brand a positive one, even if you do it by eliciting so-called “negative emotions.”

Identifying Target Emotions 

There is a simple way to identify target emotions for emotional selling: the positive approach and the negative approach.

Interestingly enough, the negative approach is far more commonly used by salespeople. Essentially, it means presenting your product as a cure or prevention for the prospect’s greatest pain, frustration, or fear. 

A positive approach, on the other hand, portrays the product as something that will cause good things to happen in the future. Positive emotions make us feel like our needs are being met and that our actions align with our values. In fact, they can be used to sell products when there isn’t even a problem to solve, which opens up whole new worlds of possibility. 

70% of viewers seeing an ad that moved them emotionally are highly likely to buy the product. (Unruly)

Positive Selling Emotions

There’s really nothing better a salesperson can do than to make a customer feel good about themselves. Not only does this increase sales – it’s just good business. 

Let’s take a look at some positive emotions that can encourage purchasing behavior and forge strong connections between a brand and its audience. 

1. Joy

Happiness is one of the most memorable and pleasurable human emotions. If you can convince consumers that your product will bring them joy, it will create a strong desire for them to possess it. 

Think about commercials for Disney World, including “Escape to your Happyverse,” and “Magic is Endless” or Six Flags’ “Mr. Six”— whose wild dancing and generally-amped up attitudes are used to sell fun and hilarious times at the theme parks. It almost seems as if our desire for this sort of escapist entertainment has been sewn into our cultural souls, even though the actual experience rarely lives up to the expectations. 

On some level, we are always chasing joy, as fleeting as it may be. As a result, representations of joy in marketing are extremely attractive to humans who are looking to feel happy and good about life. 

2. Love

Feelings of love for our family, friends, and significant others can motivate us to do all kinds of crazy things. We are a tribal species, and the sense of community and safety conveyed by love is buried deep within our DNA. 

Car commercials are known to play up this feeling by portraying themselves as a safe, secure way to be with your family.

Consider the 2014 Volkswagen commercial “Stay in Safe Hands”, or the more recent “Ocean” for the Genesis V80, in which a dad stops work when his daughter asks how big the ocean is. Both these commercials deliver a sense of love, safety, and caring that generate a genuinely positive connection between potential buyers and their brands. 

In Google’s 2014 ad, “Dear Sophie” an unseen dad chronicles the life of his daughter using Google products, selling a sense of love that can be supported by their technology. 

Proctor and Gamble’s “Best Job” showed how mothers fueled the success of Olympians. The tears in the eyes of the parents when their daughters win gold says it all. Although P&G is primarily a consumer health company, and the ad isn’t even selling a specific product, the positive associations with love made through the inspiring and relatable short film offer proof of how important this emotion is to potential customers, and therefore, to marketers as well. 

3. Contentment

Satisfaction is another emotion that marketers and potential customers value highly. After all the hard work we’ve put into our careers and raising our families, sometimes we just want to feel content with what we have. 

A good example of this emotion can be seen in VRBO’s commercial titled “That Look Only Happens at a VRBO” where a husband and wife give each other a loving look of serenity while relaxing by a bonfire after a perfect day on their vacation rental. It communicates a feeling of satisfaction that we’re all searching for in our relationships and our lives, and lets viewers know that VRBO can get them there. 

4. Awe

Sometimes we are overcome by emotions that feel somehow greater or larger than life. By appealing to our sense of wonder, salespeople can tap into our primal urges and desires to make meaningful connections with something bigger than ourselves.

Coke’s “The Wonder of Us” Nike’s “Just Do It”  and Apple’s “Shot on an iPhone” series are all great examples of this awe-inspired emotional sales tactic because they focus on incredible feats, breathtaking images, and universal human themes to provoke a sense of unbridled wonder among viewers of these commercials. 

5. Empathy

One way to kindle strong emotion in even the most stoic person is to get them to feel for someone else. When we are able to put ourselves in the shoes of another, we allow ourselves to feel emotions we might otherwise be closed off to. 

During the 2017 Super Bowl, 84 Lumber’s “The Entire Journey” commercial told the story of a symbolic migrant’s journey toward becoming a legal American citizen. In so doing, it evoked compassion and respect for all those with a will to succeed and connected the lumber company’s image directly to the mythology of the “American Dream.” 

6. Gratitude

Research shows that the more gratitude we feel, the happier we are. As such, using the ‘gratitude’ emotion can also be an effective way of building positive associations with your brand. 

Budweiser’s “Stand by You” TV commercial sells this emotion by telling consumers about its clean water giveaway programs activated in the wake of natural disasters, like the hurricanes that ravaged Texas and Puerto Rico in 2017. Watching others give back and seeing the looks of gratitude from those in need inspires a sense of compassion and empathy among viewers that transcends a simple, lager beer. 

7. Kindness

We feel good when we do good things for others. Correspondingly, kindness is another emotion that’s been used in emotional selling to increase positive feelings about a product or service. 

Many emotional selling campaigns over the years have honed in on this feeling, including “The Power of Kindness” by the British Red Cross and Amazon’s “Kindness, the greatest gift.”

8. Pride

Sometimes a customer may purchase an item because they believe it may cause others to respect them more. This is an especially common advertising technique for luxury brands. 

For instance, someone might buy a Rolex watch because they think others will assume that they are successful and look up to them. Throughout history, Rolex has used themes of superiority, excellence, and class to sell its timepieces. Not much has changed from their vintage ads and this Rolex commercial from 2023

The Lincoln Navigator ads starring Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey are another more recent example of selling an image based on emotions such as pride, confidence, and having a sense of control. It would be hard not to feel inspired while watching McConaughey drive confidently through the desert, and the marketer knows that viewers’ high regard for the actor will translate easily into regard and respect for the product.

9. Loyalty

Customer loyalty is defined as a customer’s tendency to purchase repeatedly from a particular business or company.

It is often motivated by an emotional attachment to a particular brand, or a belief that their product is superior. Eventually, brand loyalty becomes a part of a customer’s identity. 

Over time, customers often continue to buy a product from a specific brand because they feel personally connected to it and believe in its quality. For instance, although the people who buy each iteration of the iPhone can rattle off product features they enjoy, they are really purchasing it because it has become a part of who they are, and it’s hard to imagine life, or themselves, without it. 

Other companies have been able to accomplish similar emotional connections, including Ford with American truck buyers, Levi-Strauss with blue jeans, and Harley Davidson with motorcycles. A wide array of brands have achieved prolonged success by tying their products to a well-developed identity that resonates with their customers’ sense of who they are. 

Why? Because it’s one of the best ways to build a devoted customer base that lasts over time. 

10. Belonging

Similar to customer loyalty, customers often repeat their purchase of products when the brand offers them a sense of community. For instance, people who subscribe to a particular fitness club or yoga studio might keep going because of the connections they’ve made with like-minded people there, even though they could easily go somewhere else. 

While major brands can’t realistically create this intimate level of belonging, it doesn’t stop them from selling the feeling. The “Share a Coke” commercial series is a ubiquitous example featuring loads of happy young people doing fun things together. 

In fact, Coca-Cola has been successfully selling its concept of diversity and inclusion for decades going back to “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” in 1971. It’s part of their brand identity that they’ve worked for many decades to cultivate.

11. Altruism

On some level, we all want to feel like we are contributing to the greater good. More and more, it seems like brands are achieving success by selling a vision for a better world. Think about TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie who gave away a free pair of shoes for every pair he sold. While this tactic cost him money up front, it was part of a brilliant sales strategy that exploded his brand across the globe. 

The Kia commercial, “Beachcomber” is a recent, though more shallow, example of selling altruism. Even though it makes absolutely no sense to be driving your car on the beach during sea turtle nesting season, the emotive music and the sight of a handsome man cleaning up plastic bottles in an exciting, creative way reach viewers on an emotional level anyway. 

Negative selling emotions

So, now that we’ve examined the positive side of emotional selling, let’s take a look at some examples of how to sell with what are commonly referred to as “negative emotions.” 

Personally, I don’t consider them to be negative because they are based on human survival mechanisms and are natural emotions that all humans experience. And because these emotions don’t feel good, they can provide a major motivation for consumers to buy something to help them feel better. From a sales perspective, they are solid gold. 

1. Sadness

Selling to pain is so popular it is sometimes referred to as “sadvertising.” 

It’s a common expression in sales to say, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

Pulling on people’s heartstrings has always been a surefire way to get them to cough up money. Beggars have been perfecting this art for millennia. And you’ll never forget the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals commercial starring Sarah McLachlan featuring her tear-jerking song, “Angel.” 

It’s all about connecting with the heart over the head. Pfizer pulled this off perfectly with their ad “Graffiti” in which we think a teenage street artist is going to get in trouble with his mother for coming home late, until we realize he’s been up all night painting a mural for his sick sister. I personally hate drug companies, but this one made me tear up and probably softened my image of Pfizer on a subconscious level. 

2. Anger 

Anger is a powerful emotion that is directly associated with a desire for change. When used in marketing, anger can create a sense of urgency and drive people to take decisive and immediate action. 

It can also be an effective way to grab people’s attention and create a memorable message that sticks in their minds. Additionally, by tapping into a shared source of anger, businesses can create a sense of community and belonging with their audience.

In fact, the content that travels best on social media algorithms has been shown to be divisive, morally-stimulating material that inspires outrage. Donald Trump rode this wave to the presidency in 2016 in part because his combative style elicited a tribal response from his voters that played well online. 

Content that elicits anger has a 38% chance of going viral. (Moz)

For the 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” campaign, Nike hired football player and social activist Colin Kaepernick for “Believe in Something.” Though he played quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, he is best known for kneeling during the national anthem in protest against police brutality against African American men in the U.S.  

As a result, half the nation was outraged and began burning their Nike products in protest. The other half was applauding the company and investing in Nike products to support the brand. 

As for Nike, no matter which side you’re on, they were the talk of the nation that year. And by tapping into this anger and frustration around racial injustice, the campaign led to a 31% increase in online sales for Nike, and the company’s stock price also increased.

In other recent examples, Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” and “Reverse Selfie” shine a light on the unrealistic beauty standards portrayed in advertising and social media. The visceral reaction they caused led them to go viral and draw a whole new generation of consumers toward Dove’s brand. 

3. Envy

Although envy is typically viewed as a negative human emotion, it is also an effective method to drive sales. Think about the typical fashion model. They are drop-dead gorgeous, almost otherworldly creatures, who look nothing like your average person. But, dang, can and do sell makeup and bikinis. 

To appeal to customers’ innate sense of jealousy and competition, it’s not really essential to focus on how your product or service can help that person. Instead, highlight how it can give that person a competitive advantage, or help them achieve or obtain what another person or business has.

A customer motivated by envy may make a purchase because of their perceived competition with others, a feeling that they don’t want to be left out, or a desire to be more like someone else. They may subconsciously believe that if they buy the product, they will somehow miraculously become like the person who is selling it. 

How many times have we seen rich, beautiful models relaxing on yachts used to sell us perfume, clothes, jewelry, and other luxury items? It’s a lifestyle that is out of reach for 99% of the world, yet we still wish it to be true. 

Another more down-to-earth example of this sales technique is Samsung’s “Screen Envy”, which features a guy admiring his buddy’s much larger phone screen and, of course, deciding he needs one for himself. 

4. Lust

Everyone knows that sex sells. 

As humans, and animals, we are hardwired to pay attention to sex. It’s a genetic way to prolong the survival of our bloodline and our species. As such, it’s still the most popular of the “seven deadly sins of advertising.” 

Sex was used to sell products as early as 1871 by Pearl Tobacco when their cigarette package displayed an image of a “naked maiden.”  During the early 1900s, just exposing the ankles and arms of female models was enough to arouse interest in new products and styles. 

More recently, American Apparel gained notoriety throughout the 00s for their overtly sexual billboards that resembled softcore porn more than clothing ads. Countless others have used sex to activate deep emotions of desire in consumers, including Calvin Klein, Victoria’s Secret, Dolce & Gabbana, and Abercrombie & Fitch, and as a result, have woven their way into our primal global consciousness. 

5. Fear

Fear, and its less intense sibling, anxiety, are two of the strongest and oldest emotions rooted in our need for survival, security, and protection.

Despite having a negative connotation, when used in selling, fear is a powerful motivator that has serious emotional value. 

Fear-based buying is focused on what may or may not happen if someone does not purchase a product or service. Often, especially during political or social uncertainty, customers think they need to purchase something because they fear the fallout of not doing so. Remember the “great toilet paper shortage” of 2020?

Fear in advertising gained popularity in the 1920s when Listerine created mouthwash as a way to combat halitosis, or bad breath. The initial advertising campaign centered around Jane, a gorgeous young woman who struggled to get married because of her bad breath. After the ads, Listerine’s revenue skyrocketed from $115,000 to $8 million within seven years, and marketers have been using fear to connect to consumers ever since. 

The marketing strategy of using fear-related emotions proved early on that it had legs. Here’s an example of a Listerine commercial from the 1950s based on the same concept. 

Insurance is another common example of an industry that often leverages fear-based selling. You can convince someone to purchase a line of coverage by explaining the worst-case scenarios of not having insurance. Allstate’s “Mayhem” campaign plays on this concept by showing the terrible consequences of not having insurance. 

Anywhere bad things can happen is the perfect place to launch a fear-based sales campaign. Here are a couple more examples: an anti-drinking campaign called “Fragile Childhood” that presents alcoholic parents as the true monsters, and home security brand Simplisafe’s  “Fear is Everywhere.” 

6. Greed

Although the word “greed” is often perceived negatively, it’s important to understand it in the context of emotional selling. To some extent, nearly everyone desires to gain more than they already have, whether it be wealth, praise, love, security, or success. This emotion motivates prospects to make a purchase by pointing out the personal value they can attain by taking advantage of a marketer’s offer.

Customers may feel they need to purchase something simply because it exists and they currently don’t own it. An example would be someone who buys every model of a classic car brand, even if they don’t drive it. A more positive spin on this angle would be collectors who obsess over owning specific versions of stamps, cards, and action figures.

Ironically, much of the emotional power of greed comes in the form of hope, where the expected reward far exceeds the time and cost to be invested. In the real world, this manifests itself in many ways, such as gambling, risky stock investments, and other shady get-rich-quick schemes.

A plethora of sports betting ads unleashed in recent years are investing millions in the emotional selling tactic of greed. They can be summed up by examining the Bet 365 ad starring Aaron Paul, who is best known for playing a drug dealer in “Breaking Bad,” as he seductively lures us into the world of online gambling. Even the throbbing, electronic music helps to convey a feeling of intense addiction and boundless greed. 

7. Loneliness

As humans, we are wired for connection. As a result, playing on our fears of loneliness can be a powerful selling technique. Phone chatlines capitalized on the effectiveness of this strategy in the 90s, and it’s more recently been used by dating apps including OKCupid, Bumble, and, though the former tend to focus more on positive imagery of connection, rather than loneliness. 

In 2016, fashion icon John Lewis’ “Man on the Moon” played into this concept beautifully, knowing that the antidote to loneliness is connection. The story follows a young girl who finds creative ways to build a friendship with a lonely old man living on the moon. 

Like every negative emotion, selling to loneliness is only effective if we present a solution or antidote to the bad feelings. As salespeople selling with negative emotions, it’s our job to present both the problem and the immediate solution to this hypothetical reality, and avoid leaving our customer withering away in gloom and doom for any longer than necessary. 

8. Guilt

Humanitarian ads have been using the “guilt” emotion as a marketing technique for ages. When you could change someone’s life for only a dollar a day, how can you say no?

However, it’s a risky proposition because people tend to shy away from guilt and become defensive. It only works if you give your customers a quick and easy way to relieve the feeling, and even then they might resent you for it later. 

Social pressure is especially effective for selling with guilt which is effectively the polar opposite of altruism. Drug companies managed to leverage this concept to effectively push their vaccines during the coronavirus pandemic. I mean, how many of us really wanted to get the vaccine? Most of us did it because we felt like we had to for the sake of others. 

9. Embarrassment

It’s the stuff of our worst nightmares. We’ve all been there and we’ve all been traumatized by it. The drive to be accepted by the community is extremely strong in the human mind, a product of our reliance on the tribe to survive. When that goes awry, the results are often painfully embarrassing. 

Some of the funniest and most obvious sales uses of embarrassment come along with bodily functions we don’t want anyone to know about. I still laugh when I think about Detrol LA’s “Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now” jingle from the 90s. 

10. Shame 

A more extreme version of embarrassment, shame can strike the core of our very identity with detrimental effects. Although it is primarily a self-directed emotion, it can also be used to make you feel self-conscious about how others might perceive you. A customer motivated by shame may purchase something because they’re concerned about how they may look or feel if they don’t buy it.

Have you ever donated to a random cause at the grocery store, even though you didn’t want to? This is a perfect example of shame being used as an emotional trigger to encourage a customer to make a purchase. It’s more about not being perceived as stingy or cold than actually giving to the cause you believe in.

Shame was used more overtly in the mid-20th century to sell hygiene products to women. Take a look at these vintage ads featuring isolated and shunned women with body odor, body fat, and “dishpan hands” to see how poorly they’ve aged. 

More recently, Gillette razors released an ad called “We Believe” during the height of the #metoo movement which challenged the toxic masculinity that they had actively encouraged for decades. However, as hopeful as the message may have been, the campaign was met with cultural backlash that may have ultimately hurt Gilette’s brand image. 

It’s a good example of the risks of using negative emotional sales tactics. There’s a fine line between selling your customer a solution to their problems and personally offending them. 

11. Disgust

Being absolutely grossed out by something is another strong motivator for change. Both cleaning products and cold medicine commercials have cashed in on this selling technique with advertising that zooms in on the disgusting microbes that live in our homes and in our bodies. 

If you can stomach it, look no further than these Lamisil toe fungus and Mucinex commercials to see how drug companies simply can’t help themselves from personifying bacteria as cartoons with disturbing, yet memorable, results. 

12. Impatience

When you’re in a rush and need to finish something as quickly as possible, you’re more likely to accept a sales offer that you otherwise wouldn’t. Smart salespeople take advantage of the fact that sometimes making an imperfect purchase is faster, and preferable, to the alternative.

Snickers tapped into this feeling with a recent ad that features a bored, doom-scrolling teen emotionally saved by a candy bar. After all, this is the same brand that for decades has asked up the simple question, “Hungry?…Why Wait?

In their tagline “When you know what you want, waiting isn’t an option,” New Balance shoes offered us a creative way to view the emotion of “impatience” in relation to athletic shoes. Their “Impatience is a Virtue” commercial drives this point home with everyday athletes and sports icons extolling the merits of seeing a goal and going for it. Its release during the aftermath of nationwide protests for civil rights gave this theme an ever broader emotional context. 

Tips for Emotional Selling

Emotional selling isn’t only for commercial advertisements. It’s something that seasoned cold callers and professional salespeople use to close deals every day. By possessing an innate ability to read their customers and pick up on emotional cues, those with the greatest emotional intelligence do it almost subconsciously to achieve profitable results. 

To enhance the effectiveness of marketing strategies, it is good to know that emotional selling can be taught and learned. We’re here to help you along your way with the best tips on how to use emotional selling to connect with customers and make more sales for your business. 

1. Focus on feelings, not features

Don’t get bogged down talking about product features. While those might appeal to the logical brain of buyers, it is the antithesis of emotional selling. Instead, highlight the emotional benefits of the purchase. For example, talk about how consumers will feel, or describe the experience they might get when they purchase a particular product. Sell the feeling, not the features. 

2. Be a good listener

Listening is essential for understanding what the customer cares about. Be sure to ask good follow-up questions to show that you’re paying attention and to gain further context. Sense the emotions being conveyed by the customer. What do they need? What do they want? What do they believe will make their life better?

Every time you encounter a new customer, read into their situation more deeply. If they’re looking at a Subaru, they may let on that they’re searching for a car that will keep their family safe. If they are browsing new motorcycles, they may be feeling a need for freedom or escape. The more questions you ask, the better you’ll be able to read your customer and cater to their emotional needs. 

3. Read your customer

Emotional selling is the ability to hone in on each individual customer, appeal to how they’re feeling at that moment in time, and offer a solution that either changes that feeling, expands on that feeling, or gives them the feeling they’re really looking for. 

While it can be easy to fall into always using a prepared sales pitch on particular products that you know by heart, emotional selling takes more effort. You need to be able to “read” what your customers might be thinking and feeling. If you discover their secret desire, you may be able to deliver on what they are wanting before they even know what it is. 

You can spot opportunities for emotional selling especially when you see a customer is indecisive, unsure, trying to choose between multiple options, or lingering over items that catch their eye spontaneously. What is it about these products that is holding them back or drawing them in?

Pay attention to your customers’ verbal and nonverbal cues, including facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and the words they use. Ask open-ended questions to encourage them to express their desires, fears, and aspirations. Understanding their personal stories and motivations can help you uncover the emotional triggers that resonate with them.

4. Use value-based language 

When talking to customers, use language that suggests you get their values. This will strengthen your connection with them and help you earn their trust. 

People prefer to buy from salespeople who they like and agree with. If you can uncover their values, it can present an opening to build rapport and establish yourself as a person they feel comfortable working with. Once they believe that you understand their worldview, they are going to be more likely to follow through with a sale. 

5. Be honest and genuine

As tempting as it sometimes may be, don’t lie or make something up to close a deal. Emotional selling relies on honesty. If you lose the confidence of the customer, they’re no longer going to trust you to help them with a sale, let alone their subconscious emotional well-being. 

On the other hand, if you can come off as real and genuine, the doors to emotional selling will likely fly wide open. Don’t be afraid to share something about yourself to make space for a bigger conversation. Getting to know the real you only helps to make customers feel more comfortable opening up about their own hopes, fears, joys, and struggles. 

6. Explain the risk of not buying

Fear is a strong emotion. You don’t want to scare your buyer off, but casually mentioning the risk of what might or might not happen if they don’t buy can be a powerful motivator. While you don’t want to come off as a doomsayer, that seed of doubt you artfully planted may come back to bloom once they have a chance to consider the consequences of inaction. 

7. Use social influence

One of the best ways to evoke emotions is to use stories and testimonials that show how your product or service has helped others in similar situations. These methods build social proof, trust, and credibility, as well as inspire and persuade your prospects. 

Try using vivid details, emotions, and outcomes to make your social proofs more engaging and relatable. Reviews, success stories, before and after transformations, and user-generated content are all fantastic ways to do this. 

8. Make it relatable 

People are attracted to those who think like them. Speak your audience’s language and make sure your audience gets your brand message in the right way. 

As a salesperson, you are there to educate, but not to lecture. A true people-person knows how to subtly alter their language, manner of speaking, and choices of words to connect with their audience, whomever it may be. This will help create a sense of ease that opens up the doors to emotional sales. 

9. Spark curiosity

Surprising experiences are recalled more clearly. So channel your creativity to develop a concept your audience has never considered before. Things that interest us, give us joy. If you can spark a new idea in your customers’ minds, they’re going to remember you and probably be open to a potential sale. 

10. Pause and reflect

Emotional marketing requires delving into deep topics such as family values, personal wellness, career goals, and life dreams. Don’t be afraid to pose meaningful questions that invite your prospects to stop and consider life’s endless possibilities and what they hope to get out of their time here. 

We often miss the opportunity to reflect and voice these personal feelings in everyday conversations. It may catch your customer off guard at first, but they are more than likely to share with you if you give them the chance. These honest, open conversations can lead to real possibilities for investment and sales, if you’re only willing to see where they take you. 

11. Be bold

We’re so overloaded with information these days that it usually takes something monumental to catch our attention. Don’t be afraid to go to extremes by making bold statements or asking controversial questions. If you want people to have an emotional reaction and pay attention to your brand, you may need to be provocative. 

12. Reimagine the mundane 

Even if you’re selling something boring like copy paper or dishwasher detergent, try to present it in a way that people will remember. Keep in mind, when you’re practicing emotional selling you can take your pitch in almost any direction. It all depends on what type of emotional reaction you’re trying to elicit. So don’t limit your possibilities. Use your imagination and think of the most engaging, creative, and possibly far-out way to introduce your product. 

13. Make people laugh 

When you make your customers laugh and smile, you brighten their day and create a positive emotional bond with them. They’re sure to remember you and feel good when they think about the interaction. People love to laugh, and if you make them laugh, they’ll love you and your brand. So pull out your funny bone and take a moment to joke about the lighter side of life. 

14. Focus on branding

From the outset of your marketing campaign, you’ll want to decide which types of emotional responses you want people to have with your brand. Hallmark, for example, provokes positive feelings of love and happiness in the same way that Nike provokes feelings of awe and inspiration. Successful companies build emotional connections to their brand consciously over time. It takes an investment of time and resources, but it can be well worth it when the whole world gets the “fuzzy-wuzzies” every time they see your product. 

15. Use storytelling

Storytelling is an art form that has been used since the beginning of human existence and, just like human emotion, is a craft that was developed for survival. If you can accurately portray a valuable lesson that will not be forgotten for generations, then your offspring will be better for it. Consequently, there’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned, heart-to-heart story to win over your audience.

For more information about how to use storytelling to make sales, check out our article “How to Sell with Storytelling.”

16. Use visual and sensory appeals

Color, sound, and smell are directly related to emotional reactions. Think about how you can use sensory inputs to elicit desired reactions from your audience. For example, on a subconscious level, red is activating, green is calm, and purple is creative. Consider reading additional articles to delve deeper into the color psychology of sales which is a growing field unto itself. 

17. Create a sense of urgency or scarcity

Limited-time offers and high-demand products play on consumers’ fears of missing out, also known as “FOMO.” If a customer knows they need to make a decision right away, they are more likely to pull the trigger and buy what you’re selling. This is a simple and subtle fear tactic that’s surprisingly effective.

18. The allure of nostalgia

Thinking of days gone by can fill us with a sense of wistfulness for simpler times. Selling something that people feel they may have lost, yet can regain, is an influential strategy for connecting them with your brand. Baby boomers with lots of money to spend are especially susceptible to this marketing strategy.

19. Lean on morals

You only need to look back to the recent coronavirus pandemic as an example of how social responsibility was used to sell. Yes, the vaccines may have saved some lives in the end, but don’t forget that these drug companies were ultimately out to make money. The moral pitch to get the vaccine was all but put on a silver platter for the ones whose experimental treatments received emergency approval. 

20. Be inspiring

Toyota released a powerful, emotionally-charged ad campaign from 2020 to 2021 featuring the story of Paralympian Jessica Long. The ad detailed her beginnings in a Russian orphanage, her move to America to be with her adoptive parents, and her subsequently incredible sporting achievements.

Through its inspirational messages, the sales campaign featuring Jessica stirred feelings of positivity and perseverance through the notion that anything is possible. At the end of the ad, a message reminded viewers that Toyota is a proud sponsor of Team USA, cementing an association between the brand and patriotism, pride, and national excellence. This is no small feat considering that Toyota is a Japanese company that sells cars. 

21. Use the adventure appeal

We all love a good adventure from time to time, don’t we? Life can be boring without it. Car brands and vacation destinations have long used this selling technique to draw in potential customers. Just take a look at this Jeep ad to see what I’m talking about. 

22. Refine your emotional intelligence

While emotional intelligence does come easily to some people, and not so much to others, it can be learned and perfected. For example, Cornell University offers a course on the topic in their psychology of leadership program. There are numerous online programs you can enroll in, or you can browse the web for additional resources. 

At the end of the day, emotional intelligence is defined, and refined, by your interactions with others. While therapy and open talks with friends and family can help, the more you put yourself out there with strangers, the quicker your emotional sales skills will improve. If you start paying close attention to how emotion impacts sales, a whole new world of possibilities will open before you. 

Benefits of Emotional Selling

While the advantages of emotional selling may seem obvious by now, let’s take a moment to go over some of the specific benefits this sales strategy can offer your business. 

1. Build customer loyalty

Effective emotional selling creates strong relationships between customers and salespeople, as well as between customers and the products or services they buy. This may provide customers with a reason to return and keep spending money with your company. Once your client has a deep emotional connection with your brand, you’ve got them hooked for life. 

For example, I was raised on 80s and 90s Disney movies, and although I rationally disagree with many of their business ethics, decades later, I am still emotionally entranced by this brand and their movies. I recently cried when I took my daughter to see the live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid” in the theaters. And yes, I have a Disney+ subscription, even though I probably don’t need it. 

2. Validate customer decision making

By guiding your customers to purchase products and services that positively impact their emotions, you help them to gain self-esteem and validate their decisions. There’s nothing that makes us feel better than knowing that somebody truly understands us, especially on an emotional level. 

There’s a reason it’s called “retail therapy.” According to WebMD, a study found that 62% of shoppers bought something to cheer themselves up and a further 28% made a purchase to celebrate something.

3. Justify emotional purchases

Many emotionally intelligent salespeople already possess this superpower: the ability to determine “why” a customer wants to buy something, even if they’re not sure “what” they want to buy.

This unique skill allows you to create a connection with your client that validates the emotional purchase decisions they make without a need to understand all the rational information about the purchase. When you recognize someone’s emotions, and the active choices they are making in reaction to them, you help to affirm their identity – and that’s what’s important here. 

4. Generate referrals

Customers generally feel valued and heard after engaging in emotional selling. If you help people feel good about themselves and take care of their emotional health, they are more likely to recommend your product or service to others. They may tell others about their positive experience, encourage them to shop with the organization, and generate more customer referrals for your company. 

5. Provides a personalized shopping experience

Emotional selling, particularly in physical retail stores, focuses on the individual customer and their feelings at the moment. This creates a personalized shopping experience which leads the customer to develop positive perceptions about the company and its employees. We all want to be seen and heard. Emotional selling can fill this role while also pumping up your company’s bottom line. 

6. Challenge salespeople

Sales professionals may feel uninspired by talking about the same products day in and day out. However, emotional selling challenges them to find new ways to sell the products or services by making them relevant to individual customers. Working with emotional selling strategies will keep salespeople on their toes, always learning and adapting to the next customer that walks through the door. 

More Examples of Emotional Selling Campaigns

1. Apple Watch – “Dear Apple”

When Apple released its ad campaign for the Apple Watch Series 7, it featured instances where people contacted emergency services to help them in dangerous circumstances.

The marketing series called “Dear Apple” was an emotional rollercoaster ride. Viewers felt relief that responders saved the callers. At the same time, they felt a sense of fear that they, or a loved one, could find themselves in a similar scenario. 

Customers who already owned Apple Watches felt a sense of pride and loyalty that their brand of choice was helping to save lives. And those who didn’t may have felt a moral obligation to buy one now that they understood how it could potentially save a loved one’s life. 

2. Saint Jude’s Hospital

For decades, Saint Jude’s has been producing heartwarming marketing campaigns starring the many beautiful children they have helped over the years. By making an emotional connection with its audience, the hospital has managed to maintain steady levels of donations throughout uneven economic times. The emotional power of their pitch is truly hard to resist. 

3. Always – “Like a Girl”

For the 2015 Super Bowl, Always turned the cliche of doing something “like a girl” on its head. By showing common female stereotypes and juxtaposing them with preadolescent girls demonstrating how they believe girls do things – with power, determination, and skill – the commercial evoked an emotional reaction within viewers who empathized with the young girls. 

At the same time, it conjured a sense of pride in recognizing the true reality of what it is to be a girl, while normalizing the use of Always’ feminine products for women. It ends with a young girl answering a question about what it means to run like a girl. 

Her answer: to run as fast as you can. 

4. Heineken – “Worlds Apart”

By bringing two very different strangers with polarizing views together, Heineken’s “Worlds Apart” campaign demonstrated that humans have more in common than they like to admit. The brand took a risk to look at divisive issues from an objective point of view and came up with a thought-provoking, inspiring emotional message that resonated with beer drinkers across the political spectrum. 

5. Samsung – “Good Vibes”

In Samsung’s “Good Vibes” campaign, the audience is transported into the complex world of a deaf and blind girl and her mother. The commercial is at times scary, heartbreaking, and inspiring, but it ultimately forges an emotional connection with the viewer, while informing them about the investments the company is making in deaf-blind communication technology.


As you can see, emotional selling is a broad sales strategy with infinite possibilities for building real, lasting relationships with your audience. By including emotional selling in your business plans, you can simultaneously address the emotional needs of your customers while increasing your bottom line. 

At the end of the day, sales is all about making connections. As humans, there is no better way to do that than through our emotions. So, think about working on your emotional intelligence today and creatively brainstorm ways you might apply this strategy to your next sales campaign. 


How can I measure the success of my emotional selling efforts?

Measuring the success of emotional selling can be challenging since emotions are subjective. However, you can track certain metrics such as customer satisfaction levels, repeat purchases, referrals, and positive online reviews. Conduct customer surveys or interviews to gauge the emotional impact of your sales interactions. Additionally, monitoring sales conversion rates and revenue generated can provide insights into the effectiveness of your emotional selling techniques.

Is there a secret emotion that always leads to successful emotional selling?

There is no one-size-fits-all secret emotion for emotional selling. Different customers respond to different emotions based on their individual experiences and motivations. However, one universal emotion that often leads to success is the feeling of trust. When customers trust you and believe in the value of your product or service, they are more likely to engage emotionally and make a purchase.

Are there any risks associated with emotional selling?

While emotional selling can be highly effective, there are potential risks to be aware of. Overpromising or using manipulative tactics to exploit customers’ emotions can lead to disappointment and damage your reputation. It’s crucial to maintain ethical standards and ensure that the emotional connection you create is genuine, built on trust, and aligns with the actual benefits and value of your product or service.

Is there a limit to how far I can push emotional selling techniques?

While emotional selling can be highly effective, it is important to recognize and respect the boundaries of your customers’ emotions. Pushing too hard or manipulating emotions can create a negative experience and damage relationships. It’s crucial to strike a balance by genuinely understanding customers’ needs, focusing on their best interests, and ensuring that your emotional appeals are ethical, honest, and aligned with the value you offer.

Is emotional selling more about intuition or strategy?

Emotional selling requires a combination of intuition and strategy. Intuition helps you read customers’ emotions, connect on a deeper level, and respond authentically. However, strategy is also essential for understanding customer segments, crafting compelling messages, and implementing effective sales techniques. By blending intuition with a well-defined strategy, you can maximize the impact of emotional selling and achieve optimal results.

Can emotional selling help during challenging economic times?

Yes, emotional selling can be particularly helpful during challenging economic times. When faced with uncertainty or financial constraints, customers often seek emotional reassurance and a sense of security. By emphasizing the emotional benefits of your product or service, such as peace of mind, cost savings, or value for money, you can provide a compelling reason for customers to invest in your offering even during difficult economic conditions.

Can emotional selling be taught and developed as a skill?

Yes, emotional selling can be taught and developed as a skill. While some individuals may naturally possess stronger emotional intelligence, everyone can improve their ability to connect with customers emotionally. Training programs, workshops, and ongoing practice can help sales professionals develop their empathy, active listening, storytelling, and relationship-building skills—all of which are essential components of effective emotional selling.