The Science of Selling as an Art Form

All decision making processes are both rational and emotional. These two processes are  sometimes hard to separate but they are both at work, especially in sales cycle.

Selling becomes an art form when a seller tries to incorporate logic, which will appeal to the rational side of the decision, and present images, appealing to the emotional aspect, in an effective way.

To aid this art, Cincom uses the ACE Method to help ourselves go through the discovery process in an orderly, organized way. All strategic processes are based on information. The better the information the better can become the strategic thought which guides and shapes strategy. We seek to discover information about a specific organization and then move to understanding what it means. From understanding we move to wisdom, which helps us determine which actions to take and how to act in a situation. This gathering of information has to do with the rational realm because it helps us gain information about objective factors of the company.

At the same time, as we work with the company to identify and discern objective, and , we gather information about emotional factors of the customer as well as we try to figure out what is going on in the minds and the feelings of our customer.

How emotions move us

The word “emotions” come from the Latin word “movere,” meaning to move. Therefore, it makes sense that it is our emotions, and not necessarily our knowledge, that moves us. But, as rational creatures, we are reluctant to admit that we are moved by the heart and not the mind. The truth is that quite often emotion trumps rationality which is why a seemingly small emotional “trump card” can overtake a larger rational argument. We like to say we thought this through rationally, and therefore we’ve made a logical decision. But in many cases, the decision has already been made emotionally and now we’re looking for rational arguments to justify that emotion.

Emotion can also determine how we think or how we, perceive, and hence receive, information. So really the great salespersons and the great marketing organizations ask themselves questions like, ‘What are these emotions? What are the wants of the people? How do they feel about things? And what are these particular items that we’re trying to sell going to do to satisfy that?’

Internal or external senses?

Throughout all of these processes we use our five external senses – sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. But we also have five internal senses. These internal senses are extremely important to us. But not all people can’t name them.

The first one is what is called the ‘imaginative sense’, the imagination. We have an ability to imagine things that don’t exist, maybe have never existed. But we can imagine these situations and we can create very interesting things, fantasies if you will. And there’s a lot of value in this to us.

The second internal sense we have is one that is known as the ‘estimative sense,’ or the ability to estimate, quickly judge and make decisions. In the estimative sense we ask ourselves, ‘What chance does this have of working? What’s the probability? How will this work?’ Risk and reward analysis is the reason of the “estimative sense.”

The third internal sense we have is ‘the memory’. We use the memory to learn. The memory helps us to know something and a situation might come up where we say, “Oh yeah, I remember this happening.” And we draw on our memory banks for different alternatives or choices that we might have used. We remember how the alternatives worked out so the memory not only helps us to learn, but also helps us to associate and analyze as we can can recall different things and their relationships to past events or experiences.

The fourth internal sense is ‘the intellect.’ This is our reasoning power. The intellect deals in knowledge. The more we know the more power we potentially have. We must know things and we must be able to reason and this is done by the intellect. The intellect feeds off of information provided by the memory.

And finally we get to ‘the will.’ The will deals with volition or why do we make choices and do certain things. The objective of the will is to make good choices, to choose in a disciplined fashion, even something that might be hard for us. So the will needs to be disciplined or controlled. It needs to be strengthened so that it doesn’t take the easy way, because the easy way may not necessarily be the right way. As H.L. Mencken once famously wrote: “There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible and wrong.”

Fear or importance?

In the book, The Six Selling Secrets, the author says that there are many emotions in play and at work, but he tries to reduce most of the emotions to three categories – ‘craving for a sense of importance,’ ‘fear of loss’ and a ‘desire for unworked for, or easily gotten, gain.’ He says that if you are tuned for these kinds of emotional forces or motives, you will typically be able to discern in the person these emotions at work, because, he says, everybody has them.

The emotions need to be controlled because they’re immediately going to react and the emotional forces can override rational forces. Besides, few people can think well when in an emotionally agitated state. So we can have very good rational arguments that we’ve developed, good information, good logic. But in the end, emotions quite often guide and govern decisions. As they say, “love is blind,” we don’t logically fall in love, beceause love is a fruit of the “heart,” or the symbolic sense of emotions.

Branding emotions

Corporations understand this very well, and that’s why the branding exercise, is such a high powered, important part of the success of major corporations. The objective of branding is to gain a preference for your product so that, all things being equal, people will prefer your product or service versus someone else’s. Branding is so powerful because it works on the emotions. And the emotions deal with, many times, the ideas of security and safety, which are two of the most important needs on American psychologist Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs.”


Now, the branding function within Cincom, and almost all other software companies which can’t afford to spend hundreds of millions or billions of dollars a year promoting themselves to the public, is largely aidedby the selling function. Such organizations try to gain preference for their products when they go into an account, cultivate relationships and learn about the economic values or satisfactions for the emotional wants or needs where, all things being equal except price or terms or conditions, they will win preference.

A sales team is a community of advantage. So when different members of that team work well together, that community gains an advantage. Successful outcomes demand that all work together in the selling cycle, and communicate among all team members so everyone knows what they’re trying to do, and everyone can be counted on to perform optimally knowing that they are not in control of things because the customer will make the ultimate decision.

Sellers must understand the controlling emotions: the desire for a sense of importance, the fear of loss or risk, and the desire for easily gotten gains. When we’re talking about objective factors at work in a sales cycle, people are usually willing to talk because they may say, “We want to objectively do what’s best for the company. Our objective is to choose the right products, to make the right decisions, to get the maximized returns.” Objectively, they will more freely talk about those things than they will the subjective factors, like gaining prestige or advantage within their organization.

What’s your Favorite Radio Station? WII-FM – What’s in it for me?

Customers are reluctant to expose their real emotional wants and interests because these may be both shallow and selfish. So a seller can’t very well directly say their product will get the buyer a promotion because that may offend them. So sellers must become very sophisticated in how they understand what emotional forces are at work. And once one understands those emotional forces, he must think through: ‘How will they probably act? What appeals can we subtly make? How do we provide what’s in it for them?’

People will weigh all of these factors. The ability to understand them and move forward determines what is likely to happen. Sometimes customers will trade off some economic value for some personal advantage and emotional gain, or they will tradeoff some personal advantage and emotional gain for greater economic value for the firm. Figuring out the balance of value and how to present that is what strategic selling and gaining winning situations is all about. All strategies are based on information. The better the information, the better can become the strategy.

Just like all athletes want to win, so do those engaging in sales cycles. We can’t just perform well or do a lot of work because in the end our objective of the sales cycle is not just to try, or to work hard, but to win. To succeed, one must organize all thought processes and all actions to answer the questions: Will this help to win? What would be needed to win here? And what is it the primary objectives of the customer?

Discerning and understanding these questions and helping everyone to gather information that will enhance and aid strategy will collectively increase team knowledge and the power of a community of advantage. That’s why sales reps must communicate well with support people, star teams and others. The better this is done, the more success will be gained.

Emotions, emotional forces and emotional factors are powerful. They may be overriding in many decisions. One must be alert to this, but that doesn’t mean that one doesn’t also need to go through the work of developing the economic justification, and the economic evaluation. Normally people will not say, “I’m making this decision for emotional reasons,” so they may use economic, objective or rational logic to justify, or disguise the basis of, their emotionally led decisions.

About the Author

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems, Inc. The longest actively serving CEO in the computer industry, Nies was recognized by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 as "the epitome of the entrepreneurial spirit of American business." In 1992, British Prime Minister Edward Heath honored Nies for Cincom's role in bringing the software industry to England. In 1995, he was profiled by the Smithsonian Institute as one of the "pioneers of the software industry," alongside other industry giants such as Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Larry Ellison (Oracle). In 2004, Ernst & Young inducted Nies into its Entrepreneur of the Year Hall of Fame. In 2005, along with the CEO of Adobe, Nies won the International Stevie Award for Best Executive in the International Business Awards—"the business world's own Oscars," according to the New York Post. In 2005, Nies also received the University of Cincinnati Lifetime Achievement award and in 2006, was named as one of the Top Ten IT Visionaries by START-IT magazine. In 2008, Tom and Cincom were featured in a Harvard Business School Study. Email Tom Nies:

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