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by Peter Sullivan

Imagine a situation where you could more accurately read a decision maker’s mind, gain an insight into where they are in the decision and know when they are ready to make a commitment. What would it be like if you could predict when a decision maker is going to follow through on your recommendations or solutions?

If you are involved with decisions or responsible for influencing others then knowing how the human mind makes decisions and choices can make you more successful.

time exThose in leadership roles are responsible for gaining cooperation and buy-in from their reports. Project managers often have no direct control over those they have to collaborate with to get results. Service people need to impact internal and external customers to successfully deliver a positive customer experience. Then there is the vital role where salespeople need to gain a commitment from their customers to accept their company’s products or services.

The more leaders, managers, influencers and sellers understand how decisions are made the more they can manage the situation and their people or customers better.

There are forces that decision makers are unaware of, or they can’t describe, that influence their decisions more than most influencers realise. Neuroscientists have proven that emotions are a vital part of learning and decision-making. Results from brain imagining during the decision-making process show that the emotional part of the brain, the limbic system, is activated before the more rational frontal lobes.

The ancient philosopher Plato said that the human brain was like a chariot with two horses, one of reason and the other emotion. What cognitive psychology and neuroscientists are now finding is that the human mind is being guided by an elephant representing emotion and a pony representing reason.

Emotions are a part of every normal human interaction. Neuroscience and cognitive psychology have demonstrated emotions and reason are not only essential for good decision-making they are inseparable. The larger the decision the more emotions have an impact on the final choice. In fact, the absence of emotion impedes good decision-making. Emotions are about motion – what moves people. How much are we aware of this? These emotions often operate under the radar!

Yet how often do we hear advice like: don’t bring your emotions to work; take the emotion out of your decisions; and there is no place for emotion here? This new evidence establishes that this advice, although usually well intended, is in fact impossible to achieve and is unhelpful.

When influencers have a good understanding of how and why emotions impact decision-making they have a significant advantage in being able to manage and influence others.

These new insights into the human mind show that, when it comes to motivating and influencing others, it is important to engage people at an emotional level first. Find out what is important to them and, from their perspective, what is of value to them.

When it comes to motivating and retaining good staff a manager’s style is critical. Managers need to move beyond just rationally motivating their staff with higher pay or better conditions, to emotionally engaging their staff. Research from the Corporate Leadership Council found those managers who emotionally engage their staff around human values and give them positive feedback get four times the effort from their people compared to rationally engaged staff.

A Harvard Business Review cites research showing emotionally satisfied customers are more loyal and deliver significantly more to the bottom line than merely rationally satisfied customers. In fact, the research shows that rationally satisfied customers act no differently from dissatisfied customers.

In a sales role having a great personality, a terrific presentation or a crushing close is not enough when dealing with experienced buyers. Tell selling is outdated. Information doesn’t necessarily change minds. Emotion gets people moving.

It is not the influencer’s role to prove how brilliant they are on the technical aspects of their products and services. The problem isn’t how much the influencer knows. The problem is they want to tell the client how much they know, instead of finding out what the client needs to know.

The best influencers are those who can make the emotional connection with the decision maker and help facilitate the decision.

In sales, the role of the seller is to engage the decision maker or buyer with a variety of good conversational questions that will help the seller to understand the decisionmaker’s world, hopes, fears and aspirations. The needs or problems the buyer faces can then be amplified by using questions to explore the consequences or domino effect of the buyer’s problem.

There has to be some emotional discomfort with the current situation to motivate the buyer to want to change. What moves the buyers beyond dissatisfaction with the present to commit to change are questions that evoke hope and optimism about the future benefits of making the change?

Those who deny or ignore emotions in decision-maker interactions lose more than 50% of their influencing capability.

Understanding how emotions impact decisions and behaviours gives leaders, project managers, change agents and those in sales and customer service a clear advantage in reaching their objectives. The ability to engage the head and the heart of others is an essential influencing skill that produces longer lasting and high trust relationships.

“People will forget what you have said
People will forget what you did
But people will never forget how you made them feel”

Maya Angelou

Peter Sullivan

Peter Sullivan works with business leaders and sales teams, showing them how to develop the discipline, to do the often difficult, but high payoff activities.

He can be contacted through The Training Link. Phone: 61 1300 88 44 33.

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