How to Sell More Using 5 Primal Human Emotions

If you’ve been to downtown Seattle or Manhattan, you may notice something: nearly a Starbucks is on every corner. The joke is they’re opening Starbucks’ in the restrooms of Starbucks. With 21,000 stores worldwide, Starbucks has become ubiquitous in our culture.

But this isn’t a piece about coffee per se. This is a piece about selling using emotions rather than selling using product features. It’s how Starbucks sells coffee without selling coffee, and how you can take these lessons to sell more for your company.

Creating an Overwhelming Demand for Your Product

Having worked in downtown Manhattan, I’d pass literally two dozen (probably more) places to get coffee for $1 or less on the way to work. Something I noticed was that certain coffee shops always seemed to have a line out the door.

You guessed it — Starbucks.


Quick service, good coffee and friendly baristas are important, but I think it’s something else.

It’s because they’re not selling coffee! Here’s what I mean: They’re selling more than coffee. They’re selling familiarity. People won’t risk getting sub-par coffee at a place they don’t know; they know exactly what they will get from Starbucks.

They’re selling social acceptance. Everyone goes there; it must be the cool thing to do.

They’re selling a “third place” atmosphere. People are tired of working, but don’t want to go home yet, so they go to a “third place” where they can lounge with their friends or cuddle up with a book. This is the vision Starbuck’s CEO had when he took the throne, and has stood on his head to bring that vision to fruition.

But more than anything, they are selling an experience. When you go to a Starbucks, you are getting the experience of being in a European coffee bistro, not just an ordinary café. That’s how it was conceptualized by the founders from its inception.

The friendly baristas, the European atmosphere, the smell of fresh grinds all culminate into an experience like nothing else. That’s how you create a real demand for your product. That’s how you sell coffee without selling coffee.

How to Sell Emotions

I’ll say it again: Starbucks isn’t selling coffee. Instead, they’re selling emotions. Part of being human is seeking, experiencing and communicating emotions. According to American psychologist David McClelland’s Human Motivation Theory, the most fundamental emotions that all humans all motivated by are: power, affiliation and achievement.

Take any product and you can boil down the reason someone made a purchase to moving toward (or preventing from losing) one of those three cornerstone motivational emotions.

People largely buy based on emotions, then justify with logic (click to tweet). That’s why feature selling is ineffective. As a sales rep, if you don’t know how to evoke powerful emotions in the selling process, you’ll struggle to get even mediocre results.

A Few Real-Life Examples

A good example is Domino’s Pizza. They initially built their empire by going from selling pizza to selling speed with their unique selling proposition: “fresh, hot pizza delivered in 30-minutes or less guaranteed.” They sold a cure for hunger.

For a more modern example, we can look at Uber. Uber disrupted the taxi industry by taking an erratic, highly variable experience and skyrocketed to a $40B company by selling predictability and convenience. They’re taking away the negative emotion of anxiety and replacing it with assurance.

At PersistIQ, we’re selling you time and effectiveness. We are automating the tedious tasks and streamlining your workflow, while giving you the ability to get more replies and meetings by retaining the human element in communication. You feel (and are) more effective as a sales rep.

The motivations and aspirations of your customers should ultimately determine what you’re really selling.

What Are You Really Selling?

Here are some strong motivators that drive people to sell along with some traditional B2B examples.

1. Affluence/Status

People want other people to know that they have money and are high status, thereby making them feel good about themselves through validation. This plays directly with motivation. Look how many people buy Apple computers or Tesla cars. These are your classy brand names known to be more expensive.

A good application of this in B2B sales is selling a premium version of your product, likeLinkedIn Premium. Now you get a premium member badge next to your profile. Or you could pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to be a Diamond level sponsor of Dreamforce, with maximum exposure on marketing material and prime real estate at the conference.

Here is how you can use affluence/status to sell:

  • Focus on the personal benefits. How can the results a prospect will get make a good impression on his/her boss? How can it help him/her move up in their career faster?
  • Highlight the specific ROI. What is the monetary return your prospect will see, and how can you make sure all decision makers and stakeholders are aware?
  • Use anecdotes to make it real for your prospects. Do you have any case studies that demonstrate the exact benefit your prospect is looking for? Even better, do you have any customers who got promotions after using your product and are willing to talk to prospects?
  • Using words like reward, valuable, exclusive, distinguishing, profitable, and gaincan help you paint the picture.

2. Reassurance

Peace of mind is priceless in playing to the power motivation. People want to have control over their lives. You can’t put a price on feeling safe and protected. This is the business that all insurance salespeople and financial planners are in.

When it comes to B2B sales, reassurance could mean buying a well known and highly integrated customer management platform, like Salesforce. Smaller and less known solutions may be cheaper, but Salesforce is a known and trusted brand. You know what you are getting, and there are no hidden costs or surprises. This is highly effective when trust in a category of products in general is low.

Here’s how you can use reassurance to sell:

  • Describe what your product will allow them to do. Can your prospect stop worrying about this one thing and focus on more important things in their business?
  • Use any sign(s) of trust to your advantage. Have you received any awards or recognition in your industry? Do you have any additional training or certifications that will make your prospect more at ease?
  • Share knowledge and statistics with your prospects. Do you have any industry reports or white papers that show tangible results? Do you have any case studies of users just like them that are getting the results they desire?
  • Prove others have already put their trust you. Do you have any recognizable companies already using your product? Do you have any testimonials from high-level individuals?
  • Capitalizing on emotional words like guarantee, results, improve, satisfaction, leader in, secure, safe, trusted and reliable can help you win trust.

3. Time/Convenience

This plays to an individual’s needs for achievement. If your customer is a working professional, busy parent, or anyone else with extremely limited time or energy, then selling convenience is a piece of cake. Thus, the On-Demand economy is born. Traditional examples range from housekeeping services to drive-throughs to dog walkers.

This is a particularly hot space right now for tech. You can find nearly everything on-demand. SaaS companies, sometimes referred to as “on-demand software,” are taking advantage of our increasing need to have things right away. Great examples are Datanyze and Lead411 to get sales leads immediately. Companies like Hired or CloserIQ are great for finding sales talent for your company.

Here’s how can you use time/convenience to sell:

  • Translate the value for them in terms of time lost. How much time are they losing continuing to do things the way they are? What are the long-term consequences if they don’t do take action now?
  • Remind your prospect how much energy their current solution is costing them. What are the other areas that are being affected? How is your solution vastly superior?
  • Help them realize what else they could/should be doing. What would they rather be doing? What are the more important things they could be doing with their time? How much more effective would they be at their job if they could get this one area under control?
  • Using words like productivity, effectiveness, simple, quick, “plug and play”, and “done for you” will help them realize how much time they could be saving.

4. Pleasure

We all have this particular weak spot: We will pay almost any amount to enjoy a little more pleasure in our lives. For me, my guilty pleasure is — you probably guessed it already — coffee! You with me? I’d gladly pay $8+ for the perfectly brewed cup. But everyone has something, whether it’s sports cars, luxury vacations, massages, gourmet food, etc.

Though B2B selling isn’t usually about selling pleasure, many companies buy products for the office that give them pleasure. For example, how many companies have expensive coffee makers and machines in their offices to keep employees happy and energized?

Here’s how can you use pleasure to sell:

  • Translate the value of pleasure for your prospect. How does your product ultimately help your prospect become happier, whether it’s a direct impact or indirect? How does your product provide ancillary value?
  • Make using your product enjoyable. How can you make the experience of using your product as enjoyable as possible? How can you surprise and delight your prospects?
  • Help them imagine a brighter future. How can you paint the picture of a more desirable future? What would the ideal scenario be for your prospect?
  • Choosing words such as fun, please, imagine, enjoy, satisfy, you, delight and opportunity play to the pleasure emotions.

5. Personal Empowerment

The whole self-improvement industry is one of the most lucrative industries of all time. Power is the main driver of motivation in this category. Americans are spending over $11 billion per year, and it continues to rise. Every human has dreams and aspirations. If you can help them become a better person and reach their dreams, you’ve hit the jackpot. This includes everything from fitness to finance to emotional health, and so much more.

Some of my favorite tech examples of this are subscription services like Harvard Business Review and AA-ISP. Events are a big source of revenue for companies that are selling knowledge and networking, such as Sales Stack, SaaStr and Dreamforce.

Here is how you can use personal empowerment to sell:

  • Proudly present and publicize awards and recognition your customers have received. Have any of your customers made headlines after utilizing your product? Do you have pictures of your customer receiving their accolades?
  • Offer to highlight your prospect if they go with you. Does your prospect need publicity that you can offer? Would they make a good case study?
  • Choosing words like image, respect, powerful, reputation, prominence, influence and prestige are sure to evoke emotions.


They may not all apply to your business. In fact, most likely you’ll find that just one or two apply. If you can find out which one(s) do apply, then you can leverage them and become a leading provider of something more meaningful and significant to your customers.

Look at your current sales stack and see what needs and motivations you’re satisfying with each product.

How can you change what you’re selling to set your business and service apart from your competition?

Stay tuned for more of the latest in outbound sales best practices and methods.

This post was brought to you by PersistIQ.  Our software empowers salespeople to easily convert prospects into a qualified pipeline and create personalized outbound campaigns at scale.  See how PersistIQ can help you make your own sales efforts more effective today.

Try PersistIQ Today!

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