Why Emotion Matters In Business (Explained Scientifically)

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Businesses sell products, services and information to other businesses much in the same way they sell to individual customers. There are more similarities between B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) than you would care to imagine. For example, fruitful B2B commerce relies on emotion. Just like you appreciate good design or a catchy ad, so do companies like to be touched deep down inside before spending on services, or products in bulk.

According to data extracted by CEB, 68% of buyers who see a personal value will pay a higher price for a service. 74% of B2B buyers see a business value, but just 14% of B2B buyers perceive a real difference in B2B supplier offerings. 48% of B2B customers say they’ve wanted to buy a new solution for some time now but haven’t spoken up for fear of risks.

Personal value has two times more impact than business value, the research has showed. Even the small fraction of individual customers who don’t see personal value (8.5%) will nevertheless pay a higher price for a product. Finally, only 31% of prospective customers think B2B brands provide a personal value, while 71% of normal buyers who see personal value will shell out the big bucks for a product.

Do feelings help, or do they cloud our judgement?

One might think it’s not advisable to always follow your heart. After all, feelings can sometimes be deceiving, and good business requires a lot of reason, planning, and logistics. However, it turns out that gut feelings have some elementary math built into them. According to Ron Ritchhart (in a paper about dispositions, attitudes and habits for Harvard Project Zero), emotions have a very strong influence on our thoughts and decision making.

He notes that our first ‘read’ of an unforeseen situation is always rooted in our feelings, and it’s generally the right one. Our initial attitudes toward the newly-arisen situation are essentially laying the groundwork for the thinking to come. Emotions are pre-cognitive, meaning they happen before you know much about a situation (i.e. before judging it). You may think of this as irrational, but it’s actually a clever mechanism that nature has devised, not just for humans but for most animals inhabiting the Earth. Ritchart explains why:

“This rule of ’emotion before thought’ is actually quite adaptive. It allows us to act on instinct and initial impressions when we are threatened or in danger. Our emotion provides us with an immediate reaction when there isn’t time to think. … When we feel joy upon discovering a new idea, our emotion may motivate us to make our discovery accessible to others. Our emotions act as magnets to either pull us into action or channel our energies in a particular direction.”

Feelings have experience and wisdom embedded in them. When logic fails and you’re faced with making a decision, your gut may be a better business adviser than your brain.

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