Whether or not you consider yourself to be an emotional person, each day we experience a multitude of emotions ranging from ecstasy to boredom. The difference we feel depends on the physical situation and environment we find ourselves.

While some days you might feel as though you’re riding a rollercoaster of emotions (or more likely the people around you are on the rollercoaster and you’re happily eating an ice cream on the park bench), one study suggests that in fact, we’re really only capable of four “basic” emotions: happy, sad, afraid/surprised, and angry/disgusted.

Robert Plutchik, psychologist and professor emeritus at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, established a highly regarded classification approach for general emotional responses. His famous “wheel of emotions” shows just some of the well-known emotional layers human beings drift through.


The best sales professionals have been tapping into this insight for years in effort to build stronger relationships with clients and ultimately to sell more. How do they do it? They leverage specific personality traits, behaviours and techniques that evoke emotional responses that lead to trust and action in customers.

Let’s explore some of these emotional techniques and their desired outcomes:

Happiness and Personal Magnetism

Charisma is a personality trait that attracts people; it makes you likable, shiny, and draws people into your energy. It makes people want to be around you and evokes trust in those you engage with. Charismatic people make others happy and can inspire action in those around them. It’s this ability to inspire that is something that the best sales professionals understand and embrace.

Similar to the research that suggests happiness as an effective driver for social media sharing, joy can easily be translated into a driver of sales. Simply put, happiness is a driver of action. If someone is excited about the possibilities of success that you can bring them or their company; they’ll be more likely to vouch for you and bring you on board as a supplier or partner.

Sadness, Empathy, and Neurochemicals

While one might think of happiness and sadness as opposites, they have more in common that we might initially think. In fact, happiness lights up many of the same regions as the brain as sadness.


Paul Zak a respected economist and pioneer in the field of neuroeconomics conducted a series of experiments that demonstrated the effects sadness can have on human behavior. In Zak’s experiments, people were asked to watch a short sad story about a father and son. After the story was over, people who produced the most oxytocin, a neurochemical produced in the brain, were more likely to give money to others they couldn’t see.

Zak concluded:

“Our results show why puppies and babies are in toilet paper commercials. This research suggests that advertisers use images that cause our brains to release oxytocin to build trust in a product or brand, and hence increase sales.”

In order to capitalize on this insight, sales professionals need to empathize with customers; that is to understand customer needs and wants. It’s important to consider all of these different emotions and what stories influence them. More than anything, it’s important to understand how to connect with your prospects and customers on an emotional level in your content marketing efforts and in person conversations.   Empathy allows sales professionals to view the situation through the perspective of the customer. Most importantly, empathy builds trust – which we all know is the cornerstone to lasting business relationships.

Interpersonal Bonds

Emotions allow people to connect with one another and help people bond over shared experiences, values, interests, or activities.  Developing interpersonal bonds with customers can not only increase sales but also improve customer perception of you and your brand. When you have a complete understanding of your customers’ needs and wants, what makes them happy and sad, and what emotions drive their action to buy, you can create a sales strategy that connects with them and develop a meaningful relationship.

So what does all this mean?

The human brain feels first and thinks later. Sales professionals need to establish emotional connection in their potential prospects and leads to build trust, enhance relationships, and secure more sales.