Emotional Connections Driven by Sales Psychology

Patty DuChene

Sales is an emotional game. It's about making someone feel a certain way until they make a decision.

As there's endless ways to accomplish this, it's time we start looking to figure out which channels spur the most emotional activity.

The term "emotional intelligence" is the capability to be aware of one's own emotions as well as the emotions of others, and manage them in an empathetic manner. Some may argue the best sales people in the world have the highest emotional intelligence.


The model of emotional intelligence was created by Daniel Goleman in the mid '90s. It's comprised of five skills: self-awareness, self-regulation, socialization, empathy, and motivation. All of these can be conveyed through multiple channels, yet some are more reliable than others.

In 2009, global research agency, Millward Brown conducted a neuroscience study for UK's Royal Mail to understand the role of direct mail. They evaluated how the brain responds to physical advertisements versus digital. Participants entered an fMRI machine and were shown an array of advertisements while their brain activity was being monitored.

Examples of physical advertisements include magazines, postcards, letters and gifts...basically anything that has a physical element to it. So how exactly do they stimulate brain activity?What they found was tangible materials leave a deeper footprint in the brain. Materials shown on cards generated more activity within the area of the brain associated with integrating visual information. Essentially, physical materials appear more real to the brain and imply more meaning.

More emotional processing takes place when someone receives direct mail. Theses physical advertisements used in the study produced more brain responses that enhance internal feelings: something digital advertising is often incapable of.

Although it took place more than 10 years ago, this study clearly indicates direct mail stimulates more neurological processing and emotional connections than digital advertising. Modern software allows businesses to create this engagement at scale for whatever use case they may need: following up to an email, scheduling demos, or booking meetings...the physical element can be used for just about anything.

While some sales teams prides theirselves on emotional intelligence, creating offline connections doesn't require as much seasoned training. We came up with a list of nine emotions that sales teams commonly leverage and can be targeted through an offline approach.

9 Emotions Direct Mail Can Elicit

1. Self-Awareness

Ancient Greeks believed the ability to "know thyself" was the cornerstone of what it means to be human. Self-awareness is a construct of our brain that allows us to navigate society and understand who we are. Sales teams who use direct mail can leverage this emotion by exposing something to an individual that would create awareness. For example, after learning that a prospect has a big deadline around the corner, sending them a postcard that addresses it will show you care about their success. Self-awareness doesn't always have to originate internally; you can stimulate it to drive a prospect to make a purchase decision.

2. Trust

Establishing trust is something all sales teams aim to do. Too many emails, phone calls, and digital interactions can act as a deterrent. 91% of people are more likely to trust companies with their personal information if they explain how its use will deliver a better experience. Avoid selling the features and capabilities of your product, but rather the solution you can deliver for the client at hand. Direct mail enables sales teams to communicate this message at scale and provides that emotional connection to your brand.

3. Motivation

Does your potential client seem to lack ambition for their profession? Fire them up with a motivating piece of mail! Even sending a useful gift with a cheerful message could drastically brighten someone's day. According to a study conducted by Canada Post, direct mail achieved a motivation-to-cognitive load ratio of 1.31. This is the relationship between a stimulus’s motivation and cognitive load responses. Stimuli that yield a motivation-to-cognitive load ratio of 1 or higher are considered the most predictive of in-market success. Digital media achieved a motivation-to-cognitive load ratio of just 0.87. Basically, mail is more effective in triggering the desired behavior in a consumer than digital advertisements.

4. Validation

Everyone loves compliments. If your organization utilizes account-based tactics, sending potential customers a friendly postcard describing how awesome they're doing at their job is a surefire way to put a smile on their face. This is a great top of the funnel method to simply engage with people who don't know about your product. 40% of U.S. consumers say they have purchased something more expensive than they originally planned because their experience was personalized. In many cases a complimentary letter will lead to more interactions, potentially leading to a purchase decision.

5. Frustration

While you certainly want to refrain from making potential customers angry, targeting this emotion shouldn't be out of the picture. Understanding how to use frustration to make a sale sounds ridiculous; yet it's quite feasible, especially with direct mail. Something as simple as a postcard that identifies an issue might make them frustrated, but not at you. This gives you the chance to sell the solution to their problem. People start getting mad at the message itself when the content is completely irrelevant and product-oriented. Avoid this to better understand the role frustration plays in sales.

6. Anxiety

Similar to frustration, instilling slight anxiety upon a contact is acceptable under some circumstances. Freaking someone out about a deadline or new regulation is an assured way to distract them from your message. A better approach would be providing a reminder that something is coming up that you can help them with. This creates a more subtle sense of anxiety and often times is the key to opening their ears. Direct mail will serve as a much more memorable and meaningful reminder than what digital media could provide.

7. Altruism

Some may not know what this emotion is. That's okay because many of us are inadvertently great at it! Altruism is the principle of being concerned for the happiness of others. This is an underrated emotion in the sales world yet plays right in hand with having a high emotional intelligence. Sending a postcard showing you're concerned with with the well-being of someone in a very effective way to exhibit empathy. Accenture found that 95% or more of millennials want their brands to actively court them. Don't be scared of sending mail simply to check in on someone: chances are they'll love it.

8. Optimism

Different from altruism, optimism is rather your outward expression of happiness. At the bottom of the funnel, as a potential client moves closer to buying your product, optimism is a great emotion to drive them to that final decision. Postcards that use language showing your excitement for someone's situation will often reverberate that feeling with them. A Gallup poll found that 90% of Americans have a positive response to receiving personal cards and letters.

9. Fear

We included this on the list because fear is probably the most powerfully motivating emotion. While living in a constant state of fear is certainly unhealthy, it plays a large role in the sales world. Sending mail at the top of the funnel that talks about some looming threat would be unprofessional to say the least. However, once you understand the circumstances of your prospect, there will most likely be something they're concerned about. Addressing this in a piece of mail in a kind way shows you care. Indirectly targeting this emotion is the best way to go about leveraging fear in sales.

Be Emotionally Cognizant

Emotional intelligence in sales

There will never be a way to measure the emotional intelligence of an individual. However, as businesses evolve with technology, sales organizations will have more channels than ever before to leverage emotional connections. The ones who have the most success in doing so will accomplish this with a fully integrated omnichannel approach.

Video conferences for instance enables sales teams to communicate face-to-face with potential clients. This technology gives us the ability to share emotions in real-time. However, to continue pushing leads through the funnel, offline engagement is a widely underutilized tool for booking these meetings and demos.

As the Millward Brown study shows, the physical element of direct mail triggers brain activity that digital interactions are incapable of.

As the sales world is constantly evolving, the era of working remotely may become the new norm in-light of recent events. People who are living in a digital world on a day-to-day basis will naturally want new experiences with physical advertisements and offline interactions. Consider this as you continue looking for new solutions to drive pipeline.

Sales Velocity
Patty DuChene

Patricia DuChene (also known as Pat, Patti, Patty, Tricia, and PD) is the Vice President of Sales at Postal, an Experience Marketing platform that generates leads, increases sales, and improves customer retention. Prior to joining Postal, Patricia was the Vice President of Int'l Sales & Managing Director for a work management software company called Wrike, where she built out client facing teams in Dublin IRE, Melbourne AU Tokyo JP, and Kyiv UA. A native of the 805, she was thrilled to join the Postal team with the promise of delivering an authentic, scalable engagement platform in San Luis Obispo. She is a passionate advocate for women in technology and takes an active approach when encouraging women to consider careers in technology. When she isn't in the office, Patricia can be found hiking with her husband and princess pug, Hammond von Schnitzel.