How Salespeople Can Use Emotional Intelligence to be “Impossible to Ignore” [Insights from Dr. Carmen Simon]

How Salespeople Can Use Emotional Intelligence to be “Impossible to Ignore” [Insights from Dr. Carmen Simon]
November 16, 2016
How Salespeople Can Use Emotion to be “Impossible to Ignore” [Insights from Dr. Carmen Simon]

We must communicate a clear, interference-proof message in order to cut through the noise and be remembered.

That was the basis of the first blog in our Impossible to Ignore series, featuring Dr. Carmen Simon. Now that you’re aware of the importance of messaging, we’ll focus on the role of emotion on memory and influence.

Brand recognition and recall is a primary goal for marketers. As many salespeople can attest, their jobs become much easier when a prospect recognizes their company, accurately understands their business and feels positively about the idea of working together.

To this end, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to ask Dr. Simon how marketers and salespeople can become more memorable to influence customers and prospects.

What is an easy first step for sales reps and marketers to instantly become more memorable?

CS: There are many ways to be memorable but the key word in this question is “instantly,” so let’s formulate an answer from that regard.

Strong emotions invoke a strong chemical signal, which may result in long-term memory creation and an instant impact.

The concept of emotion is often misunderstood in presentations and conversations, so it helps to define it and know its source. Let’s start from the premise that the brain is constantly looking for receiving rewards and avoiding punishments. From this angle, we can define emotion as the state the audience is in when we get them closer or further away from a reward or a punishment.

Let’s say you have some tips for an audience on how to use marketing automation – that’s getting them closer to a reward. Or some techniques on how not get fired – that’s getting them away from a punishment – still using emotion, even though on the negative side.

On the other hand, addressing an irrelevant topic is placing the audience further away from a reward and it feels painful to listen to something useless. For your next presentation or conversation, ask the question: “Am I getting people closer to something they consider rewarding or further away from something painful?”

In some way, it’s intuitive to consider emotion as an instant and strong memory creator. But sometimes I’m asked: “How do I create that emotion?” To answer this easily, let’s consider the source of an emotion. An emotion can come from:

  • The nature of the content you address,
  • Your own emotional state
  • The emotional state of your audience.

For example, I just delivered a presentation called “Could a robot replace your job?” The nature of this content has some emotion in it simply because it may not be entirely desirable. However, think of a topic you heard that may have been fairly neutral (e.g. “Meeting updates”) but the presenter was in such great mood that you still listened – in that case the emotional state of the presenter can be strong enough to generate a good memory.

I remember listening to people who made an accounting topic sound fun and someone who made sex education really boring simply because of their emotional state.

Think of the emotional state of an audience you’re addressing. If you’re speaking to a team and some of their peers just got laid off, your content may be fascinating but their emotional state will not enhance the memory of your talk.

What are the most effective methods for influencing prospects?

CS: One of my favorite topics is the element of surprise. Each memory research project I complete shows that surprise is one of the biggest ingredients for memory. Memory has evolved to help us keep track not of the past but rather of the future.

Retrospective memory (remembering the past) is still helpful but it is prospective memory (remembering to act on future intentions) that enables us to evolve (and keeps you in business). A system that does not keep track of the future is not a system that survives.

From this angle, surprise impacts memory because surprise is a prediction error, it means you were not able to accurately use your previous memories to foresee something. The gap between what the brain expects and what happens in reality is a teaching moment, it’s how the brain learns to adapt, which is why we don't dismiss surprise entirely. So consider using the element of surprise in your materials. Offer your audiences’ brains something they expect and something they don't expect.

I was in a clothing store the other day and just as I was about to leave, I looked over a counter and saw a cookie tree. I did a double take and there it was: a small display full of cookies. They were offered to shoppers to enhance their experience. A cookie tree is not something you expect next to blouses and pants. 

Offer your audiences something they expect and something they don't expect

Offer your audiences something they expect and something they don't expect

So ponder your content. What is something customers find familiar but don't expect in that particular context or at the time? And to make the memory pertinent to you, make sure to build a connection between the surprise and what the audience should remember. After all, the cookies in the store did not come in bland packages, they were cleverly placed in branded bags to trigger the memory of the store later.

Dr. Carmen Simon shares advice for sales and marketing professionals who want to be heard and remembered by prospects and customers. In case you missed the first post in this series, read 3 Steps to Become Impossible to Ignore.

The next post in this blog series with Dr. Simon will discuss why repetition is the key to memorable conversations and presentations.

Get a copy of Impossible to Ignore and find more information about Dr. Simon’s work at