Using the 7 basic human emotions in your sales funnel: Surprise

There are 7 basic human emotions: Anger, Fear, Disgust, Contempt, Joy, Sadness, Surprise.

These are root emotions from which all other emotions spring. (Read more about them here). These 7 emotions are at the core of what drives our decision-making.

If you understand these emotions and build your sales funnel around them, you can sell more.


I really like that surprise is one of the 7 basic human emotions. It’s so effective when used in the sales funnel. Ironically, it’s not used often enough.

There are two ways that sales funnels can use surprise and both of these ways can have a very positive or very negative result.

Surprise in marketing: When businesses use surprise in marketing, they capture the fleeting, hard-to-get attention of their target audience. Used well, surprise can rivet the attention of an audience member so they stay engaged throughout the entire marketing message.

This truth in marketing was highlighted for me when I got my PVR. I would watch my shows and just fast-forward through the commercials. But sometimes a commercial (even at a high speed) will appear funny and shocking — surprising! — and I’ll stop and watch the commercial.

Unfortunately, surprise is so rare in marketing. Too often, marketing might start out as a great idea but it is pushed through various corporate departments — each with competing agendas — and what comes out on the other side is a mediocre result.

Surprise in sales: This is another area that has huge opportunity for many businesses but they fall short. When selling, businesses barely live up to expectations. They promise all kinds of things when selling and then meet (or almost meet) those expectations. Consumers are left feeling like they got what they paid for… and nothing else. Is it any wonder that businesses can’t figure out why consumers aren’t “extremely satisfied” when polled?

When I bought my furnace/air-conditioner, I was promised all kinds of things. When the company delivered and installed it, the installers told me that what was promised during the sale couldn’t be done because the salesperson wasn’t an installer and wasn’t aware of the peculiarities of my house. We got the issue resolved after A LOT of frustrating negotiation (and after I contacted the consumer affairs ombudsman). And then I pay every year for a 5 minute inspection. Ultimately, I got what I was promised, but nothing more. So, I’ve never recommended their service to anyone else.

On the other hand, they could have surprised me by delivering what they promised… and more. Even with a little extra courteous service and some proactive follow-up.

Consumers who are surprised by the value of their purchase and the company that sold it to them creates a wow factor that people will remember and return to again and again.

If you want to surprise people in your sales funnel, surprise them in your marketing with clever, unexpected, daring, push-the-envelope marketing that they aren’t expecting. And, surprise them in your sales by delivering more than you promised and providing higher value than they were expecting.

Published by Aaron Hoos

Aaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He is the author of The Sales Funnel Bible and other books.

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