Do you like people watching? I love it. My wife says I look at people like I am trying to look into their soul because I stare so hard I get entranced in their beings. What they are wearing. How they interact with their environment. Why they are standing a certain way. How they interact with people. And most importantly, what emotions they are experiencing and projecting to the world.

When I was 12, I was inspired to run a prize wheel on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, N.J. You know, the good ole’ Jersey Shore boardwalk. It gave me a chance to interact with people and observe them.

After working there just a few days, spending patterns and personalities began to emerge. I could tell you who wanted the “giant gorilla” and who was happy with any stuffed animal. I could tell you who the big spenders were and how I could get them to come over to the stand. I could talk my way into some guy’s vacation fund and send him home with a $.50 stuffed animal after he just laid down $50 trying to win “The Big One.” — and make him feel like it was $50 well spent.

As marketers we have the luxury of playing off of people’s emotions and spending habits. And if you play your hand right, those customers will buy from you every time.

The wheel I worked was simple: throw a quarter down on a certain name, press the button, wheel spins like “Wheel of Fortune.” If the wheel lands on your chosen name, you win. The more you win, the bigger the prize. That’s how I hooked them.

This is where the 1st set of emotions kicks in. Pride and Excitement become apparent because the person knows they “got this thing beat.” They think they’ll be going home with the big gorilla, the envy of everyone on the boardwalk. They did what others have tried and failed. They have achieved ultimate boardwalk Success. Some people take this too far, to nearly an aggressive arrogance.

To stop the wheel, they press the button again, slowing the spinner. Here is where a completely different set of emotions kicks in. The slow, painful, agonizing feeling as they begin to question their choice. In business, we call this buyer’s remorse. “Should I have picked ‘MOM’” the spinner slows, BIL, DAV, DAD, 4, and then much to their delight, the spinner stops on “MOM.”

The roller coaster of emotions heads back up. They’ve done it. They’ve won. The gorilla and glory are theirs. Cheers and celebrations, and maybe even a little trash talking. And we all know what goes up must come down.

But not so fast. “BLUE MOM” is where the spinner has stopped. They have “WHITE MOM.” They will try to convince you that they have the correct “MOM” but that they just didn’t realize that every choice on the wheel had a blue and white option. They’ve lost.

Disappointed, pissed off, angry, sad, and embarrassed…they realize that the wheel got the best of them this time. And with each of those emotions they have two options: 1) Try again to redeem themselves because they kind of picked the right choice once and they think they can do it again or 2) they walk away too embarrassed that they didn’t understand the simple rules of the game. These emotional shoppers will send signals that they either are still in or are calling it quits.

We are now forced to read body language and listen to the customer to decide which selling tactics to take based on results and reading the customer. Will they be a return shopper or have we lost them? Do we re-engage to keep them coming back for more or do we cut our losses?

There are four different emotions that I summarized above. Here is my approach to each one individually.

1. Arrogance – An arrogant person who has too much pride is a sucker. He will do anything once you directly or indirectly have hurt his pride. So engage with him, always playing on his emotional pride. He will go broke protecting his pride, proving to others he is better than them or he will disrespect you, which makes him a jerk.

2. Confidence – Confidence is different than arrogance. Confidence is a trait that drives a person to try something and learn from their successes, failures, and mistakes. This is the kind of person you should be honest with to build trust. They will buy again or return because they remember that you’re a straight shooter.

3. Disappointment – Disappointment is difficult to counteract. Disappointed customers will blame you for their mixed emotions even if you’re not at fault. Your best bet here is to reinforce the improved quality of life your product offers. Remind them why they tried your product in the first place, and ask them for a second chance to make it right. Incentives work here.

4. Anger – Sometimes you can’t recover from anger. These customers may be through with you. You, in turn, have no more time for them. It’s good practice to try, with a smile, to smooth things over. But limit your time with this group; you can’t please everyone.

So why did I want to run a prize wheel so badly? The story above is part of it. I love watching people, reading people, and interacting with people. Humans wear their hearts on their sleeves, even the shy ones. I loved the thrill of the emotional roller coaster that I took with them as the game operator. The other reason was that running the game wheel gave me an early taste of what I thought it would be like to be a business owner, marketer and salesman.

As the Business Owner, I loved interacting with my customers, making money and trying new ways of getting people to try my product. I made money for the business each time someone placed a quarter on the wheel, but lost money each time someone won because I gave away merchandise, essentially ending the sales cycle.

As the Marketer, I had to use personality, make enticing messaging choices, using tact and timing to convince people that my stand was better than the 100s of other stands with the same crap. But I had confidence that I could provide a better experience.

As the Salesman, I had the responsibility of up-selling and keeping them spending. I needed to be trustworthy to continue to make the customer feel that no matter how much money they spent, they were getting value from their prizes and experiences.

The entire boardwalk experience is moments of impulse buying, emotional spending, and instant gratification. Dads become heroes by winning something for their sons, boyfriends surprise girlfriends with a special prize and these games are part of the “shore experience.” I helped sell that experience and cultivate those memories.

These are lesson I have carried throughout my life and I am sharing them with you now because you may find it beneficial.

Final words: Don’t piss off the customer. Whether you’re selling a junky stuffed animal at the shore or a multi-million dollar contract to an international client, the sale is the goal. By knowing your audience and reading their emotions, you can tap into their buying cues and create your own “Wheel of Fortune.”