How Neuroscience Can Power Your Sales Success
By Simon Hazeldine
As a result of the challenging commercial environment that has become the new reality we are all operating within, sales professionals need an edge – and the latest neuroscience research provides it.
Knowledge and understanding about the brain is growing rapidly with the vast majority of major discoveries and knowledge about the brain being made in the last ten to fifteen years.
We are starting to get a better understanding of how the brain functions when it is making decisions. The more we understand about how the brain functions when deciding to take action (or not), the better able we will be to understand how to tailor our sales approach, messages and behaviour accordingly.
Neuroscience research is shedding new light onto how people actually make decisions – and the truth may surprise you.
“According to cognitive neuroscientists, we are conscious of only about 5 percent of our cognitive activity, so most of our decisions, actions, emotions, and behaviour depends on the 95 percent of brain activity that goes beyond our conscious awareness.” Marianne Szegedy-Maszak, Journalist
The vast majority of human thinking (including decision making) takes place below the level of conscious and controlled awareness – in our unconscious mind. In addition, emotions are an integral part of people’s decision-making process. Emotion and reason are intertwined elements of our decision-making process.
They influence and are influenced by each other, and as a result if we want to sell successfully then we need to consider three areas of our customer’s brain:
The Sub-Cortical “Reptilian” brain
In evolutionary terms this is the oldest part of the brain. It connects the brain with the spinal column and all sensory nerves travel through it.
This primitive and unconscious part of the brain is primarily “concerned” with well being and survival. At first contact with a stranger it will instantly conduct a threat response and decide if you are friend or foe.
It prioritises survival first (the avoidance of pain and danger) and then with achieving comfort – so it will respond to pain avoidance first.
The Emotional Brain
This is comprised of the limbic system and is also referred to as the “mid-brain”.
It is important to realise that although this part of the brain is also unconscious in function it has a profound effect on us because it links the brain stem with the higher reasoning functions of the brain and feeds information to it.
The limbic system can become easily aroused and can dominate and control the thinking of your customer, exerting a huge influence over your customer’s behaviour and decision making.
For example if initial contact with a salesperson stresses “the gatekeeper” (the Reptilian and Emotional brain) the automatic fight / flight / freeze response is stimulated. Part of this process includes shutting out all other message receptors which means your opportunity to persuade is severely limited.
Therefore, your first and most important task when meeting a new customer for the first time is to appear non-threatening to the more primitive parts of their brain.
If the primitive part of their brain feels unconsciously uncomfortable then you have a mountain to climb to be able to successfully sell them anything! If you get this part of your customer’s brain to feel comfortable then they will become receptive to you and your message.
The Rational Brain
This is comprised of the cortex and the neo-cortex and is also referred to as the “new” brain. This part of the brain processes information received from the senses and regulates cognitive functions such as thinking, speaking, learning, remembering and making decisions.
To sell effectively we must make sure that we and our sales messages are “brain friendly” and target all three areas of the brain so that we can arouse the reptilian and emotional brains in a way that supports our selling rather than handicaps it.
About the Author
Simon Hazeldine MSc FinstSMM is an international speaker and senior consultant with Mentor Group. He is the bestselling author of five business books. His latest book “Neuro-Sell: How Neuroscience Can Power Your Sales Success” is published by Kogan Page on the 3rd November 2013.