The “Neuroeconomics” of Sales:
How Buyers Really Decide
By Paul Cherry
of scientists from CalTech, Carnegie Mellon and MIT reviewed studies
examining how people buy. Most economists — and many sales training
programs — assume buyers make logical decisions about what they need
and what’s in their best interests.
Most buyers believe their
decisions are the end result of a sensible, step-by-step process.
But these “neuroeconomic” studies show the automatic, unconscious
process that’s really going on:
Buyers buy with their hearts first. When money
changes hands, the primitive, emotional part of the brain calls
Buyers buy with their heads second. Logic comes
in afterwards as the brain justifies the decision it’s already
type of research has profound implications for salespeople.
Traditional selling approaches focus on logic and reason: features,
benefits, and reasons to buy. But if you’re engaged with the
customer at that level alone, you could be wasting your time: the
real decision has already been made. Some people shy away from
emotional appeals when they’re selling, because they think it’s
risky or unprofessional. But the emotions are there whether you talk
about them or not. If you don’t engage the customer’s heart as well
as head, you’re at a disadvantage.
how you can sell more effectively by appealing to a customer’s
emotions, rather than sticking to the logical reason-based sales
Don’t put too much stock in buyers’ “official” reasons for buying or
not buying: Listen to what the customer isn’t telling you.
They’re not trying to mislead you; they simply don’t have access to
their own unconscious decision-making process. You’ll gain much
better insight by paying attention to unconscious cues — body
language, volume and voice pitch, words suggesting their emotional
determining their hidden pain, you will find the real reason they
are unsatisfied with their current situation and will be in a better
position to offer an alternative. Acknowledge their frustrations
and angers, and use them as a tool to develop a better relationship.
Understand the emotional component of every sale: Encourage the
customer to express emotion. Listen until you understand. Then
listen until the customer understands you understand.
also shows that the more that’s at stake, the more these emotional,
unconscious forces come into play. People can be quite dispassionate
when they’re making low-risk purchases. In those cases, a logical
selling approach is likely to work well.
there’s a lot on the line — a lot of money, a promotion, a career,
an entire business — emotional or even irrational considerations can
overwhelm logic. That’s why, for high-stakes sales, connecting with
the buyer’s emotions is critical.
to help keep the buyer’s decision-making process on track is by
“framing” the issue properly. Studies show that people will react
very differently to a proposition when it’s presented as “insurance”
rather than a “gamble.” The risk of loss is emotionally more
powerful than the opportunity for gain. Doctors are more likely to
recommend a procedure to patients if they’re told “the odds of
survival are 80%” than “risk of death is 20%.”
Respect the buyer’s emotions: Keep in mind that the risk of loss
is emotionally more powerful than the opportunity for gain. We drive
even though it’s statistically safer to fly. We fear terrorists, but
not cholesterol, which kills far more people. Buyers take a great
risk when they let their guard down with you. Don’t judge. Address
the buyer’s concerns even if you don’t agree with the customer’s
logic (or lack thereof). Trying to sell prematurely will only drive
their decision-making process underground.
is your most powerful selling tool. Get on the same page,
emotionally, as your customer. Your best chance to win the sale is
by staying tuned into those buying emotions. Save the factual
information for later — the customer will need it to justify why
they picked your company over the three other vendors that had lower
say you’re talking with a prospect: “So you’re looking for a new
vendor. Can you tell me why?”
prospect replies, “Our current vendor has had trouble meeting
empathize. “Missed deadlines? Wow. That must have been
prospect leans towards you, his voice rising. “You bet. Last time it
happened, I had a whole crew standing by. My boss was haranguing
me. It was my anniversary and I was stuck late at the office fixing
the whole mess….”
emotions are driving this customer’s decision-making process. The
seller now has an opportunity to become a part of it. This approach
isn’t about manipulation; it’s about old-fashioned honest empathy.
It requires putting yourself on the line, right along with your
Take emotional risks: If your customers are going to put
themselves on the line, you’ve got to be willing to do so, too.
When you’ve tapped into their emotions, you become part of their
decision-making process. Let’s continue the aforementioned
conversation with that in mind:
appreciate you being so honest with me. Believe me, I know how
important deadlines are. I could tell you we’re the most reliable in
the business — and we are. I can’t promise we’ll never make a
mistake. But I am going to give you my work phone number, my home
number, my cell and my pager. If anyone has to miss their
anniversary because we made a mistake, it’ll be me, not you. That’s
not a promise from my company — that’s from me.”
crucial to connect emotionally with your customer; it’ll be easier
to play ball if you’re both in the same stadium. Once you
understand the “neuroeconomics” guiding your customer’s thinking,
you and your customer will both be on the winning team.
Read other articles and learn more
about Paul Cherry.
[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis.
Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and