As difficult as the art of sales may be, it’s not an impossible code to crack. With a thorough understanding of how the human brain processes information and makes decisions, you can figure out a way to sell anything to anyone.
A Lesson in Basic Brain Anatomy
The human brain consists of three different parts, layers, or “mini” brains. They combine to form the brain inside our skulls.
The oldest part of the brain – the base layer, if you will – is the archipallium or reptile brain. This part of the brain houses our instinctual, reptilian-like responses. It’s what keeps all of the automatic functions of the body going – like breathing and the beating of your heart. It’s also deeply fearful and is primarily focused on survival at any cost.
Resting on top of the archipallium is the paleopallium. Also known as the limbic system, this is typically found in most mammals. If the base layer of the brain is considered the automatic brain, the paleopallium is considered the emotional brain. It cares about things like food, sex, fighting, and running away from threatening situations. The limbic system is all about seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. It’ll compel a person to go to great lengths in order to accomplish either of these outcomes.
At the very top of the brain is the largest and youngest portion – the neopallium. Also known as the neocortex, this layer comprises a whopping two-thirds of the entire brain. (And considering that this is the rational brain, that’s probably good news.) When a person thinks, uses logic, deduces problems, and learns new information, it’s the neocortex that’s processing all of this information.
If you spend time listening to sales presentations, browsing industry blogs, or reading sales books on the topic, you’ll discover that most of the sales conversation centers on selling to the big logical brain. And while this is important, it’s not the only part of the brain that matters. In a purchase decision, all three “brains” are involved.
“The rational brain wants a logical argument. It wants proof. This is the ROI brain,” sales expert and author Anthony Iannarino writes. “This brain loves a good spreadsheet while the other two brains couldn’t care less about the numbers. You can’t leave this brain out of the equation when selling. But you can’t believe this is the only brain to which you are selling.”
The reptilian brain is extremely fearful and, when threatened, survival mode kicks in. Selling to this brain is all about illuminating a path toward survival and showing them how to safely proceed from where they are to where they need to be.
The mammalian brain is all about finding pleasure and distancing itself from pain. It’s highly emotional and processes everything through the filter of “how will this make me feel?” In sales, this brain has to be coddled and reassured that there’s a greater pleasure than the pain involved with a purchase.
The understanding that all three brains are involved in selling is both overwhelming and reassuring. At first, you may feel like things just got more complicated. (How can I sell to three separate brains when I’m already having trouble selling to one?) But ultimately, you should feel emboldened. It’s like someone handing you a set of three keys and telling you exactly which machine each key starts. Suddenly you don’t have to worry about all of the outside noise. It’s as easy as knowing which key goes to which machine, turning the key, and pressing a couple of buttons.
4 Sales Hacks to Sell to the Entire Brain
Enough with the anatomy lesson – let’s get on to some sales hacks you can use to tap into the unique ways in which the human brain processes information and makes decisions.
1. Limited Options
Salespeople often make the mistake of assuming prospects want as many options as possible. However, research suggests otherwise. If you give people too many options to choose from, the odds that they’ll purchase one of them actually decreases. Choices are paralyzing, and people would prefer to make a selection among two options, rather than two-dozen. You can capitalize on this by better segmenting your audience and designing sales pages that target these buyers with the most relevant products you sell.
2. Price Anchoring
Price anchoring is the process by which you strategically provide options to your customers and use variety in pricing to frame specific products as more appealing than they would otherwise be on their own.
Take, for example, these used sailboats that SYS Yacht Sales offer on their website. Listed on individual product pages, the prices on these boats seem astronomical (even to the wealthiest of the 1 percent). But when priced next to one another, the prices are framed differently in the mind of the customer. A $6 million price tag doesn’t look nearly as enormous when it’s situated in between boats that cost $10 million and $17 million.
This same price anchoring technique can be used on lower-priced products, too. You’ll often see it with software, where a company offers three-tiered pricing in the hopes of getting people to invest in the middle option.
People hate the idea of missing out on something. In fact, people hate it so much that FOMO – which stands for the “fear of missing out” – is now a common acronym in the American English lexicon.
You can tap into this by helping customers understand that you only have a limited supply of a product, or that the deal will only last for a specific period of time.
4. Pain Avoidance
People will typically go to greater lengths to avoid something painful than to experience something pleasurable. The brain’s primary goal in all situations is survival and the avoidance of pain is seen as more essential to this cause than the consumption of a pleasurable experience.
Instead of always selling under the pretense that your product/service will bring significant pleasure, consider taking the opposite approach. Help the prospect understand how the product will enable them to avoid a certain painful outcome. You’ll almost certainly experience better results.
Learn to Sell Anything
When you understand the anatomy of the human brain and how it responds to different stimuli and factors, selling becomes less mysterious and more straightforward. While it’s still incredibly challenging to engage, convince, and convert customers, you at least have the knowledge of what you’re working against. Combine this with proven psychological principles and you’re on your way to being highly successful.