The “Neuroeconomics” of Sales: How Buyers Really Decide
A group of scientists from CalTech, Carnegie Mellon and MIT reviewed studies examining how people buy, and research confirms that buyers are deeply irrational beings. Most economists—and many sales training programs—assume buyers make logical decisions about what they need and what’s in their best interests. But “neuroeconomic” studies show the automatic, unconscious process that’s really going on.
Buyers buy with their hearts first, and with their heads second. When money changes hands, the primitive, emotional part of the brain calls the shots. Logic comes in afterwards as the brain justifies the decision it has already made. Traditional selling approaches focus on logic and reason: features, benefits and reasons to buy. But, when engaged with customers at that level alone, sales people could be wasting their time, since the real decision has already been made. Some people shy away from emotional appeals when selling, thinking it’s risky or unprofessional. Still, the emotions are there, and if sales people don’t engage customers’ hearts, as well as their heads, they will find themselves at a disadvantage.
To sell more effectively by appealing to customers’ emotions, rather than sticking to a logical reason-based sales approach, consider the following:
1. Don’t put too much stock in buyers’ “official” reasons for buying or not buying. Listen to what customers are not saying. They’re not trying to be misleading; they simply don’t have access to their own unconscious decision-making process. Gain better insight by paying attention to unconscious cues, such as body language, volume and voice pitch and any words suggesting emotional state. By determining customers’ hidden pain, sales people are in a better position to offer alternatives. For example, acknowledge issues causing frustration and anger, and use them as tools to develop a better relationship.
2. Understand the emotional component of every sale. Encourage customers to express emotion and listen until you understand. The more that’s at stake, the more emotional, unconscious forces come into play. People can be quite dispassionate when making low-risk purchases, and a logical selling approach can work well. But, when there’s a lot on the line, emotional or even irrational considerations can overwhelm logic. Connecting with buyers’ emotions is critical. Keep the buyer’s decision-making process on track by “framing” the issue properly. People 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. For instance, a doctor recommending a procedure to a patient is more likely to note the odds of survival are 80 percent, rather than indicating the risk of death is 20 percent.