Neuromarketing: Seven Ways to Sell to the Decision-Making Lizard Brain


Funny thing about B2B marketers and sellers – you seem to presume that business decision makers check their brains at the door. Because it would appear, by the marketing messages you develop and the presentations you make, that you think you are selling to robots that logically process and rationally justify everything. Neuromarketing is the antithesis of that.

In fact, neuromarketing prevents you from treating your decision makers like Spock from Star Trek, assuming that they have no capacity for emotion.

The study of neuromarketing proves that prospects are still human. Your target buyers make decisions to change and buy based on emotion while justifying with facts. Neuromarketing, a concept developed by psychologists at Harvard University 1990, is a field of marketing research that examines consumers’ sensorimotor, cognitive, and effective response to marketing stimuli.

The techniques behind neuromarketing are based on research into how customers think (pdf), which shows that 95 percent of thinking takes place in our unconscious minds and that people use conscious thought primarily as a way to rationalize behavior.

Today, neuromarketing is getting increased attention from companies who want to understand the science behind how people make decisions. Corporate Visions has been using neuromarketing-based approaches in all of our message development and selling skills training for more than 20 years. Here’s a quick overview of how you can apply this neuromarketing research to your efforts.

Neuromarketing And Brain Science: The Lizard Brain vs. the New Brain

The brain is divided into three primary areas. The neocortex is the brain’s analytical computer, which processes data. The limbic system is where all emotions reside. The brain stem and other brain structures are responsible for your survival. This part of the brain is described by psychologist Robert Ornstein as the “OldSeth Godin refers to it as the “lizard brain.”

The Old Brain quickly assesses situations to determine if you are at risk or danger. If it senses your well-being is in jeopardy, it forces you to react and move away from the potential threat. And, your Old Brain decides what gets noticed – what gets your attention. Therefore, you need to appeal to the Old Brain.

Check out the below TEDx talk from speaker Sam Usher to learn how neuromarketing appeals to the reptilian part of the brain:

So how do you use this information about neuromarketing to improve the way you sell? Here are seven ways to stimulate the Old Brain.

1. Be Visual

Of your five senses, the Old Brain responds most strongly to the visual sense. In fact, processing things that you see take up about half of the resources of your brain, with the other half being devoted to everything else.

The neuromarketing lesson: Use big pictures and props to help you reach your prospect visually.

2. Use Neuromarketing To Create Contrast

The Old Brain loves the contrast. And the closer together the things being contrasted in your messages are, the more powerful the impact will be. The contrast you want to create shows your prospects that staying where they are today – the status quo – is an “unsafe” decision and that moving to your solution is the “safest” decision.

The neuromarketing lesson: Show the prospect that where he is is not a great place (the “before” story) and then show him that where he can get to is a much better place (the “after” story).

3. Use Firsts and Lasts

Your Old Brain is also strongly influenced by firsts and lasts, beginnings and endings. The Old Brain is constantly on the alert for the unexpected – things that break the pattern that it’s used to. That means that your first big opportunity in your message is to take advantage of the time when the Old Brain is naturally paying attention – the beginning of your message.

The neuromarketing lesson: You want to start with a grabber. And you need to close hot.

Don’t end with the typical phrase, “Any questions?”

Instead, say, “You’ve seen how, only with us, you can do [power positions 1, 2, 3]. So where do we go from here?” Be direct and make it pop.

4. Use Emotion

The Old Brain uses emotion to mark things that are important enough to be remembered. Having an emotional response helps make memories stronger while those memories are still forming in the brain. That’s why people vividly remember emotional events – such as their wedding day or the Berlin Wall coming down – but they can’t remember what they had for lunch a week ago.

The neuromarketing lesson: Getting some emotion into your message is the key to making your message memorable after you’ve left the room.

5. Keep it Simple

Overloading people with too much information typically results in one of four behavior changes:

  1. Can’t respond. It’s almost as if you see doors closing behind their eyes.
  2. Get irritated or bored. You know you need to engage your prospect at the emotional level (see point 4 above), but these aren’t the emotions you’re going after.
  3. Start to develop a “so what” attitude. As in: “So what?!? Why are you telling me this?”
  4. No decisive action. The worst thing that happens when you overload someone with too much information is that he can no longer make decisions. And that’s a killer when you’re trying to sell something.

The neuromarketing lesson: Simplify your message. You don’t have to tell your prospect about everything your solution can do. Focus on those things that are different about your solution. And make things simple by using metaphors and analogies.

6. Make it Concrete

The Old Brain prefers concrete language to abstract ideas. If you were asked to think of an apple, you could do so easily. Why? Because you’ve experienced apples with your senses. The idea of an apple is concrete for you. An abstract idea is something that you’ve never experienced with your senses. An example of an abstract idea would be increased efficiency or improved productivity.

The neuromarketing lesson: It’s not enough for the prospect to intellectually understand a benefit. Use visuals to make a complex concept more simple and to make an abstract idea more concrete.

7. Make it Personal

The Old Brain cares about survival, but whose survival does it care about? It’s own. It’s not worried about anybody else’s survival. And one of the simple ways in which the Old Brain views you is as either “part of my tribe” or “part of other.”

The neuromarketing lesson: If you are seen as “other,” you’re going to have a tough time persuading your prospect. Use “you” phrasing to keep things personal for your customer and to show that you’re part of his tribe.

Top Articles About Neuromarketing

For further reading on the study and practice of neuromarketing, be sure to check out the following articles:

Corporate Visions has been using the brain science behind neuromarketing for more than 20 years to develop a portfolio of solutions and the best sales and marketing training to help companies close more deals.

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Tim Riesterer

Chief Strategy Officer

Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy Officer at Corporate Visions, is dedicated to helping companies improve their conversations with prospects and customers to win more business. A visionary researcher, thought leader, keynote speaker, and practitioner with more than 20 years of experience in marketing and sales management, Riesterer is co-author of four books, including Customer Message Management, Conversations that Win the Complex Sale, The Three Value Conversations, and The Expansion Sale.

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