Tuesday 9 September 2014

Brain Friendly Selling Tips #1: Curiosity

This is the first in a series of articles about several powerful “brain friendly selling” principles that you incorporate into the structure and content of your sales pitch to make them more effective. The first principle is curiosity.

The very first thing you must do with your sales pitch is to capture the attention of your customer’s brain.  And then you have to keep its attention.

If the brain encounters anything new, novel or unusual it pays attention!  When a person experiences anything that is different or unexpected norepinephrine and dopamine levels in the brain rise.  This causes the person to focus their attention and makes them alert and interested.

The best way to capture the attention of the customer’s brain is to surprise it.  Some of the methods that I have used when selling various forms of consultancy, sales training, negotiation training and management / leadership development include:

·       Decorating the meeting room the client was using to hold the sales pitch with materials we use when running sales training programmes.  I recreated the stimulating, engaging learning environment I create for programme participants with props like wall posters containing key learning points, inspiring quotations, music playing, cards on the desk and floor that participants use during exercises on the real programme.

I then invited the potential client to join us in their meeting room to start the pitch.  The people who were sitting on the client’s decision-making panel were very curious about how unusual the meeting room now looked!  I didn’t make any reference to anything that I had adorned the room with until much later in the pitch, thereby maintaining the sense of curiosity and the client’s attention.

·       Having an acronym or mnemonic that contains the first letter of six key concepts I will discuss displayed on a flip chart, and as the pitch progresses I complete the words that match the first letter.  I make sure I leave at least one incomplete until really close to the end of the pitch as the client’s brain is crying out to close the gap!

·       Asking a provocative and / or challenging question at the start. For example, “In your company how poor a level of performance can you operate at and still keep your job?” or “According to research at least 80 to 90% of employee’s behaviour is determined by the behaviour of the company’s leaders.  This means that the behaviour I see your employees exhibiting tells me what sort of leaders you are.”

·        Using a prop or device.  As much of my sales consultancy is orientated around the application of neuroscience, one of my regular travelling companions is a scale replica model of the human brain.  I will often have this sitting on the table or desk in front of me and deliberately not make any reference to it until much later in the pitch. As it is an unusual object it attracts the attention and curiosity of the client.

·        Walking in with a giant full colour graphical storyboard that provides a visual representation of a solution I can provide.  The entire pitch was conducted using this and this alone.  The client’s logo and references to their customers and employees were contained on the storyboard which showed that it had been prepared specifically for the client.  I left the storyboard with the client at the end of the pitch at their request.

·        Tell them early in the pitch that I will reveal several pieces of information that are compelling and interesting to them.  I open what I call a loop in their brain that they want to close.  I don’t close the loop until much later in the pitch, as a way of building curiosity and keeping their attention. For example, “As we progress I am going to show you three tried and tested and proven ways that we can deliver exactly the results you are looking for and provide you with rock-solid evidence of our ability.”  As I say “three tried and tested and proven ways” I count off three times on my fingers.  As I move through the pitch and reveal each “tried and tested and proven way” I mark each point verbally (“So the first way is….”) and non-verbally by marking off each point on the relevant finger.  This reminds the client’s brain non-verbally that there is yet more to be revealed.  I will explain in a later article why I choose “three tried and tested and proven ways” and why I specifically structure the phrase as “tried and tested and proven ways” rather then “tried, tested and proven ways”.  So you will have to wait a short while to find out the specific and powerful reason for that.  Hopefully I now have your attention and curiosity!

So please give some thought to how you can capture your customer’s attention, and make their brains curious to know more.  If you do this you will trigger the release of norepinephrine and dopamine in their brain which will focus their attention and make them alert and interested.

You don’t have to be wild and wacky to surprise the customer’s brain.  You can do this in subtle ways which will still be very effective.  Mysteries, puzzles, questions, unexplained things and incomplete patterns are all powerful ways to grab and keep the attention of your customer’s brain.

Indeed, please be aware that being too unusual and different can trigger a sense of anxiety in the older parts of the brain, as too much novelty could mean a big change, and change can be perceived as a threat to survival. 

As mentioned earlier the reptilian and limbic areas of your customer’s brain are highly attuned to notice any changes in its environment, so moving during sales pitches or doing something unexpected will grab its attention.

You can use movement to make sure you don’t lose the customer’s attention.  I would recommend doing something to attract attention every few minutes or so.  A few examples, would be if you are using visual aids such as PowerPoint or Keynote, then blanking the screen and walking across to the other side of the room, alternating between standing up and sitting down, passing something to the client to look at, moving closer to the audience to make a key point, asking a question, illustrating a point on a flipchart or whiteboard, displaying a visually impactful graphic or photograph before providing the reason for showing it and so forth.  When practising your pitch, plan to insert attention-grabbers throughout it.

Get their brain curious and they will buy!

Good luck and good selling!

Simon Hazeldine

Simon Hazeldine MSc FinstSMM is an international speaker and consultant in the areas of sales, negotiation, performance leadership and applied neuroscience.
He is the bestselling author of five business books:

·   Neuro-Sell: How Neuroscience Can Power Your Sales Success
·   Bare Knuckle Selling
·   Bare Knuckle Negotiating
·   Bare Knuckle Customer Service
·  The Inner Winner

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