May 042011

Sales: Selling To The Old Brain – Three Ways To Increase Results

 By Colleen Stanley, SalesLeadership, Inc. 

Many salespeople have heard the phrase that selling is an art and a science. This phrase is moving beyond a clich← with research results from the world of neuroscience. The profession is changing and  professionals that desire a true competitive advantage know and apply the neuroscience behind how and why prospects make buying decisions.

Astute salespeople sell to the old brain, the amygdala. It is a small almond shaped structure, located above the eyeballs. The amygdala is the oldest part of the brain and screens all stimuli coming into the brain. This processing happens without logical thought or reasoning. When the ‘old brain’ senses danger, it produces a fight or flight response in a person. Many untrained salespeople unknowingly send prospects into fight or flight mode because of their outdated selling techniques. They end up in uptight  meetings, chase mode or losing to the new competitor: doing nothing.

Here are three ways that salespeople can sell to the old brain::

#1: Stop asking leading questions. For some reason, salespeople change their language during a sales call. They ask leading questions such as, “So if we could show you how our product can save you thousands of dollars, would you want to move forward?” The old brain hears a close coming, defenses go up and the prospect goes into fight or flight mode. Prospect responses vary from objections (fight) to a think it over (flight.) Another common place in the sales process where salespeople ask leading questions is after delivery of their value proposition. “We work with companies who are challenged with this, this and this. Are you having any of these issues?” This leading question makes a prospect feel cornered and she responds with a “not really” or holds the conversation card closer to her chest. The result is a superficial conversation versus a transparent, consultative conversation. The old brain doesn’t like leading questions because they are manipulative and inauthentic. A better question to ask after delivering your value proposition is, “Not sure if you are having any of these issues…..” This response is not trying to lead the prospect. The fight or flight response is eliminated and the prospect is more willing to engage with the salesperson.

#2: Seek the truth, not the sale. When a salesperson shows up to a meeting with the intent of closing business, the energy in the room changes and the old brain knows it. The prospect’s guard goes up and level of conversation goes down. If you want to close more business, change the intent of your  meeting from closing   to seeking the truth and doing the right thing. Please note that this is not a tactical selling skill. This is a mindset that a salesperson must fully embrace in order to show up different to a  meeting. When a salesperson seeks the truth versus a sale, he asks better questions, the right questions and the tough questions. He brings up objections versus overcoming them. (Everyone in the room knows the objections so why not bring them up?)

For example, the truth seeking salesperson will ask the prospect, “Don’t you have the resources in-house to do this project?” The prospect will be surprised and respond with the truth. And the truth could be yes, they can do it in-house. When would you like to know? Before you write a proposal or after? Remember, the old brain is on the lookout for danger. Truth telling is not dangerous, it’s refreshing. The result is a relaxed meeting where both parties have an open dialogue about problems, challenges and goals.

#3: Focus on the prospect. There is a very old saying. “People buy from people they like and who are like them.” Guess what, this old phrase is linked to the neuroscience of the brain. The astute salesperson is highly attentive to the prospect’s communication style. She matches and mirrors the prospect’s body language and energy. She pays attention to the prospect’s rate and volume of speech and matches the pace. If a salesperson isn’t applying these basic rapport building skills, he can show up to a meeting talking too fast, too slow or coming across as too intense. The amygdala sounds the alert of discomfort and the salesperson loses the business due to chemistry and lack of likeability.

Stop asking leading questions, seek the truth and focus on your prospect. Sales is about biology and psychology. Make sure you are selling to the old brain.
About the Author
Colleen Stanley is president of SalesLeadership Inc., a business development consulting firm specializing in sales and sales management training. The company provides programs in prospecting, referral strategies, consultative sales training, sales management training, and hiring/selection. She is also the author of “Growing Great Sales Teams: Lessons from the Cornfield.” Reach Colleen at 303.708.1128 or visit,


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