Marketing and selling to the reptilian brain

Tim Riesterer’s recent HBR blog post about stimulating the customer’s “lizard brain” to make a sale correlates with Isurus’ work on messaging and sales effectiveness.  Riesterer points out that most sales messages fail to compel buyers to move away from the status quo because our “lizard brain”—the brain stem and other structures responsible for our survival instincts—prefers safety and avoids risk. Implicit in this message is the idea that a purely logical message often isn’t enough to drive change.  To make a sale that breaks the status quo, the sales message must appeal to the lizard brain.

We see evidence of this in Isurus’ work in business to business markets.  Many B2B marketers and salespeople naturally gravitate to messages that focus on “facts and figures” and provide a rational argument for change.  This is especially true in companies dominated by engineering or hard science disciplines, like technology or medicine.  The most effective messaging and sales approaches recognize that people making business buying decisions are motivated by fears, doubts, and aspirations in some of the same ways that motivate their personal buying decisions.  Of course, most companies have in place purchasing frameworks to promote rational buying processes and minimize the role of emotions in the final vendor selection.  We find that while the emotional “reasons to buy” can’t typically be factored into the vendor’s score in these formal evaluations, an emotional message is effective for getting the buyer to start thinking about disrupting the status quo. The emotional message can also differentiate a vendor sufficiently to get it on the short list for consideration.