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Neuroscience and Sales: How to Increase Prospects Engagement with Psychology

I'm sure you know this already - selling is just as much about strategies or sales skills as it is about psychology.

You also know that we make decisions emotionally, and then try to justify them with reason. And so, when selling, the trick is to engage with those emotions, ideally before the brain kicks in.

It's just… I bet you're still wondering how actually to apply that in practice, right?

Luckily for you, that's exactly what I'm going to talk about today.

I'll show you 3 neuroscience tricks that will help you engage with prospects emotions and make them love your proposal.

(Well, or at least, read it in full and respond.)

Sounds interesting? Let's do it then.

BONUS: Download our checklist of 7 additional psychology- and neuroscience-based tricks that will boost your sales proposal's engagement. Get it here >>

What is Neuroscience and How It Can Help You Sell More

I'm sure you'll agree:

Today selling is by far, closer to science than art.

In the past, sales success could often be attributed to the "gift of gab" or another personality trait. These days, it's a combination of skill and in-depth knowledge about the buying behavior.

And may I add knowledge that stems directly from psychology and neuroscience.

But before we go deeper into that, let's do some due diligence and cover the basic terminology:

Neuroscience. The website explains it this way:

"Neuroscientists specialize in the study of the brain and the nervous system. They have the daunting task of deciphering the brain's commands of all these diverse functions."

In other words, neuroscience, and particularly its branch called Cognitive Neuroscience studies how the nervous system reacts to different factors like thoughts, memories, and of course, emotions.

Diagram of brain from a side perspective.

(image source)

But how is this helping you sell?

For one, thanks to neuroscience, for the first time we can understand WHY buyers act, instead of just knowing WHAT they're doing.

Just think about it, up until modern times, our only way to study sales was by analyzing the results. And then, maybe trying to guess or correlate their reasons to identify actions that have brought particular results.

But with the advances in brain study, we can now tell precisely why customers take specific actions, and in turn, how to evoke them.

So, let's take a look at 3 neuroscience discoveries that will help you engage more prospects emotionally, and get them to act on your proposals.

#1. Use The Right Social Proof (And It's Not How Many Sales You've Made)

I'm sure when it comes to social proof, you've heard enough about the benefits of including testimonials or reviews.

And it's true, they work.

As Mirre Stallen and Alan G Sanfey wrote in their research paper, "The neuroscience of social conformity":

"Recent innovative work in applied psychology has established that making people aware of the behavior of others is a useful technique for inducing positive behavioral change on a societal level."

But as it turns out, reviews and testimonials don't work as well in sales as we might have thought.



According to research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which I discovered via the fantastic Neuroscience Marketing blog (note that the emphasis in bold is mine):  

"Whereas people generally conform to others' choices, this research documents that conformity decreases once others have acted on their chosen options. It suggests words speak louder than actions-people are more likely to conform to others' preferences than their actions."

The research suggests that the way you frame your social proof matters more than the proof itself.

Confusing? Let me explain.

For the most part, we offer what the researchers deem as action-based social proof. We share statistics about how many customers have bought our products or hired us to deliver services.

But as it turns out, customers are more likely to engage with what the research calls preference-based social proof - liking or in any other way showing your preference towards a solution.

In other words, saying that "300 people liked this product" will work much better than stating how many sales you've made.

As Roger Dooley explains at Neuroscience Marketing:

"When shopping, consumers are swayed more by what other people would like to have, rather than actually have. When dining in a restaurant, people comply with their friends' choices only when talked about as desires before ordering, but not when the friends' food is already ordered."

#2. Structure Your Proposal to Target the Right Chemicals in the Brain

Fact: everything that happens in our brains is somewhat generated by different chemicals interacting with brain cells to bring out various responses, including emotions.

And the crazy thing is that we can stimulate those chemicals in sales proposals, in turn, evoking the desired emotional response in prospects.

What's more, thanks to Neuroscience, we know exactly what chemicals each element of a sales proposal should target.

(Quick note: the folk at Adaptive Neuroscience wrote a great piece explaining the role of different chemicals in selling. The following is just a recap of their ideas but I'd recommend you check out the entire post.)

So, here are those chemicals and when to target them in sales proposals.

  • Dopamine. A hugely powerful neurotransmitter that, apart from other things, is responsible for addictions. However, your brain releases it also when you encounter people who you feel generally care about you. So, when writing sales proposal introductions, include information that will make the prospect feel this way to stimulate the release of dopamine.
  • Cortisol. We produce this chemical when feeling stress or fear. It's release often results in shutting down the rational brain and acting on impulse. You can stimulate it by speaking about the main problem or pain point your solution targets.
  • Endorphins and Dopamine. Endorphins counterbalance cortisol. They stop us from feeling pain or discomfort. If you present your solution as the best counterbalance to the problem, your prospect's brain should release endorphins to reduce the perception of fear and make them feel better.
  • Serotonin and Oxytocin. The first chemical makes us feel happy; the other motivates reciprocation. Targeting both with a call to action could help elicit a positive response from prospects.

#3. Activate More Regions in the Prospect's Brain with Storytelling

You know - facts and figures may work well to present your solution.

But they make prospects to process them on a single level - language.

According to this infographic (found via Hubspot), solid stats activate only two regions of our brains, responsible for language comprehension.

Stories, on the other hand, fire up 5 additional regions, responsible for sensory sensations like touch, scents, sounds, movement and also color processing.

In other words, stories fire up our imagination whereas to process facts; we use just the reason.

As this article on Greater Good points (note, the emphasis in bold is mine):

"[...] as social creatures who regularly affiliate with strangers, stories are an effective way to transmit important information and values from one individual or community to the next. Stories that are personal and emotionally compelling engage more of the brain, and thus are better remembered, than simply stating a set of facts."

But wait, there's more. As it turns out, stories stimulate the release of oxytocin, a powerful molecule that, as Paul J Zak, the man who discovered it, explains - increases prosocial behaviors.

(On a side note, it's also the exact chemical targeted in emotional advertising, such as images of starving children shown to elicit donations. And as I'm sure you know, it works incredibly well for that.)

Note: Kevin Avery wrote a fantastic piece on using storytelling in sales, and I strongly recommend you read it to get started.

Erika Desmond
Erika Desmond

I bring 7 years of graphic design experience with 2 years of marketing experience from on the job training and experience. I've helped build Cirrus Insight into the company it is today from my start as a graphic design intern while earning my degree at Maryville College. Growing alongside Cirrus as a company has been an especially rewarding experience.

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