The neuroscience behind sales

Neuroscience is starting to appear in lots of books. In books about marketing, ICT, HRM, leadership, technology, etc. Surprisingly less so in sales. Even more surprising, if you know that one in nine is working in sales in the USA alone.

Salespeople are ineffective

The statistics are staggering. The majority of salespeople are hindering sales instead of making sales. Only 37% of salespeople were consistently effective. Nearly 90% of all sales training has no positive impact after the training.

Salespeople are important

That is even more staggering when a series of studies identified the salesperson as a deciding factor in whether buyers chose to purchase from one vendor or another. That 53% of customer loyalty is not the result of the product, company, or service, but the behaviours of the salespeople.


The more a buyer trusts you and the company you represent, the more receptive they will be and the less risk they will associate with acquiring your product or service. The brain automatically connects the perception of the salesperson and the company. So if buyers trust the salesperson, that trust will be transferred to the company. In fact, nearly every consumer has refused to do business with an organisation because of an employee. Marketing 3.0!!

BD = f (SW, ES)

What David Huffed has done, is combining social psychology, communication theory, neuroscience, cognitive psychology and behavioural economics and develop a scientifically based sales approach. The formula is BD = f (SW, ES).  The buying decision (BD) is a function (f) of the Six Whys® (SW) and the buyer’s emotional state (ES).

Emotions are everything

Let start with the emotions. There is compelling research showing that if potential customers do not become emotionally connected to a product or service, they will not care enough to buy it. The brain uses emotions to assign value and mark something as good or bad. It is how the brain distinguishes between what matters and what is irrelevant.

The six why’s

The 6 why’s are:

  1. Why change
  2. Why now
  3. Why your industry solution
  4. Why you and your company
  5. Why your product or service
  6. Why spend the money

Act as a start up. Identify the pain point, make sure the pain hurts and have a not-to-copy message. Here is another statistic; 88 percent of buyers believe that salespeople do not understand their problems enough to be able to help solve them.


The book is brilliant, but you need to be comfortable with all the manipulation techniques. The mind can be made to believe anything. With interesting results. What happened to the putting average of golf players when they were made believe that they were playing with the putter of a famous golf player? Putting improved by 32%. The power of the manipulated mind. There are many forms of manipulation. David Huffed explains heuristics (unconscious mental shortcuts), primacy effects, reactance, loss aversion, priming and anchoring.


With a great chapter about storytelling, bringing it back to the emotions. Without emotions, there will be no sale. When you are presented with data, your brain analyses its validity. However, stories do not undergo this same method of evaluation. They evoke emotions that cause the brain to interpret them less analytically and more emotionally. Perhaps the most significant finding of storytelling is that the brain actually reconstructs them as they are being told. The buyer and sellers brain start to sync. When you tell stories, your prospective customers are not just listening; they are recreating the story in their minds. The easier it is for buyers to picture a story, the more likely it is that they will be influenced by it

Sales tips

Here are some tips.

  • Ask your customer how they are you feeling (doubles acceptance rate)
  • If you and the competitor are presenting back-to-back, you should go first. If the time between the presentations is considerable—more than a week—you should go last.
  • Give choices, but not too many
  • Don’t push, use a take-it-or-leave-it approach
  • Use social proof
  • Develop a credibility statement
  • Fear-based appeals are a highly effective and predictable way to significantly influence behaviours. Losses have at least twice the impact of equivalent gains so that people would require a 50 percent chance of gaining at least $200 to make up for a 50 percent of losing $100.
  • Moods are contagious (be happy and upbeat)
  • Use body language. Non-verbal communication is unfiltered.
  • Use anchors (it is why restaurants put exorbitantly priced wines on their menu. The inflated wines create an anchor that makes the lesser-priced (but still expensive) wines look like more favourable choices.
  • Ensure small commitment. Commitments change self-perception. For example, change  “Please call us if you change your plans” to a question that inspires a commitment, such as “Will you call us if you change your plans?” Your no-shows will plummet.
  • Our cortex thinks in pictures
  • Bored people do not buy

Stories and words

To finish with tips about stories. Keep it simple. Use testimonials. Apply AIDA and start stories with positive words. Here is an example. Whom do you like best:

Description 1: “John is intelligent, industrious, impulsive, critical, stubborn, and envious.”

Description 2: “John is envious, stubborn, critical, impulsive, industrious, and intelligent.”

You like description one best. The only difference is the order. Manipulation is that easy.

Must read

A must read for everyone in selling. If I were a buyer, I would read it too. At least read up on protecting your mind to counteract the manipulation. Manipulation of the minds is too easy. Read the “Budha’s brain” as a counter-measure.

Mental techniques arms race?

After reading this book, I am expecting and predicting an arms race between mindfulness and sales manipulation.

sensemaking cover

Why reinvent the wheel and why not learn from the best business thinkers? And why not use that as a platform to make better business decisions? Alone or as a team.

Sense making; morality, humanity, leadership and slow flow. A book about the 14 books about the impact and implications of technology on business and humanity.

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Ron Immink

I help companies by developing an inspiring and clear future perspective, which creates better business models, higher productivity, more profit and a higher valuation. Best-selling author, speaker, writer.

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