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Neuroscience of selling

The 2018 FPSA Sales Conference will feature two days of education and networking to help you accelerate sales growth and improve sales performance and results. Learn more.

“Tell stories.” “Establish personal connections.” “Solve your customers’ problems.”

You’ve heard these pieces of sales advice before, but be honest — do you follow them? Or do you still walk into sales meetings with a stack of facts and figures that you hope will convince someone to buy whatever products you need them to so you can meet your goals?

This isn’t unusual. Most sales training programs still teach old school philosophies and tactics. The problem is that these approaches run counter to how people make decisions.

This is a lesson that Jeff Bloomfield learned early. He was raised on a farm in Ohio by his grandfather, from whom he learned to solve problems, fix things, and connect with people by telling stories.

When Bloomfield was in junior high, his grandfather died of lung cancer. Years later, Bloomfield found himself on the sales team working to commercialize a drug for lung cancer.

He went through their standard sales training, which he describes as “three weeks of indoctrination on cell proliferation, randomized control trials, etc.” But when he talked with clients, these aren’t the things he talked about. Instead, he told stories about his grandfather and how he would have given anything to have more time with him. These stories resonated with his customers, and Bloomfield saw his sales numbers go up. “People from sales and marketing would ride with me and be scratching their heads because they didn’t understand what I was doing. It wasn’t what I was trained to do, but it worked,” he says.

The next product Bloomfield sold was a drug for brain cancer. That’s when he realized why his stories worked while facts and figures didn’t. “I started learning how we process information to make decisions, and I had an epiphany,” he says. “My grandfather was a genius. He just had an 8th grade education, but he knew how to communicate with people in the way they were biologically built to make decisions. Traditional sales training teaches the exact opposite of this. It actually teaches us to communicate counter to how the brain works.”

That was the impetus for Bloomfield to start Braintrust. Today, he and his team deliver training programs that teach salespeople how the brain is wired to process information and make decisions so they can communicate more effectively with prospects.

Next month, at FPSA’s Fall Sales Conference, Bloomfield will provide an introduction to the neuroscience of decision-making as well as identify some practical applications and tools salespeople can start using right away. Here’s a brief overview of what he will cover.

What comes first: facts and figures or emotions?

How much time with customers do you spend talking about facts, figures, features, and benefits?

“Probably most of the time,” Bloomfield says. “But, when we dissect the brain to understand how and in what order we process information, we learn that people don’t make decisions logically and rationally. We make decisions instinctively and emotionally, and then look to validate those decisions with facts and figures.”

To match this pattern, salespeople need to focus on the emotional aspects first. “Most people are probably doing the right things, just in the wrong order,” Bloomfield says. “We teach people how to gain traction in the emotional parts of the brain using visual storytelling techniques that are more valuable and also result in faster decision-making than any fact or figure ever will.”

To present a solution, you need to understand the problem

Most companies are focused on solutions. But, Bloomfield points out, a solution is something that solves a problem. If you don’t understand the problem, how can you present a solution?

“Most of the time, we don’t communicate about a problem. We communicate about our product and hope and pray that our customers can triangulate their way back to the problem. We come at it from a selfish perspective. As a result, most salespeople don’t understand the world their customers are living in. Once they do, they start to have more empathy as well as an appreciation for the problem they’re there to help solve.”

Trust is a critical element in the purchasing process

People buy from people they trust — this is well known. But to truly understand what it means, we need to dig a little deeper.

“There’s personal trust and professional trust,” Bloomfield explains. “Someone needs to trust you personally before they will listen professionally. This is the connection versus credibility issue. You have to create a strong personal connection to gain permission to demonstrate your credibility on the professional side.”

Unfortunately, most organizations do the exact opposite. They try to go to market through professional credibility. “Instead, we need to establish true connection around the problem, shared values, and personal beliefs. Then we can build professional credibility.”

Bloomfield’s “neuroselling” approach may seem radical, especially for people who have been doing it the traditional way for decades. But the numbers speak for themselves — Braintrust clients have seen their close rates jump 50-60% and their revenue increase 35% over the course of a year using these techniques.

“The sales conference keynote will be very different for people, in a good way,” Bloomfield says. “People who come expecting old school sales methodologies and tactics will be pleasantly surprised because they’ll learn a more natural and effective way to communicate.”

To learn more about the neuroscience of selling and how to make it work for you, join us at the FPSA Fall Sales Conference in Chicago on September 17-19. Reserve your spot.