Standing Out in the Mind of Your Prospects Isn’t Rocket Science…It’s Neuroscience

By Jeff Bloomfield, Founder & CEO, Braintrust

Recently, I was traveling to a speaking engagement to an area of the country I had not been to in several years. When I left the office to head for the airport, I jumped on a conference call with a client and before you know it, I was standing at the security checkpoint at the airport.  I never even gave it a second thought. When I arrived at my destination, however, I was really unsure of where I was going. After some mental gymnastics and a quick search on my phone, off I went in my rental car, paying close attention to the GPS commands. I was completely locked into finding my destination and had blocked out all other distractions. This made me think about how the brain is involved in the B2B sales buying decision…and it’s likely not in the way you think.

The brain is made up of approximately 100 billion neurons. Through this superhighway of interconnectivity, all learning and memory takes place. Sensory information is transmitted by synapses along the neural pathway and stored temporarily in short-term memory. The short-term memory area of the brain is a very volatile region. Think of a busy train station. This is where the brain initially receives all sensory information it encounters in our daily lives.

What’s really interesting about this neuroscience is that the brain essentially throws all new incoming information or experiences up on a “cerebral whiteboard” and proceeds to run through the long-term storage area to see if you’ve ever experienced anything like this before in your life. This process happens in an instant.

Why This Matters to Your Prospects

When we communicate information to a prospect, they are subconsciously determining whether or not they are familiar with that “story.” Similar to my trip to the airport, my brain instantly recognized the task of driving to the airport and didn’t require additional information to execute on the decision. But let’s say you told me that the airport was in the opposite direction of the way I was traveling. Due to the strong nature of the neuron connections my brain had created around this path to the airport, my brain would have run that new information quickly against the long-term database and dismissed it as useless. Your prospects do the same thing.

Why is that?

From the prospect’s perspective, when a salesperson engages them with transactional facts and figures and spends the majority of their time talking about themselves and the features and benefits of their solutions, the prospect subconsciously believes they have “seen your movie before.” Their brain is quick to dismiss all self-focused, fact-based, transactional information as useless to them. The reason for this is that when they throw our information up on their “neural-whiteboard,” it gets instantly compared to all the other transactional sales interactions in their long-term memory and is immediately discarded.

The Power of Novel Insight

A study by researchers Nico Bunzeck and Emrah Düzel showed that the brain responds to novelty, spurring on exploration and reward-seeking.1 In other words, when our brain runs new or novel information against the existing database, it comes back as “no match” to anything it has experienced. Now you have the brain’s attention.

In addition, when new information comes attached to emotions of some sort, i.e., fear, anger, laughter or joy, the emotion becomes a central part of the memory and strengthens future recall. Connection of emotion and cognition was noted in a study by Susan Erk2.  This connection helps to explain why highly emotional events like a death or birth become instantly retrievable and unforgettable.

Now, back to the prospect. They have likely seen hundreds, if not thousands of sales presentations and their long-term memory is full of preconceived notions on what to expect from the next one to walk through their office. Subconsciously, their brain is looking for something new, and it’s looking for it quickly. If you simply communicate with him or her the way every other salesperson has, you will be instantly discarded as irrelevant and useless in the mind of your prospect.

How can you expect to make a sale when you have been dismissed in the mind of your prospect?

How to Stand Out in the Mind of Your Prospect

  1. Don’t open the meeting with a transactional verbal agenda or an elevator pitch about “what” you or your company does.  Start with “why.” Get personal. Build trust. It will work wonders.
  2. Use relevant industry insight to show your prospect something new and interesting relative to trends in their world that they may not have known. Make sure that insight evokes emotion and forces them to think critically about what it would mean to not take action on this information.
  3. Use visual storytelling techniques when positioning your solution. Create contrast. The prospect’s brain will associate the value of your solution based on the contrast you can create between the cost of the problem and the price of your competition.
  4. Show them an easy and straightforward path to implementation and ensure they clearly see how your solution solves their primary problem.

Remember, every word coming from your mouth has only seconds on the “whiteboard” of the short-term memory station of your prospect’s brain.  If you don’t show originality and novelty, like so many reps before you, you will likely be discarded on the prospect’s pile of “been there, seen that.”  Instead, use effective connection, communication, insight and storytelling techniques to be remembered and stand out in the minds of your prospects.

  1. Bunzeck, N. et al. (2006, August). Absolute Coding of Stimulus Novelty in the Human Substantia Nigra/VTA. Neuron, Volume 51 , Issue 3 , 369 – 379.
  1. Erk, S. et al. (2003, February) Emotional context modulates subsequent memory effect. NeuroImage, Volume 18, Issue 2, 439-447.

Jeff Bloomfield is the founder & CEO of Braintrust. He is a sales and communication expert, business growth consultant, company leader and the author of Story Based Selling. In his professional life, He has helped thousands of sales and marketing professionals and their teams grow and increase their sales. He also engages regularly with company leadership teams to develop and execute successful growth strategies. Bloomfield speaks to audiences of all sizes on the topics of leadership, communication, story-based selling and the powerful impact of neuroscience on sales and marketing. He enjoys making authentic connections and helping people and companies grow and prosper. Since founding Braintrust and authoring Story Based Selling, Bloomfield has had opportunities to speak, coach and consult with some of the best sales and marketing teams in the world, including many Fortune 500 companies.