My job is selling technology. Actually I'm more of a translator. I sell technology to other businesses and that's where things get weird. There is a bewildering array of tech out there and unfortunately many companies think technology sells itself and the value that the technology delivers should be obvious. Wrong. That's where I come in. I said I was a translator. My job is to translate techno babble into value that customers understand. This blog share my adventures with high tech sales. Selling high tech is fun so come join me on my sales journey!

Wednesday 2 January 2013

Sales Brainwashing

Over the past 3 years I have become fascinated by the human brain.  If you've read any of my books you'll probably have guessed it!

More recently I have being researching the Neuroscience of language.  The saying "With knowledge come power" is absolutely correct for this topic. The interesting thing about language is the profound power it has to control people. 

Let's do a small experiment

"Chocolate or Painkillers"

The last sentence was very short yet may have stimulated cravings for chocolate.  Firstly you may have pictured chocolate.  When you pictured chocolate, part of your brain would have reacted as if it was in front of you. Another part of your brain would recall the reward feeling that chocolate gives and this would have reinforced the desire. You will have probably made a decision you would rather have chocolate as opposed to paracetamol - unless of course you have a headache right now.

Generally people are "towards motivated" to chocolate and "away from motivated" from painkillers. 

Although I wasn't there to physically sell you some chocolate (or painkillers) I may have stimulated a desire - I sold you on chocolate.

OK this is a very simple example where I exploited the fact you may have been conditioned over time to like chocolate and you are used to making impulse buy decisions for chocolate.   This was a simple example - it is possible build more complex examples where the choice of words, structure of sentences and positioning can be used to create "forced" decisions and responses.  

Words have the power  to change minds. Words can be a window into the soul. 

With all power there is the opportunity for the power to be used for good or for evil.  The opportunity for language neuroscience to be abused by sales is a very real threat.  The title sales brainwashing was deliberately chosen to attract your attention, arouse curiosity and trigger a possible fear that you may be brainwashed by the next smiling salesman you encounter.  

It is not all evil - neuroscience can be used for "good" in sales too.  

The reality is the world is saturated with noise.  Cutting through noise to deliver the right message to a prospect, to gain their attention and show how a product can solve their problems or create opportunity for them  is an example of the use of neuroscience for good.  This is a perfectly ethical use - using words to help the prospect make the right decision is fine. It is when words are used to manipulate the prospect so that  they buy when there is no benefit or value for the prospect that neuroscience is straying into evil territory. 

People like to think they are being rational when making purchase decisions however my research suggests that the vast majority of people are susceptible to being brainwashed to make purchase decisions simply by the clever use of words.  

Given that certain segments of the sales profession has a poor reputation  for being unethical and manipulative, how can we ensure that neuroscience is used for good and not evil?

I'd welcome your thoughts.

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