In recent conversations and workshops with customers I find myself continually revisiting Simon Sinek’s classic 2009 TedX talk, “The Golden Circle,” which is also the key theme in his best-selling book Start with Why. If you watch the full video, pay particular attention at about 5:40 and he explains the biological reasons why we tend to be purpose-driven mammals who are motivated by meaning and mission.
According to Simon, the newer portion of our brains – the neo cortex – is language driven and can understand and process vast amounts of complex information. The problem is, that part of our brain simply doesn’t drive decision making. So throw all the technical detail and three-letter-acronyms and speeds-and-feeds at me that you can: I’ll listen, discuss and probably feel good about myself for keeping up with you. It’s just going to have zero impact on what I decide.
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To get at what drives the decision, you literally have to dig deeper: it’s the much older, pre-language “limbic” brain that makes us do stuff. Often called the “Lizard brain,” it’s where our feelings and emotions live. It’s the launching pad for motivation. And it has no capacity for language.
The more you say to my limbic brain, the less it hears. The more complex you make your narrative, the more likely it is to shut down and take no action. And this is huge problem for salespeople, managers and marketing teams at digital publishers and ad-tech companies. We’re all having a lot of complex, expensive conversations that are completely disconnected from the outcomes we need.
Connecting on an emotional level with your customer’s Lizard Brain doesn’t mean getting all weepy or going over the top with some kind of gung-ho pep talk. It does mean a new commitment to discipline and focus; not just from the seller but from your entire organization. It goes like this.
Say less. More powerfully. Earlier. To the right people.
Say less: Start with zero PowerPoint slides and build from there. Use short, declarative sentences. Explain what your white paper means in a sentence; your strategic value in a paragraph; the reason the customer should meet with you in 140 characters. Remember, you’re speaking to the pre-language brain.
More powerfully: At the very front of your materials or presentation, there should be a short clear statement that speaks to the danger your customer needs to avoid, the cost of not reaching that missing customer, the chance that they are falling behind a competitor for no good reason. Their story is a drama, a come-from-behind sports movie. Tell that story.
Earlier: If you wait till a budget is formed and the problem has already been fully defined, you’re screwed. Unless you influence how the RFP gets written, you’re just another blindfolded kid swinging at the piñata.
To the right people: All the persuasion and motivation in the world matters not at all if you’re talking to someone who can’t give you what you want. Qualify the buyer; ask hard questions; know who you’re talking to.
Say less. More powerfully. Earlier. To the right people. It just works.