You could say “so what, who cares.” But did you know that 95% of our purchase decisions, according to Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman, take place unconsciously? And yet, when we seek to persuade c-level executives, we sell almost exclusively to Mr. Rational, and wonder why deals get stuck in paralysis for analysis and end in no decision.
After doing research for my HBR article “When to Sell with Facts and Figures, and When to Appeal to Emotions,” I discovered that people DO NOT decide to buy emotionally. In fact, the decision to buy is made subconsciously, and these subconscious decisions are based on a deeply empirical mental processing system that follows a logic of its own. Once our subconscious/intuitive mind decides to buy, this decision is then communicated to the conscious mind via an emotion. The conscious mind then searches for rational reasons, and that’s how the rational mind that we identify with maintains the illusion that it is in control.
The article concludes we need to sell to Mr. Rational & Mr. Intuitive, and for most that means we must get better at selling to Mr. Intuitive. And because intuitive decision making is experiential, we can influence Mr. Intuitive by making our offering feel real with customer scenarios. This is no different than how business schools use case studies to make their abstract theories tangible so that students can metabolize the information.
It’s also no different than what I have experienced selling complex products to c-level executives. Because of the limitation of our working memory to remember more than 3-4 pieces of new information at a time, it’s easy to flood customers with too much information. But if you can turn your product story into a customer centric story, the customer can then step into your idea and take it out for a virtual test drive. This enables the customer run your idea through their accumulated wisdom to see if it feels right. I had this experience last week when a CEO complained that it took him a day and a half to read my book Insight Selling. “But it’s only 120 pages,” I said. “It should have taken you no longer than 2-hours.” “Yes” he said, “but every few pages I’d have to stop and run your ideas through my mind (simulation) to see if it felt right on a sales call.”
I find this topic fascinating, and I’d love to hear your views and/or recommendations for further information.