How Your Brain is Preventing You from Making Smart Ownership Decisions
If you’re wondering why you’re not making sound business decisions as an owner, the answer may lie in an unexpected area: Your brain. Not only can understanding how the brain makes decisions help you with your strategic moves, it will also boost your sales as you learn what influences your customers choices, too.
I recently read the book “Neuromarketing” by Patrick Renvoise and Christophe Morin, which delves into how our brain influences the decisions we make. It was a revelatory read for me, as it unearthed some of the reasons why some clients make the wrong call, even when the right call is staring them in the face.
Why does this happen? Because while mankind has been evolving for centuries, the portions of our brains that govern decision-making have not.
There are three sections of the brain that are responsible for decision-making: The new brain, the middle brain, and the old brain. The three sections communicate with each other, but are primarily responsible for the following functions:
“The new brain thinks. It processes rational data.
The middle brain feels. It processes emotions and gut feelings.
The old brain decides. It takes into account from the other two brains, but is the actual trigger of the decision.”
The authors, backed by brain-based research, state that many of today’s advice and messages are targeted toward the new brain. Whenever you’re trying to convince someone to make a decision, such as buy your product or service, you point out all the logical reasons and benefits. You’re talking to the new brain.
However, no matter how logical and clear-cut the decision may appear, people will still say no to your product. I’ve worked with clients who are in difficult situations, and been amazed by how they ignore the rational, smart choice and choose a solution that makes little sense.
Many a times, I’ve banged my head against the wall, wondering why decisions were made. The answer is simple. The old brain is calling the shots.
Why the Old Brain Gets You In Trouble
The old brain, or reptilian brain, is the least evolved segment of our brain, but it’s still very much in charge. “In spite of our modern ability to analyze and rationalize complex scenarios and situations, the old brain will regularly override all aspects of this analysis and, quite simply, veto the new brain’s conclusions.”
Why does this happen?
It’s because the old brain has not evolved. According to leading neuroscientist Robert Orenstein in The Evolution of Consciousness, our old brain is concerned solely with our survival, as it has been for millions of years.
Researchers believe that the brain simply hasn’t been able to evolve quickly enough to create the cognitive skills necessary to maintain complex industries and forms of communication.
Yes, our new brain can read and process information, but the decision-making is handled by the part of your brain that is 45,000 times older than written words. It’s why so many business owners don’t really read reports (or highly-informative blogs) and base their decisions on research that seems blatantly obvious.
How does this incorrigible old brain think? And what buttons do you have to push to influence it? Six very specific stimuli dictate its responses:
1. Self-centered. The old brain thinks “me first.” It is always concerned with its own survival. “If you were to have the misfortune of seeing someone injured right in front of your eyes, your old brain wouldn’t really care: It couldn’t afford to. It would be too busy being relieved that you were not the one who was hurt.”
This self-centered nature is why the most effective messaging in the marketing world focuses 100 percent on the audience, and not on your company or what you have to offer. The most effective copy on a website includes the word “you” in it – “You will be happy.” “You will enjoy success.”
2. Contrast. The old brain likes Before and After images and messages because these are crystal clear. They lessen the risk involved in a decision, and risk is something the old brain is definitely trying to avoid.
3. Tangible input. The old brain works off things it can know and trust. It doesn’t like buzzwords, for example. Terms like a “flexible solution” are not cut-and-dry. It wants to hear things like “make more money.” Have you ever noticed how little you pay attention to a speaker who delivers nothing but buzzwords? That’s because they lack tangible input.
4. The beginning and the end. The old brain is always looking to conserve energy, and it likes things with a strong beginning and an end. Pack the relevant information into the beginning of what you’re saying, and repeat it at the end. The old brain will be paying the closest attention at these times.
5. Visual stimuli. The old brain is extremely visual, and it will be more responsive to something it “sees.” For example, if you see a snake, your instant reaction will be to get out of the way. While your new brain is logically processing the chances of whether or not the snake is poisonous, your old brain is reacting simply to the image of the snake. Based on survival, it causes you to move.
6. Emotion. Why is it you remember events like 9-11 or an embarrassing moment so vividly? “When we experience an emotion like sadness, anger, joy or surprise, a cocktail of hormones floods our brain and impacts the synaptic connections between our neurons, making them faster and stronger than ever before. As a result, we remember events better when we have experienced them with strong emotions.”
I’ve blogged on the impact personas have on buying decisions. Consider the “old brain” to be a persona unto itself. Remember what influences its decision-making, and you’ll understand why a customer said “no” even though all the benefits you presented should have generated a “yes.”
In an upcoming post, I’ll provide more detail from “Neuromarketing” on how you should craft messaging – sales and marketing – to appeal to the old brain. In the interim, I’d recommend you buy this book. It will not only change your approach, it should improve your bottom line.
Photo by: Digital Shotgun.
Rock LaManna is the President and CEO of the LaManna Alliance. The LaManna Alliance helps printing owners and CEOs use their company financials to prioritize and choose the proper strategic transition – including mergers, acquisitions, organic growth, and exit / succession plans.