You are trading with a customer, or you are taking decisions with friends, everything is going fine, the conversation and the generated empathy is at the highest level. You have many common points and ideas, anything couldn’t be better.
Then, you send a proposal for your product / service / advice or your idea of where to spend the evening. And the answer surprises you:
“No thanks, I’m not interested.”
How come is this happening? Much depends on your ways of proposing the purchase (yes, even when you propose an idea to friends, you are actually selling your idea).
And this modus is far less unpredictable than you think. Let’s proceed with order.
Instinct, emotion and logic: already known by Socrates (at least!)
How does the brain react to a proposal? Every human being has a similar functionality that derives from how neurosciences have classified the brain’s behavior, which we divide into three parts, just as Socrates had identified in his art of rhetoric: ethos, pathos, and logos. The same concepts are reported by Simon Sinek in his Start with Why talking about WHY / HOW / WHAT.
The reptile brain is the oldest one, the seat of authority recognition (ethos) and answers to the question:
can I trust this concept?
It is the center of serotonin production – that is the well-being hormone – and is particularly sensitive to all the concepts a prehistoric man could understand: metaphors, emotions, survivalship (convenience to our day)
The limbic brain is the information and involvement hub (pathos), the traffic light of choices, and answers to the question:
am I interested in what I’m listening / seeing / perceiving?
It produces oxytocin, which is the risk assumption hormone, needed for introspection. When you decide to move in a certain direction, it means your limbic brain has accepted “to dance”.
The neocortex is the logical seat (logos) and answers to the question:
what I’m listening to, is it reasonable to me?
And it produces dopamine, the reward hormone, which is what drives anyone to go one way or another. To establish a choice, to take it, to communicate it.
The path of choices
These three brain areas catalyze solicitations and transfer them. Solicitations travel at supersonic speed, but to be effective they must be able to excite in the exact order the three described components. Obviously, beyond the transmission speed, such solicitation will at first reach the reptile brain, then limbic and neocortex. Solicitations are then passed when each part has decided that it is the case to let them pass.
When you receive a message as shown in the below picture
The reactions of the three areas are different, summarized with a hypothetical inner dialogue:
reptile brain: cool! This is an opportunity not to be missed … I feel that it might be useful, how could I invest the money I could save?
limbic brain: … I have the feeling that this offer is profitable … what I could do …
neocortex: With the saved money I could also take 2 stages … what could I do? Uhmmm … need to think about more … one moment … why in May they told me that the cost X could be discounted by 5%, and now by 40%? Okay, actually I don’t need the product, and I should invest time in recruiting for stages, and I didn’t have much time… uhmmm … given the received offer, I’m going to postpone a deeper understanding in March, for the moment I will say NO!
Take care that information, however, passes by in 2 parallel ways: reptile-neocortex (impulse to purchase) and reptile-limbic-neocortex (reasoning on purchasing convenience)
So what do I do about already known emotional persuasion concepts?
It is evident that the path of purism, emotional or logical, is incomplete. To be convinced, people implement (all!) combinations of arguments ranging from the authority of the speaker, the convenience to themselves, the interest in the subject, and the logic on it.
Everything is important, everything has to be taken at right amount, in the right moments. Apply techniques read on Dale Carnegie‘s books, without awareness of the neuroscientific mechanisms underlying the decisions, today is pure madness. In fact, emerging realities are those knowing how to combine their communication strategies, which are also about persuasion.
When an immediate decision tackles interest in its broader meaning, the person you are talking with will reject whatever you propose. Whether it’s a movie title to watch together, a place to dine, or your product.
An all-round tactic
To act with emotions, it is important to manage between when they are activated and their transition to the neocortex. However, this manipulative technique has important drawbacks: when the person you are persuading will feel duped, your product will not be bought anymore; you will be trusted much less; and your contract could be suddenly cut-off.
The emotional techniques to be avoided, as already written, are the ones acting:
- when the customer is visibly tired or stressed
- on negative emotions
- on the sense of urgency
- in a hurry to close the deal
- on the independence of the “Right Choice”
Rather, it is much better acting on techniques:
- When the prospect is relaxed
- on positive emotions
- on the importance of the choices
- giving time to think about the opportunity
- giving your prospect time to compare options with other colleagues / departments in the company (or other friends, teams, etc.)
Being persuasive goes through many aspects: the appearance you have, your manner, the words you say, the emotions you tickle, the importance you raise, the sequences you adopt, the conclusions you bring. And your ethics, of course!