Do I trust this person not to eat me?

on April 1, 2014 Communication Mastery, Sales Success with 0 comments

Consciously or unconsciously our brain is relentlessly ensuring our survival. And while our lives are complex and we deal with regular change, our reptilian brain is constantly asking a single simple question:

Will this kill me?

This may seem extreme when we are talking about sales and business success – where death by a blow to the head with an iPad would be highly unlikely – however our reptilian (or instinctual) brain is very binary: yes or no. There are no grey areas in that part of the grey matter.

When you are meeting prospective clients for the first time, it is vital that you make sure their instinctual brain says yes, – they have to trust that you are not going to ‘eat’ them.

This does not mean they will say yes to your product or service. What you want them to think is “I trust you to help me reach the RIGHT decision – even if that is not a sale”.

And in the same respect that the reptilian brain is wired for yes or no, most people tend to fall into one of two categories – fight or flight. If your client feels threatened, they will either want to wrap up the meeting quickly and get away, or they may become aggressive – overtly or covertly – and attempt to erode your confidence, placing them in the position of power.

Because the human brain is 90% wired for a ‘flight or fight’ response, just 10% is open to new information, and only then if the other 90% doesn’t see you as a threat.

If your client’s reptilian brain is trying to decide if you are a threat, then they are not listening to your presentation; they are already in fight or flight mode and on some level, they are either planning to get away from you fast or verbally attack you to re-gain some power.

Three ways to send a signal to your potential client that you are not, in fact, about to eat them:

1: Smile
A smile is one of the fastest ways to let someone know that you are a friend, not a foe. If you instigate a smile, the majority of time, you will get a smile back. A genuine smile releases dopamine, one of the feel good brain chemicals – specifically it is the feeling you have when your needs are met. So your smile will release dopamine, the person you are smiling at will recognise this feeling of security (needs being met translate into feelings of security) and, in smiling back at you, will release dopamine in their  own brain. Smiling is an easy way to establish trust.

2: Humour
An extension of smiling is the use of humour.  Laughing is another way to relax the people around you and establish trust. Becoming a stand-up comedian as well as an exceptional business person is a tall ask – however a witty self deprecating comment or a bit of situation humour can go a long way to establishing a connection and paving the way for an open and trusting discussion about your product or service.

3: Validation
When someone feels validated, there is an understanding that you are placing importance in the relationship you have, or are building with them.  If you are able to let another person know that you value the time and information they are giving you, their brain will release serotonin. When you meet someone for the first time, ensure they feel valued. Thank them for their time, show them you value their input by asking relevant questions and be mindful of the responsibility you have to make sure they are comfortable with the sales conversations you have with them.

By using techniques such as these, you can establish mutual trust with people very quickly. This allows you to discuss the suitability of your product or service with your client’s reptilian brain switched to ‘yes’; meaning it is open and keen to conduct an honest discussion that results in the right answer for all parties.


Get more sales superpowers:
Crafting magnificent metaphors – part 1
Crafting magnificent metaphors – part 2
Behavioural flexibility – bend like…

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