Sales people up and down the land will be scaring their customers today. Not because it is Halloween, but due to the fact that sales people are taught that people buy because of fear. Nonsense. People do not buy because of fear, no matter what the sales text books tell you. People buy for pleasure.
The traditional theory is you find the problem that people are scared of, worried about or fearful of. Then you, as the sales person provide the solution, thereby being the hero who removes the fear. At first sight it does seem to make sense. After all, I could offer you a book on getting more website traffic, for instance. I could sell that to you on the basis that your competitors are getting more traffic, or that you are missing out on traffic or that if you don’t get extra traffic you will lose sales. These are all traditional “sales hooks” – find the thing people are most worried about and sell the solution.
To writers of sales books, to people who look at sales from a superficial sense, it does indeed work. Yet if you look inside the human brain, it doesn’t.
When we buy something a couple of parts of our brain appear to be significantly involved – the pre-frontal cortex, right behind your forehead and the amygdala, deep within your brain roughly level with your ears. These regions of our brains are associated with emotions. So, what happens when people are frightened? What happens when we scare them or provide them with negatives? Well, the amygdala – the emotional connector in our brain – simply does not appear to be as important in negative emotions as positive ones. How do we know that? Well, when people have damage to their amygdala, they still experience fear. Current neurological studies appear to suggest that the negative emotions are more linked to the front of our brains, whereas the positive ones get special attention deep inside.
And that’s an important factor in selling – because when we buy something our amygdala appears not to be heavily involved. Recent brain scanning studies show that even though the amygdala is involved in our assessment of fear, it does not get used very much when we are buying something.
So why do sales people so heavily believe that fear is a seller? Well, brain studies show that when we are selling something on negative emotions our amygdala gets involved. In other words the sales person’s own brain gets fired up on the fear factor, but the buyer’s brain does not. As the researchers from the University of Southern California state: “neural activity occurs in brain regions associated with the processing of fear (here, amygdala activation) when selling a product, whereas no such activity occurs when buying a product during a routine transaction.”
In other words, sales people get fooled into believing that fear sells, because their brains tell them so.
But for buyers, what appears to sell is pleasure, not pain.
So, rather than scare your online customers today – make them happy, make them feel positive, make them experience pleasure. You will sell more.
- Inside the Science of Fear (abcnews.go.com)
- How to sell more with your website (without increasing traffic) (marketing.yell.com)
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+