“People analyse with their left brain and decide with their right” – Discussion with John Smibert.
How do people make decisions? We have all seen those tick lists that some enterprise buyers use to evaluate suppliers. They assess proposals based on logic. But do they decide based on logic?
In this discussion, which is the 100th in the Talkin Sales series, Cian McLoughlin shares a very significant finding from the thousands of ‘post decision’ reviews he has conducted with enterprise buyers.
He said his research confirms that even enterprise buyer “use the right brain, feeling part of their psyche to make a decision, and then they justify it with their left brain, with the rational, information, common sense approach”.
The key message that I got from listening to Cian is that no matter how good you, your company, and your product are; if you can’t relate on a human level, people are going to have trouble buying from you.
View or read the interview below to learn more. Cian discusses particular business case studies that reinforces this conclusion.
Cian McLoughlin is a guru in win/loss analysis, he’s a speaker, an author, and a leading advisor to the sales fraternity.
John: Hello! I’ve got Cian McLoughlin with me again – welcome back, Cian!
Cian: Thanks, John – nice to be here!
John: Hey Cian, you do a lot of work in win/loss analysis, and you talk to customers all the time about how and why they made decisions, and you’ve learnt a lot from that and you’ve shared some of that in the past.
John: We’ve just had an offline discussion, a little bit about right brain, left brain, etc. Can you share some of your findings in that area?
Cian: Yes, absolutely. When I sit down and talk to senior decision makers… Initially when I started to do that, I had a sense they’d talk about a particular vendor, and their product set and the price point, etc., and occasionally that gets mentioned, but it’s very rare that that actually is the deciding factor in many of these strategic decisions. Often what they talk about is the connection they felt with the salesperson or the sales team, and their ability to create credibility and authority. And when you drill down on that, it’s really, really interesting.
John: In what way?
Cian: What we tend to do is default to our standard pitch, and “Here’s our features and here’s our functions, and this is hopefully what you’ll find interesting, and this is how it relates to your problem,” but actually that doesn’t really have the ability to engage an audience. What we need to do is we need to start realising how people make decisions, and what we usually do is we use the right brain, feeling part of our psyche to make a decision, and then we justify it with the left brain, with the rational, information, common sense approach.
John: And that’s being human, isn’t it? We ‘re all like that. Some more than less, obviously.
Cian: Absolutely, yes. The interesting thing is that what we tend to do in the sales industry, for whatever reason, is we tend to try and appeal to the left brain, rational “Here’s the information, now you can make a decision,” but all that really does is tick a box, because invariably there might be four or five or six solutions that, broadly speaking, can do it, so then you’ve got an apples for apples comparison. Now the question becomes “What else have you got? Why would we engage with you?”
John: Have you got any case studies in mind where the customer has actually talked about how, probably not in those terms, but how these people appeal to my right brain versus left brain, etc.?
Cian: Yes, there’s been many, many instances where they say, “We liked them, we felt there was a strong connection. We got them, or they got us in fact; they spoke our language. etc.” What they’re really saying is, “This salesperson or these individuals came in and they spoke to us about what they were passionate about, what they believed in, what their vision was for our business or for the industry more broadly,” and it gave them something to connect with, and as a result of that it differentiated them from the other organisations they were competing with.
A really good example, I was sitting down with the key decision makers from a customer, and they talked about the fact that even though… they worked in the office, they were mostly a blue-collar workforce. One of the vendors had come in and said, “Okay, you’ve got a lot of people who are out there and they’re getting hot and wet and dusty, they’re out on the job,” so they went and found ruggedised iPad covers and they brought them in. They brought some and they said, “Could you see yourselves using this out on the job?” and gave it to the guys. It was just one little thing, but what it did was it spoke volumes about their understanding and the cultural fit, and the fact that they actually cared.
Cian: It was a huge… Even though it was such a small thing to do, it had a huge impact on the perception of them, and as a result they went and won a massive, massive piece of business.
John: When I look at all the really successful salespeople, they have a strong human element to them, and they really think about the other person, work out ways in which they can make them feel comfortable and feel enthused about what they’re doing and so on. I think it’s a very valid point.
Cian: Absolutely. I think with things like empathy and your EQ and active listening and the way you use stories to communicate your point, all of these things, which are maybe soft skills rather than hard sales skills, are incredibly important in terms of actually creating that level of connection.
John: I’d probably go so far as saying if you haven’t got that, you’re not going to sell very effectively, no matter how good you are, and your product and the value your product brings to the industry you’re selling to and so on; if you can’t relate on a human level, people are going to have trouble buying from you.
Cian: I couldn’t agree more.
John: Thank you very much, Cian – really appreciate your time!
Cian: Pleasure, John!
More interviews with Cian McLoughlin:
- “What is win-loss analysis“
- “Create lasting value with win-loss analysis“
- “Win-loss analysis: Gaining customer buy in“
- “What customers say the great salespeople do differently”
- “Account Retention Strategies”
- “The downside of sales automation”
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John leads three related organisations, Custell, Strategic Selling Group and Sales Masterminds APAC. These help B2B selling organisations, who recognise the need to transform their sales capability, to respond to the tsunami of change that is starting to wash over us all. He works with people who recognise that to survive they must more strategically support their customer in their buying journey - and understand that they must become specialists in the customer's domain in order to be of value to them. He also helps sales teams build differentiated personal brands and leverage the digital and social worlds to engage to create trust and value.