Selling to All Three Brains

The human brain is really made up of three brains.

The oldest part of the brain (from an evolutionary perspective) is the archipallium, or reptile brain. It includes the brain stem, and the cerebellum. This part of your brain is responsible for all of the automatic functions of your body, like your continued breathing and the beating of your heart. It’s also paranoid; it is full of fear. It drives survival.

On top of the archipallium is the paleopallium, or limbic system. Most mammals have one. This part of the brain is emotional. It’s emotional about food, sex, fighting, and running from a fight. You might recognize half of those examples as pain and half pleasure. That’s what the limbic system does, avoid pain, seek pleasure. If you are emotional about something, that’s the part of your brain that is working.

On top of both of the two older, inner brains is the six-layered neopallium, or neocortex. Fortunately, it takes up a massive two-thirds of your whole brain. Fortunate because this is the rational brain. When you are thinking, this is the part of your brain that’s doing the real work. It’s also responsible for language, among other things. (This is the section from which I had a small piece removed. You can see that in the picture above)

Deep Selling

We spend a lot of time talking about buying processes, sales processes, sales tools, and sales technologies. What we sometimes ignore is that each of these three brains has their own needs. We sometimes try to sell only to the big logical, rational brain.

Sometimes the reptile brain is racked with fear. It’s concerned with survival above all else. You have clients with business challenges that threaten their survival. They’re truly concerned with their survival. You have to help them with that fear. You have to show them the path to survival.

The mammalian brain wants pleasure and wants to avoid pain. And it’s emotional about it. When you show up with your big idea, it brings the possibility of pleasure in the way of better results, better performance, and big improvements. It also brings an equal possibility of pain; when you overthrow the status quo and make change, things might go wrong and bring pain. You have to help your clients find their way to discovering the pleasure while helping to ensure they avoid the pain.

The rational brain wants a logical argument. It wants proof. This is the ROI brain. This brain loves a good spreadsheet while the other two brains couldn’t care less about the numbers. You can’t leave this brain out of the equation when selling. But you can’t believe this is the only brain to which you are selling.

You’re really selling to all three brains.


Have you ever had a client to whom the major sale you made was simply their survival? How did you help them?

How do you deal with a client that expresses a wide range of emotions, including some like jealousy, fear, or anxiety about your opportunity?

What do you do to deal with clients that want to avoid pain at all costs, so much so that they continually make no decision?

Is it always enough to sell to the rational brain?

Filed under: Ideas, Learning, Psychology, Sales 3.0

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