July 12th, 2016

The Neuroscience of Sales: Resolving the Irrational Objection

the neuroscience of sales & overcoming irrational objections

In sales, we hear them all the time — objections from our customers that just don’t make a lot of rational sense… not to us, anyway. We don’t say it out loud, but we’re thinking, “What? Where did that objection come from?”

The irrational objection is one of the tougher challenges in Sales because we know that there is something deeper that the customer is not comfortable sharing. Also, the customer may not be fully aware of some of his/her deeper drivers. Since the sale will not progress until we resolve the objection, we need to discover what is causing the objection — but how?

Our brains — ergo, our customers’ brains — are wired with biases that cause errors in judgment. Because we may not be aware of these cognitive biases, even skilled questioning may not reveal them. During the sales dialogue, we need to identify and understand biases and get good at using “debiasing” techniques to move the conversation forward.

The Status Quo Bias

The status quo bias is at the root of many irrational objections. It’s really simple to understand — our brains don’t like change. Essentially, we have a preference for things to remain the same until the status quo becomes too uncomfortable to accept. This bias is a powerful and normal reaction for us in response to anything new and different, and it’s not just emotional — it’s physiological. According to research in the NeuroLeadership Journal, the brain likes to know the patterns that are occurring moment-to-moment. It craves certainty so that prediction is possible. Without prediction, the brain must use dramatically more resources, involving the more energy-intensive prefrontal cortex, to process moment-to-moment experiences.

Three Steps to Breaking Through

So, how do we fight through the emotions, chemicals, and everything else keeping our buyers anchored in the present? How do we make the status quo unacceptable?

  1. Acknowledge with empathy. We don’t need to alienate our customers by drowning them in pain; however, we do need to give them an emotional alternative to their way of thinking. It is normal and expected for our customers to be resistant to something new or different. Recognizing and acknowledging this is the first step.
  2. Understand their points of reference. It is important to begin uncovering information about how and why biases are affecting customers. Specifically, it is helpful to understand customers’ points of reference for the change. To what are they comparing this change? Usually, the comparison is negative, and we will need to separate that bad experience from our recommendation if we are going to move forward.
  3. Infuse new meaning. Infusing new emotional and logical meaning into existing points of view helps our customers see new possibilities. Our brains find it difficult to maintain two conflicting views simultaneously because we seek consistency. We need to help our customers “try on” new facts or views in ways that they can literally feel how their current assumptions may be inappropriate for the decisions at hand.

The next time we hear an irrational objection, using what we know about the status quo bias can make the difference between a resolution and a frustration. Though our customers’ objections may seem obviously irrational to us, they certainly do not seem that way to them. Moving forward requires empathizing with their perspective, understanding how their past experiences are shaping the objections, and reframing their points of reference by offering them new insights and possibilities to consider.

Consultative Sales & the Neuroscience of Sales

About The Author: Christian Bowen

Christian Bowen is a Learning Strategist with Richardson. Christian is responsible for acting as a learning partner for strategic accounts, interfacing with and interviewing C-level executives and Sales and L&D functional leads and managers; analyzing learning needs; planning curricula; designing training program agendas and appropriate, engaging activities; and managing large engagements — including supervising a team of designers and reviewing their work while maintaining oversight and responsibility for quality and client satisfaction.

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Christian Bowen

2 Responses to “The Neuroscience of Sales: Resolving the Irrational Objection”

  1. July 13, 2016 at 12:12 pm, Richard Orlando said:

    Terrific post Christian on a unique subject. The
    3 step to breaking through are excellent and simple for reps to do on their next sales call. We find “change” in our B2B Global 2000 customer segment creates uncertainty during a long sales process involving many stakeholders. Thanks for sharing these thoughts in a straight-forward manner.


    • Christian Bowen

      August 05, 2016 at 2:43 pm, Christian Bowen said:

      Hi Richard – Thank you for your thoughtful comments! The work that you and LeveragePoint are doing around SaaS, strategic collaboration, and customer value is exciting as well!


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