Why Our Brains Buy and How to Convert Prospective Customers Into Loyal Advocates – Part I

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Written By Christine Comaford

New York Times bestselling author and Leadership and Culture Coach Christine Comaford has been helping leaders navigate growth and change.

Did you know that 57-70% of buying decisions are made before the sales process actually begins?

What if your prospect has already chosen your competitor—and they don’t even know it yet?

We like to think we are highly rational beings, but in fact we’re not. Once we understand this we can stop trying to change the emotions through the intellect—because it doesn’t work.

So what does this mean? That we are highly emotional beings controlled by the subconscious programming that is implanted deeply inside of us. It means that our prized intellects that we have honed at the top universities on the planet control only a tiny amount of what goes on in our daily lives.

“Same As” Trumps Sales Resistance Every Time

For a prospect to purchase from you they must overcome sales resistance. The fastest way to do this is to give them the experience of “same as.”  When the most primal part of the brain codes you as similar to it, then it can be open to the messages you are offering. Miss this opportunity and the brain goes on red alert.

There is a highly effective brain-based methodology to pre-condition prospects. Here are the 4 key steps and how they work:

  1. Help the brain become ready to buy.

Prospects engage with companies–or their brands–on three levels (1) instinctual, (2) emotional and (3) logical. The degree to which a brand satisfies these “three brains” is the degree to which we have an affinity for it—and want to consume its products and services.

The instinctual, or reptilian brain is the oldest and most primitive part of the brain. It controls balance, temperature regulation, and breathing. It acts out of instinct and is primarily a stimulus-response machine with survival as its focus. Consider it your physical safety center.

Layered on top of it is the emotional, or mammalian brain, which controls and expresses emotion, short term memory, and the body’s response to danger. This is where the fight/flight/freeze response is. Its primary focus is also survival, though it is also the seat of anger, frustration, happiness, and love.  Consider it your emotional safety center.

Last is the logical part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex within the neo-cortex. This is enables us to plan, innovate, solve complex problems, assess choices, think abstract thoughts, have visionary ideas. It allows us to measure the quality of our experience, to compare it to an abstract ideal, and to yearn for change. Consider it your visionary and problem-solving center.

When we are in stress or deeply emotionally we often drop into what I call the “Critter State”—a combo of the reptilian and mammalian brain–where we don’t have access to all parts of our brain and thus are reactive, in fight/flight/freeze, or are running safety programs. This is where we act on impulse without choice. This is where we: buy the pricey pair of designer jeans to look more attractive, select the software vendor that makes us feel safe, wear logos to show who we are. And the vast majority of the time we’ll later regret these purchases—because we often felt manipulated in making them.

critter state

What we want is to fulfill the instinctual and emotional brains of our prospects, and also appeal to their logical brain. We want them to feel we understand them, are the same as them, and provide a satisfying logical experience to help them have a fulfilling purchase experience.


For example, one of our clients was recently promoting a webinar to healthcare prospects. On it they promised to cover:

1. Crucial and controversial new legislation (instinctual and logical)

2. To ensure participants would know how to make the best choices (emotional and logical)

3. So they could build trust with their community (emotional and instinctual)

The webinar had record attendance, and the sales demand that was generated reached record highs. Throughout it our client reinforced the participant’s deepest subterranean and subconscious needs—which I’ll get to in a moment—as well.

If we don’t learn to communicate with the reptilian and mammalian brains of prospects we will perpetually waste time, energy, effort, money. And not get the results that we want.

2.  Find out what they crave.

Maslow was right—beneath it all we crave safety, belonging, mattering in differing degrees. In the context of your product, what does your customer crave? Will your product make them feel more safe? Help them feel more connected to others? Help them gain status/appreciation/visibility/admiration from others?

Once you know this your marketing and sales messages can reinforce how you meet the prospect’s deep-seated needs. And when you connect their subconscious desires with your product, your customer have a far more fulfilling experience of you–and you’ll see your sales soar.

Here are some examples of how you can provide each:

Safety: service level agreements, refund policies, guarantees of any type. Messaging: testimonials and other messages that stress how you came through for the customer with high ROI.

Belonging: online community and physical events/conferences/annual meetings, memberships, what it means to be a member of the tribe and what’s meaningful about it. Messaging: testimonials and other messages that stress the community, how you’re a partner and not a vendor.

Mattering: customer case studies/celebration/appreciation/rewards, loyalty/retention programs, customer satisfaction surveys. Messaging: Testimonials and other messages that stress how well-cared-for a customer felt, how you went out of your way, how generous you are and the high level of service you provide.

Start using the 2 above steps and let me know how it goes. In my next blog I’ll add steps 3 and 4 to crank up your sales performance even more powerfully.


Christine Comaford (@comaford) is a neuroscience-based leadership and culture coach. She uses the latest techniques to coach leaders in creating predictable revenue, passionate teams and profitable growth. Her current New York Times Bestseller is SmartTribes: How Teams Become Brilliant Together.

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