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The Virginia Engineer's Guest Articles

The "Neuroeconomics" of Sales

May, 2007

*The “Neuroeconomics” of Sales:
How Buyers Really Decide*

By Paul Cherry

Research confirms what you’ve probably suspected: Buyers are deeply irrational beings.

A group of scientists from CalTech, Carnegie Mellon and MIT reviewed studies examining how people buy. Most economists – and many sales training programs – assume buyers make logical decisions about what they need and what’s in their best interests.

Most buyers believe their decisions are the end result of a sensible, step-by-step process. But these “neuroeconomic” studies show the automatic, unconscious process that’s really going on:

• Buyers buy with their hearts first. When money changes hands, the primitive, emotional part of the brain calls the shots.

• Buyers buy with their heads second. Logic comes in afterwards as the brain justifies the decision it’s already made.

This type of research has profound implications for salespeople. Traditional selling approaches focus on logic and reason: features, benefits, and reasons to buy. But if you’re engaged with the customer at that level alone, you could be wasting your time: the real decision has already been made.

Some people shy away from emotional appeals when they’re selling, because they think it’s risky or unprofessional. But the emotions are there whether you talk about them or not. If you do