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Don’t Put Sales Prospects Into Fight-or-Flight Mode
Blog / For Sales Pros / Jul 25, 2017 / Posted by Colleen Stanley / 6151

Don’t Put Sales Prospects Into Fight-or-Flight Mode


Depending on which sales course you took, you as a salesperson were probably taught to identify and set meetings with buying influences–known as economic buyers, technical buyers or recommenders.

While it’s important to engage a prospect company’s buyers, be sure to prepare for one more entity: your buyer’s reptilian brain.

This particular buying influence isn’t seated behind a desk and doesn’t have a job title–but it is often responsible for excuses and stalled deals. The reptilian brain is the portion of your brain charged with keeping you safe, and operates from a bare survival irrational, illogical point of view.

Salespeople can unknowingly trigger this part of a buyer’s brain through their questions or their approach, and thereby cause a fight-or-flight response on the part of their prospect. The result is either an abruptly ended sales meeting or a buyer becoming overly defensive. Neither of these responses result in what you’re after: a sale.

Let’s take a look at two areas of the sales process where you might be sending the prospect into fight-or-flight mode.

#1: Questions. And I mean DUMB questions. Salespeople trying to unseat the incumbent vendor ask questions such as, “What do you like about your current vendor?” The prospect waits in anticipation and hesitation (fight or flight) for the predictable second question. “If there were one or two things your existing vendor could improve, what would they be?”

The reptilian brain senses a close coming and signals, “danger, danger.”

A better approach is to keep your prospect feeling safe. Expose a gap in the competitor’s offering, without ever mentioning their name. Do so by designing a well-crafted value proposition that points out a weakness in the existing vendor’s offering. “Mr. Prospect, we usually work with companies that are pretty satisfied with their current vendor but are open to meeting with us because of the increasing demands from their customers for national and international coverage, not just local.” This approach is safe because:

  • You didn’t disparage the existing vendor. In fact, you told the prospect they are happy with their choice.
  • You inferred that other clients were experiencing similar challenges and that their customers, not a pushy salesperson, demanded a change.

Keep your prospect safe and you will elevate the conversation from superficial conversation to a more substantive one.

#2: Inattention and adaptation to the prospect’s communication style. Despite all the books written about personality styles and communication, salespeople still tend to apply a one-size-fits-all approach with prospects. They throw out small talk when a buyer wants to get down to business, triggering the reptilian brain. “Oh my God — this salesperson is never going to stop talking.”

Or the salesperson talks too fast. The reptilian brain shouts, “Danger; slick salesperson in front of you. Get out now!”

Pay attention and adapt your style to that of your prospect and customer. I work with great salespeople and the most successful know how to connect with a variety of buyers.

They call their prospect’s office number, late at night, so they can hear the pace and volume of the person. When prospecting, they immediately match and mirror the prospect’s communication style. Other smart salespeople record the customer’s personality style in their CRM tool. This gives them a quick reminder of how to adapt and more effectively connect with clients.

As you get ready for your next sales meeting, remember the most important buyer in the room, your buyer’s reptilian brain. That’s the power buyer that determines whether you move past go.

Good Selling!

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About Author

Colleen Stanley is the author of Emotional Intelligence For Sales Success, and Growing Great Sales Teams. She is an international sales keynote speaker and has been recognized as one of the Top 50 Sales Bloggers in the world for the last 3 years. She is also the creator of the Ei Selling® System.

Author's Publications on Amazon

Emotional intelligence plays a vital role in every stage of the sales process. It’s easy to get defensive when prospects challenge you on price or to quickly cave and offer discounts in response to pressure. Those are examples of the fight-or-flight response--something salespeople learn to…
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Finally, a business tool that sales managers don't have to plug in, recharge, or invest in software - the dynamics of old-fashioned principles that build high-performance sales teams. Using powerful lessons learned growing up on an Iowa farm, Stanley weaves "heartland" principles with tactics and…
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