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Want to Win Sales? Impress the Crocodile Brain

You’ve spent weeks and months honing and polishing your sales pitch, and it’s a thing of beauty – logical, well-reasoned, not overly pushy. So why aren’t your prospects buying?

Probably because you’re not tapping into the primeval, reptilian part of your audience’s brain, argues Oren Klaff. In his book Pitch Anything, Klaff asserts that many sales pitches are created in the neocortex, that suave, postmodern section of the brain. But sales pitches are received by listeners’ “crocodile brain,” which is geared not for logic and nuance but for fight or flight.

“Anything can be pitched in 20 minutes by a pro.”

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Klaff says anyone who sells for a living should grasp the rudiments of neuroscience. The brain, he writes, is a three-part gantlet, and your message must clear each section of the brain before you make the sale.

The first and deepest part is the crocodile brain, a place of raw emotion. Next, your message travels to the midbrain, which adds meaning and context. Last, your message arrives in the neocortex– the part of the brain that makes sense of complexity and solves problems.

The human crocodile brain acts as a gatekeeper and it responds to a sales pitch in three ways: by dismissing the information as boring, identifying it as a threat or by approving the message for further review by the midbrain.

Make Your Pitch A Success Story

Klaff suggests several strategies for getting past the ancient gatekeeper. First, set the frame. This simply means creating conditions favorable to your pitch. You’ll also need to control your pitch and remain the dominant person in the room.

Also, limit your pitches to 20 minutes. Anything longer is far too much for the crocodile brain’s limited attention span. A powerful, properly framed story serves as irresistible croc bait, Klaff writes.

Paul Smith, author of Sell With a Story, agrees on the importance of stories, and that pitches should be mercifully short – five minutes tops, he argues.

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Smith suggests spinning five types of yarns that you can weave into your pitch as necessary:

1. The founder’s story : Instead of a bloodless corporate narrative, tell the tale of the product’s inventor.

2. The solution story : If your product solves a specific problem, talk about others who faced the same challenge.

3. The practical story : Tell prospects how actual customers in similar situations used your product.

4. The problem-and-success story : This two-part tale highlights a client who experienced both a challenge and a successful resolution.

5. The extra value story : Talk about some unusual, unique or unexpected benefit.

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