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Why are we Impulse Shoppers? The Answer is in The Brain.

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Activity in the brain

Activity in the brain

Why are we Impulse Shoppers? The Answer is in The Brain.

Succeed Research releases new brain studies on persuasion and sales!

By Douglas Vermeeren

Each day we make hundreds, if not thousands of decisions. Often these decisions involve purchasing products or services that are presented to us on TV, the radio, the internet, in magazines, in the super markets and through individuals we have direct contact with. If you are like me you have purchased from each of these venues in the past and you have also declined to purchase too.

So what was it that really made the difference? The quickest answer would be to rationalize that the stuff you bought was stuff you needed or wanted. But if we were honest about much of what we have bought in the past we would recognize that a lot of these items we really didn’t need or want. Much of what I currently own I wouldn’t miss if it were to suddenly disappear. Most of that stuff I bought on an impulse. My bet is that a lot of the things in your life would fall into a similar category. So what made us buy this stuff?

While there are many reasons to buy that we talk about in our live trainings, based on several research findings we have recorded, for the purposes of this article I want to talk about a recent study on the human brain that may offer some interesting insights specifically on impulse purchasing.  These findings will be particularly useful to you as a salesperson. When you implement these two findings in your sales presentations you will notice a change in your results.

In a 2010 survey conducted by the Succeed Research Center of more than 1,500 consumers (male and female) it was determined that an average of 80% of purchases in a household were considered an impulse buy. 1. That means that only 20% of things that you currently own are purchases that you have thought about. Based on further evaluations with this test group we determined that out of that 20%  approximately 15% of those purchases were considered necessities. Out of the 80% that were impulse buys less than 3% were considered purchases that were related to necessities.  That means that 18% of the purchases made by the average person were connected to actual needs.

Lesson one: People don’t generally buy what they need or think about. Selling to them with logic and needs in mind is not the best approach. Their primary reasons to purchases are different.

The majority (82%) of purchases made directly corresponded to wants, perceived wants or impulse wants rather than needs.

Now please don’t get worried that I am going to start writing about frugality, thrift and rethinking our wants. While those are important principles to a self reliant life, my purpose here is to talk about the ‘why’ behind this purchasing behavior and to gently remind that most purchases are made out of impulse.

The high percentage of impulse buys also means your greatest chances for a sale are on the first visits with a prospect, not the second, third and so forth.

There are really two major reasons why customers buy immediately that can be attributed to the brain. It comes down to reactions in the brain related to gratification and scarcity conditioning.

Instant gratification is something that is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. We have been conditioned to expect it.  Drive-thru fast food delivers instantly to our car windows. The internet gives answers to any question instantly at the click of a button. Video games and movie entertainment allow us to participate in almost any activity imaginable through proxy participation. Just flick on the TV, and there’s no waiting either, you can find anything you want any time of the day or night. This is just the world we live in. And if you can’t deliver this kind of instant response you may just get left behind.

Not too long ago I was speaking with a Police officer friend of mine. We were chatting about the trends of crimes in the community, especially among the youth. He attributed most of the violent and sex crimes to peoples inability to subdue the need for gratification. “Our youth are becoming program to feel they are entitled to things instantly. They are learning to take what they want and pay later if at all.”

The same can be said of consumers. We see consumer credit card debt reaching all time highs and the mentality of entitlement appearing everywhere.

I don’t share these thoughts to be negative. I share them to demonstrate just how important immediate gratification is to people. They will really get themselves into trouble just to satisfy this one need.

At the Princeton University a group of psychologists conducted an interesting study on gratification. 2. The test was simple.

They selected a group of students to make a choice between two Amazon gift certificates. They could either have a $15 gift certificate instantly or wait two weeks and get a $20 gift certificate. While faced with this decision the psychologists measured the brain activity of the students.

The brain scans demonstrated that both of the gift card options triggered significant activity in the lateral prefrontal cortex areas of the brain. This area of the brain is responsible for generating emotional  feedback.

But the $15 gift card available now triggered something unique. The immediate card ignited the limbic areas of the brain and sent it into an emotional frenzy of activity.

The message: The more an individual becomes emotionally excited about the possibility of immediate gratification, the more intense the brain activity became.

A similar study has been repeated by the Succeed Research Center, which found that the possibility of immediate gratification also increased sales of several different products ranging from books to insurance policies. This same study confirmed that immediate sensory arousal, giving the prospect a sample that could be experienced in the senses, also highly activated the emotional states of the prospect.3.

When a product becomes available immediately the chances are that it will be bought rise dramatically.

The second consideration when it comes to impulse buying is something called ‘The Scarcity Effect.’

Evolutionists believe that ‘The Scarcity Effect’ stems from our early days as hunters and gatherers, but we don’t have to go back to prehistoric times.

As recent as a few hundred years ago many of us were still responsible for finding our own food.  We grew it or hunted it. We knew that if our prey got away, or the crops were damaged we would go hungry and so would our families. We became very protective and very cautious about our food supplies. Thank goodness for shopping markets that make life a lot easier today, but the instinct of not letting our prize get away continues.

Retailers know this and thus call out to us in the mall with signs crying out:  Limited time sale, limited time offers or last chance sales opportunities. If a prospect can see a deadline quickly approaching or a supply that is about to disappear or that is extremely limited their interest levels go up.  This is the premise that our diamond industry of today is built on. (But this is a subject for another discussion.)

Our brains release excitatory chemicals when we feel like we have beat out the competition and they we coming home with something rare indeed.

If you want to see your numbers go up consider developing a few of your products to be immediately deliverable and a little more scarce. To find out more about how you can incorporate these principles and other research we have conducted on increasing your sales please contact the Succeed Research Center (www.SucceedResearch.com) or the Sales Success Academy (www.TheSalesSuccessAcademy.com)

If you are a financial Planner, Real Estate Agent, Insurance agent or Mortgage broker we have some really interesting insights for you in our workshop, “7 truths about the brain that can make you a dynamic seller.” for more information call 1.877.393.9496

About the Author:

Douglas Vermeeren is the director of the SUCCEED Research Center which is dedicated to sharing research on the systems that top achievers use to create lasting success. Over the last decade Vermeeren has interviewed more than 400 of the world’s top achievers, including business leaders, celebrities and professional or Olympic athletes. Douglas Vermeeren is the author of Guerrilla Achiever (With Jay Levinson) and the creator of The Opus (with Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Dr. Joe Vitale, Dr. John Demartini, Dr. Sue Morter, Marci Shimoff, Bill Bartmann, Bob Doyle and Morris Goodman.) Currently Doug is completing another film entitled, How Thoughts Become Things. This film will explore the process of how our thoughts become manifest in our lives as reality.  For more on this film go to: www.HowThoughtsBecomeThings.com For more on Douglas Vermeeren go to: www.SucceedResearch.com Douglas Vermeeren can be reached for speaking engagements and training at 1.877.393.9496.
1. Succeed Research Center – Study on Purchasing patterns, 2010

2.Martin Lindstrom, Buyology, P.27

3.Succeed Research Center, – Study on Impulse buying and gratification, 2010

The #1 reason why customers buy Lessons from a Black Widow Spider

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The #1 reason why customers buy

Lessons from a Black Widow Spider

By Douglas Vermeeren

My very first full time sales job was different than most. I was a commission only, door-to door pest control sales person in southern California. That’s right, I went door-to-door selling pest control services to get rid of your bugs for Terminix pest control. The product we sold was a monthly service that would come to your home each month and we combat everything from ants, cockroaches to Black widow spiders.

It was from the Black Widow Spider that I learned a very interesting lesson about selling.

The world's most dangerous predator?

The world's most dangerous predator?

When I first began at this job I was very surprised to see just how much of a bug infestation people were willing to tolerate. I saw streams of ants rushing up a wall in one family’s kitchen. I found a plague of a thousand big dark brown roaches living inside a TV set at another house. I even found three foot long rats one time living in someones food pantry.

Believe it or not those families did not believe they needed our services as they did not believe they had a ‘pest’ problem. As a result they never hired us to eliminate those problems… they may still even have them today.

But there was one little fellow that always closed the deal….The Black Widow Spider.

When I would encounter a home with evidence that a Black Widow spider was present the first thing I would hear from my prospect was fear and disbelief. “Where is it? Can it get to us? Are there more of them?” I would then casually point out the web and often there we would get a glimpse of one of these bold arachnids. I could see the fear grow to panic in the face of my prospect and I always noticed the nervousness in their hand as they signed a full one year contract with our company.

So what was it that did it?

At first I wasn’t sure. But as I summer dragged on I found a few answers from the customers directly. There was panic, fear and in one case even tears.

They felt the Black Widow was the most dangerous predator to ever appear in their neighborhood. But was it?

No. It all came down to the Black widows reputation.  And I would have to blame the publicist for the Black Widow because it’s simply not true. While the Black Widow is somewhat dangerous, she is not the killer that everyone has painted her to be. In fact, in my whole two summers of working for this company, chatting with other inspectors and prevention technicians I had never even heard of a bite happening.

And the documented cases of Black Widow bites are rarely fatal for a person in average health.

But when it comes to fear logical facts don’t change a thing. In our minds the Black Widow has become synonymous with danger. Fear is a powerful emotion.

And that is the key to why the Black Widow closes deals.

The biggest reason we as humans buy anything is because of our emotional attachment to it. Whether it is fear, pain, pleasure, excitement or adventure. The primary reason we buy is found in the way that product makes us feel.

Studies have confirmed that this emotional connection is the #1 reason we buy.  We buy things all the time without any logical reason other than we appreciate the way they make us feel.  In the case of the Black Widow the pest control contract brings a sense of security where there was a fear.

Take a look at the history of the world’s most successful products and brands and you’ll find a pattern that they have all solved a nagging pain, a dramatic fear, a moment of embarrassment, a returning concern, a bothersome inconvenience, and even the pain of being left out.

When it comes to a battle between logic and emotion, emotion will always win.

George Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon University describes this phenomenon this way, “Most of the brain is dominated by automatic process, rather than deliberate thinking. A lot of what happens in the brain is emotional, not cognitive.” 1.

Think of all the consumer spending and credit card debt that is accumulated by people who know they don’t have the money – but they can’t say no. Logic always gives into emotion. And even though logic tells these people they don’t need a product they feel like they can’t live without it. Advertisers and successful sales people know that there are buttons to push within us that ignite our emotions into buying mode.

Additional studies involving purchasing patterns of the brain suggest that this automatic process also dictates purchasing habits or a phenomenon called a ‘purchasing hook.’

Have you ever continued to buy something because of an attachment to a special memory or experience? That’s a purchasing hook. It happens all the time, you buy a specific brand of chewing gum because it happened to be the one you were chewing the night you met your first love. Or you want to wear a specific watch because that’s what James Bond wore in that movie, and you felt it was exciting. We buy because we associate that product with a specific emotion.

These kind of anchoring techniques are relatively simple to master with the right kind training.

Now I am not presenting this information to suggest that all a sales person needs to do to be successful is simply get people emotionally excited about what they are selling. I am simply pointing out the results of the study. Emotion sells. But that is not the end of the deal…

‘Emotional selling’ may create a quick purchase, but it is a very small part of the equation when it comes to creating a long term business. If the product or service does not deliver in the long term value or meet the expectations of a customer that emotional value will turn sour very quickly.

If what you are offering is genuinely valuable the customer will generally find several of emotional points on her own but there are ways to enhance this in a presentation. In our training that includes the 5 ways your brain learns we share some great ways to build these emotional values without coming off too “salesy.”

Emotion is the major driving factor in our economy. If you want to be successful in sales you need to understand the most dramatic and challenging problems that your prospect has and how you solve that with your products and services. That is where the emotion is.

If you can discover those needs and present solutions to them in a clear way many of the emotional hooks will take care of themselves.  After all, who really wants a hunting Black Widow spider lurking nearby?

To learn more about how to build these emotional hooks into your product presentations please contact us at The Sales Success Academy 1-877-393-9496.

  1. Buy.ology, Martin Lindstrom P.28

About the Author:

Douglas Vermeeren is a featured trainer at The Sales Success Academy. He is the director of the SUCCEED Research Center which is dedicated to sharing research on the systems that top achievers use to create lasting success.

Over the last decade Vermeeren has interviewed more than 400 of the world’s top achievers, including business leaders, celebrities and professional or Olympic athletes. Douglas Vermeeren is the author of Guerrilla Achiever (With Jay Levinson) and the creator of The Opus (with Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Dr. Joe Vitale, Dr. John Demartini, Dr. Sue Morter, Marci Shimoff, Bill Bartmann, Bob Doyle and Morris Goodman.) Currently Doug is completing another film entitled, How Thoughts Become Things. This film will explore the process of how our thoughts become manifest in our lives as reality.  For more on this film go to: www.HowThoughtsBecomeThings.com For more on Douglas Vermeeren go to: www.SucceedResearch.com Douglas Vermeeren can be reached for speaking engagements and training at 1.877.393.9496.

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