The Power of Primal Selling

authors Scott Siegal 

managing growthMAC or PC? Nike or Adidas? Sweet potato soufflé or green bean casserole? What makes you choose the things you do? The answer might surprise you: It’s how you’re hardwired. It’s literally all in your head.

When we look at what causes a person to make any decision, you first have to understand what’s going on inside the human brain. There are two key forces at play. The rational and the primal. Our rational decision-making occurs in the cerebral cortex. This part of the brain controls language, speech and logic. Then there’s the primal part of the brain (the hindbrain). This part is responsible for autonomic functions like our breathing and heartbeat. This is also where we experience our emotions and instincts like fight or flight.

What neuroscientists have discovered is that this primal part of the brain guides our decision-making. And when you engage the primal part of the brain before you engage the rational part, you stand a better chance of getting someone to make a certain decision. So that’s the challenge we all face: When selling our products and services, we need to figure out how to engage the primal part of the consumer brain first.

The old saying, “We buy on emotion and justify with logic,” could not be truer. Of course, the rational brain ultimately weighs in (comparative savings, return on investment, etc.), but if we don’t appeal to the consumer’s emotions, then the likelihood of the sale becomes less, well, likely.

Getting Primal

How does one even begin to target the primal part of the brain? That’s where the science of persuasion comes in. There are a set of rules to follow, six stimuli that will trigger the primal part of the brain before the rational.*

Personal: The primal brain is self-centered. So make your sales pitch about the client. Don’t just focus on the product or service; focus on the person who will be using it.

Contrastable: The primal brain thrives on snap decisions. Things that can easily be figured out, like before-and-after imagery. Show the consumer what life is like before using your product or service, then what life could be like after using it.

Tangible: Find common ground. The primal brain seeks familiarity and makes decisions based on an instinctive desire for what is safe and comfortable.

Memorable: The primal brain has a short attention span. Build your sales pitch by placing the most important information in the beginning and end of your presentation.

Visual: We are wired to immediately react to certain visuals in our environment. A stop sign means stop. Green means go. Use these tactics to your advantage and be mindful of them when sharing a presentation with a potential buyer.

Emotional: We are emotional creatures, and the primal brain quickly latches on to interactions that engage our emotions. Even if you can’t close on a sale, by appealing to a customer’s emotions, they’ll remember you and think about you in the future.

Primal Selling in Action

With the six primal stimuli in mind, how do you then make the sale? Where do you go from here?

  1. What’s the person’s pain? A lot of contractors fall down here. They just want to find out what they like and need, and not what the problems are—not uncovering the pain or fear. A leaky roof, for example: “Oh, they want a new roof.” But it might not be what the pain is. The husband’s pain might be not wanting his wife to complain about it. So focusing on a new roof might not trigger the husband’s pain. But talking about how the work will be done and that it’ll take care of everything, and he won’t manage anything, and his wife will be thrilled with the end result, you uncover the fear and solve for the fear. Solve for the pain, and then they’re more apt to make the decision to buy.
  2. Differentiate your claim. Why should they choose you and your service?
  3. Who you are. Once we’ve differentiated claims, you want to show how doing business with you will be a gain, whether financial, personal, strategic; if it’s a commercial job, maybe it’s financial. Figure out how to deliver all of these messages.
  4. What we’re going to do then how we’re going to do it. Tell stories. Be credible. Show contrast. Trigger emotions. Make it visual. These elements should be in your sales process.
  5. Follow your sales process. Demonstrate how your service is the best option.
  6. Deliver all these elements when putting the presentation together.

Why Use Primal Selling?

Certified Contractors Network has been teaching this for 22 years, but we didn’t know why it worked. There now are scientists who have looked at all of this. Thinking Fast and Slow Nobel Prize writer Daniel Kahneman really won the prize based on the cognitive biases people have. And this all fits into the primal brain stuff. We know it’s science-backed. We know for sure why people make decisions. We need to figure out how to get to this part of the brain. We know people are wired visually, so our presentation must also be visual (flip chart or mobile sales app). We use visuals because they work. Most salespeople and training companies focus on the wrong thing. They focus on a one-call or two-call close. Whether it’s one call or two doesn’t matter. What matters is how you appeal to the person’s brain. If one call, great. Two calls, fine. If you’re asking the wrong question, it doesn’t matter the answer. QR

* Source: Sales Brain. Accessed October 18th, 2019.

Scott Siegal is owner of Maggio Roofing in Washington, D.C., and also owns the Certified Contractors Network. You can learn more about CCN by going to the website

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