Neuroscience-Based Hyper-Tactical Outbound Approaches with Justin Michael
Author: collin stewart
Justin Michael is a futurist who has pioneered novel neuroscience-based approaches to outbound sales. He has occupied senior positions at numerous top-tier corporations, including Salesforce and LinkedIn, and has led many very large revenue sales development teams. He is also the co-author of the groundbreaking book “Tech-Powered Sales: Achieve Superhuman Sales Skills”. He joined Predictable Revenue to share some of his cutting-edge ideas on developing neuroscience-based hyper-tactical outbound approaches.
Technology Quotient (TQ)
One of the most important ideas in this area is what is called ‘Technology Quotient’ (TQ). This refers to people’s abilities to assimilate or adapt to technological changes by developing and employing strategies that successfully include technology in work and life. When applied to sales, this can include the skills that salespeople possess for quickly adapting to new platforms such as ToutApp and SalesLoft.
Justin ponders, “What is this meta skill that no matter how many times the platforms change — if you learn this stuff, you can stay ahead of it? How do you learn how to learn? It’s technology quotient.”
This is an idea that is now gaining considerable currency. A number of academics from a diverse range of scholarly fields are developing the concept and establishing how to test and measure it. “We got some leaders involved, some professors, scholars, engineers, neuroscientists. People who are not just smarter than me, but accredited, and we developed a series of games and exercises.” The ultimate aim of increasing your TQ is to become a “seller cyborg”, or “Salesborg”, who can easily gain proficiency in new sales platforms and approaches.
The human brain processes visual content at 60,000 times the speed at which it processes text. This has serious implications for those engaging in outbound sales. One of the most important implications is how salespeople approach emails — this should be considered a visual, rather than a textual, medium.
“If I send someone a Venn diagram, this image is going to unlock 60,000 times faster than a paragraph of text. So, I started sending senior people Venn diagrams. I sent one of these to the Chief Digital Officer of McDonald’s and on the first email I got a meeting. Then I sent it to the VP of The Home Depot, and from my signature he called me. Without me even asking, he says pitch me. What’s crazy is I went after that account for five years with cold calls, with digital, with everything. So this was my breakthrough.”
To maximize impact, emails should be short and visual. A message that is three paragraphs long is going to take 13 seconds to scan, whereas three sentence emails take only 3.3 seconds. Of course, short emails with images might get flagged by spam filters. To get around this, just put the visuals in the second or third touch.
So, if neuroscience can reveal to us the visual nature of emails, then how can it help us to reassess phone calls?
“I realized that phone work is about active listening, it’s about power transfer, and it’s about polarity.” Salespeople can only exert influence over people by encouraging them to talk. And the more that they are active listeners the more influence they’ll have. It’s this skill that empowers sales professionals to influence polarity and provoke power transfer.
“I would work on these giant deals for months or years, and there is this moment where the customer starts pushing the deal – I’m not pushing it. Well, I found this same polarity shift on first calls when I could get people to talk, and I could ask open spin questions.”
Justin developed a framework to better facilitate this process, called ‘route room and multiply’. This framework is built around keeping the prospect talking on the phone for as long as possible. To accomplish this, rather than trying to convince them that their internal solution or the competitor is bad, salespeople should validate the prospect and ask multiple open questions.
“So, what I found on first calls is there’s a moment when the prospect becomes interested in the seller. You have to wait and listen hard enough for that magic moment, for the polarity to shift. My whole technique is based on generating the interest and the desire, or unlocking the latent pain.”
Too often salespeople approach sales calls aggressively, placing themselves under the spotlight, and dominating the conversation. Most of the time, this results in the prospect subconsciously recoiling. “Their mind is triggered, like fight or flight, and they start running the other way.” By encouraging the prospect to talk about themselves and their problems, salespeople can avoid this and increase their chances of experiencing a polarity shift.
A person’s neuroplasticity is the capacity of their brain to adapt to new environments and develop new abilities. It generally takes anywhere between 18 and 254 days to form a new habit, but with determination this period is likely to be closer to 14 to 27 days. Indeed, intelligence agents working for organizations such as the CIA have been known to learn conversational Romanian in two weeks. “So, if we can learn the complexity of languages, then we can reorganize our synaptic connections. Our brains are like plastic, and we can re-groove them through repetition.”
Although there are many theories about how sales have changed our brains, currently gaining popularity, they are scientifically wrong. Neuroscience tells us, “This version of our brain is actually 40,000 years old, and is identical to the version of the brain that buyers and sellers had 100 years ago”.
Salespeople are forever sending emails out of sequencers, and much of the time it feels like these are falling on stony ground. However, the neuroscientific concepts of “selective awareness” and “trigger events” teach us that we should maintain faith in these methods.
“What’s happening? Prospects are actually seeing the emails.” Even if it seems like they’re ignoring you, and even if they are actually deleting the emails, their brains are taking in the information and gaining awareness of you. Then, when a trigger event occurs, this information can be thrust to the front of their minds and suddenly they’ll want your services. Trigger events can be any disruptive incident, such as a job change, a supplier messing up an order, or a particularly prominent advertising campaign.
“For example, Gong did a Super Bowl advert. So maybe I finally see Gong’s logo, but I’ve been getting their emails for months. Your brain triggers, and it starts to become conscious of these emails. So, the takeaway here is to have faith in the abyss. You’re dialing into a black hole. I’m constantly buffering these prospects in all these hyper relevant ways without any response, but I have trust that, because of their selective awareness, mentally they are seeing it.”
“Everyone’s going to HubSpot, and they’re getting these awesome templates by people like Josh Braun, and by Beck Holland. Check it out. Learn it. But here’s what not to do: don’t use it. Don’t even use my stuff. Figure out the heuristic.”
Heuristics are any approach to problem solving that uses a practical method, or a shortcut, in order to produce solutions. While these may not be optimal, they are sufficient given a limited timeframe. When applied to sales, this means developing a ‘meta framework’ for your activities and operating within this.
“You’re writing an email: you do something humorous as an opener. You then write a bridge. You do social proof. What are the building blocks linguistically of what you’re sending?” If you just copy paste from a HubSpot blog, then the danger is that your template will be the same as everyone else’s.
“Then prospects just tune it out, because they see that it’s automated. So, heuristics are like shortcuts to problem solving. Just think of it as the puzzle pieces of what the languages mean. So, if you’re looking at text as an image, the images are like chess moves through your email.”
Left Brain / Right Brain
Many people are familiar with the concept that people are either right-brain, meaning creative, or left-brain, meaning analytical. In reality, this is not a scientific fact. However, it remains a useful heuristic.
“When we were trained at LinkedIn to write, we were taught to make every communication left-brain, right-brain. What this means is, if you have a logical argument then you also want to have emotion and heart.”
So, for instance, an email that just mentions 110% revenue growth will not have a big impact. This might catch the eye of a CFO, but for most people this will be too dry to capture their attention. “People get inspired to buy with emotion and then they justify with logic.” So always write a message with an emotional appeal.
If you would like to hear more advice and guidance from Justin on how to leverage neuroscience into effective prospecting, then watch the full video with Predictable Revenue here.
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