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Incorporating The Triune Brain Into Sales For Greater Success

March 18, 20237 min read

The triune brain was proposed by neuroscientist Paul MacLean. It states the human brain is divided into three main parts: the reptilian brain, the limbic brain, and the neocortex (MacLean, 1990). Each of these components is responsible for different aspects of human behaviour, and understanding their functions can help salespeople target potential customers more effectively.

The reptilian brain, or the basal ganglia, is the oldest and most primitive part of the brain. It is responsible for basic instincts such as self-preservation, territoriality, and aggression (MacLean, 1990). Research has shown that the reptilian brain is the first to be activated during the decision-making process, which implies that appealing to this part of the brain can be essential for sales success (Goleman, 1995). In a study conducted by Shiv et al. (2005), participants were more likely to make impulsive, riskier choices when their reptilian brain was stimulated. Salespeople can leverage this information by emphasizing product features that cater to customers' basic survival instincts, such as warranties, insurance, or safety certifications.

The limbic brain, also known as the mammalian brain or the paleomammalian complex, is responsible for emotions, motivation, and memory (MacLean, 1990). The amygdala, a key component of the limbic brain, has been shown to play a crucial role in emotional decision-making (LeDoux, 1996). In sales, appealing to customers' emotions can be an effective way to encourage them to make a purchase. A study by Small et al. (2007) found that participants were more likely to donate to a charity when presented with an emotional story about a single individual rather than statistics about the issue. Salespeople can apply this knowledge by sharing emotionally compelling narratives about their products, such as customer testimonials, case studies, or personal anecdotes.

The neocortex, also known as the rational brain or the neomammalian complex, is responsible for higher cognitive functions such as reason, logic, and abstract thinking (MacLean, 1990). This part of the brain allows humans to engage in complex decision-making and problem-solving. In sales, providing customers with clear, logical, and well-researched information about a product can appeal to the neocortex, leading to more informed purchasing decisions. Research by Petty and Cacioppo (1986) supports this notion, showing that people are more likely to be persuaded by messages that are presented with strong, logical arguments. Salespeople should, therefore, focus on providing customers with objective, evidence-based information about their products, such as comparative analyses, technical specifications, and independent reviews.

Incorporating the triune brain into sales strategies can have tangible benefits for both salespeople and customers. A study by Ambler et al. (2002) found that advertisements that effectively targeted the reptilian, limbic, and neocortex regions of the brain led to increased sales and higher levels of customer satisfaction. By tailoring their sales pitches to address each part of the triune brain, salespeople can create a more comprehensive and persuasive message that resonates with customers on multiple levels.

The framework for using the triune brain in sales involves tailoring the sales approach to address the specific needs and motivations associated with each of the three main components of the human brain: the reptilian brain, the limbic brain, and the neocortex. The following framework outlines how to effectively appeal to each brain region during the sales process:

Start With Reptilian Brain (Attention) :

  • Focus on safety and security: Emphasize the product's safety features, durability, and reliability to cater to the customer's basic survival instincts.

  • Address immediate needs: Since the reptilian brain is responsible for quick decision-making, highlight how the product can solve the customer's immediate problems or satisfy their urgent desires.

  • Create a sense of urgency/ importance: Leverage the reptilian brain's tendency to make decisions quickly by using time-sensitive offers or promotions.

Move To Limbic Brain (Stimulate):

  • Evoke emotions: Use emotionally charged stories, testimonials, or case studies to create an emotional connection with the customer.

  • Highlight values and social responsibility: Present information about the company's commitment to ethical practices, social responsibility, or environmental sustainability to appeal to the customer's values and emotions.

  • Build rapport and trust: Demonstrate empathy and genuine concern for the customer's well-being to establish a strong emotional connection and trust.

Finally The Neocortex (Rationalise):

  • Provide logical and well-researched information: Present clear, evidence-based, and objective information about the product, such as technical specifications, comparative analyses, and independent reviews.

  • Use visuals and structured presentation: Utilize visual aids like charts, graphs, and infograph


  • ics to help customers process complex information more easily and make logical comparisons.

  • Encourage critical thinking and questions: Allow customers to ask questions and engage in a dialogue to facilitate a deeper understanding of the product's features and benefits.

By incorporating this framework into the sales process, salespeople can create a more comprehensive and persuasive sales pitch that resonates with customers on multiple levels, addressing their instincts, emotions, and logical reasoning. This comprehensive approach can lead to increased sales, improved customer satisfaction, and stronger customer relationships.

Understanding the triune brain and its implications for human decision-making processes can not only help salespeople create more effective sales pitches that appeal to the different motivations and needs of potential customers but also improve their overall sales approach.

To further elaborate on the triune brain's role in sales, it is important to consider how salespeople can integrate these insights into their sales techniques and strategies effectively. This can be achieved through a combination of active listening, empathy, storytelling, and logical presentation.

Active listening is crucial in sales, as it allows the salesperson to understand the customer's needs, values, and preferences. By being attentive and asking relevant questions, a salesperson can tailor their pitch to address the customer's reptilian, limbic, and neocortex brain regions. This approach requires salespeople to be observant, patient, and empathetic, which helps build rapport and trust with the customer (Zenger & Folkman, 2019).

Empathy is an essential skill for salespeople, as it enables them to connect with the customer on an emotional level. Research has shown that empathetic salespeople are more successful in their sales efforts, as they can better understand and address the customer's emotional needs (Rackham & De Vincentis, 1999). By demonstrating genuine empathy and concern for the customer's well-being, a salesperson can effectively appeal to the limbic brain, ultimately enhancing the persuasiveness of their sales pitch.

Storytelling is a powerful tool in sales, as it allows salespeople to create an emotional connection with the customer by appealing to the limbic brain. By sharing engaging and relatable stories about their products, salespeople can evoke emotions that drive customers to make a purchase (Simmons, 2006). These stories should focus on highlighting the product's benefits, as well as the experiences of other customers who have used the product. Additionally, incorporating stories about the company's values, mission, and social responsibility can further appeal to the customer's emotional brain.

The logical presentation of information is essential for appealing to the neocortex. Salespeople should strive to present their products in a clear, concise, and well-structured manner, ensuring that the customer can easily understand the product's features and benefits. This can be achieved by using visual aids, such as charts, graphs, and infographics, to help customers process complex information more easily (Bertin, 1981). Additionally, salespeople should provide customers with credible sources and data to support their claims, as this can enhance their credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of the customer.

When salespeople effectively integrate the triune brain's insights into their sales techniques and strategies, they can create a more comprehensive and persuasive sales pitch that resonates with customers on multiple levels. This, in turn, can lead to increased sales, improved customer satisfaction, and stronger customer relationships.

In recent years, research on the triune brain has also been applied to other fields, such as marketing and advertising. For example, neuro-marketing studies have shown that advertisements that successfully target the reptilian, limbic, and neocortex brain regions are more likely to be effective in driving consumer behaviour (Vecchiato et al., 2011). By incorporating the triune brain's insights into their marketing and advertising strategies, companies can create more impactful and persuasive messages that resonate with consumers.

In conclusion, understanding the triune brain and its implications for human decision-making processes is essential for salespeople who wish to create more effective sales pitches and improve their overall sales approach. By targeting the reptilian brain with product features that cater to basic survival instincts, the limbic brain with emotionally compelling narratives, and the neocortex with logical, evidence-based information, salespeople can increase their chances of making a sale and ultimately improve customer satisfaction.

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