Episode #036: Brain Rules Part 2 with Dr. John Medina

In This Episode of The Buyer’s Mind with Jeff Shore:

Dr. John Medina discusses his book Brain Rules with Jeff.  Rule #8: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way as non-stressed brains.  What we learn is that stress is not the problem but how we react to stress.  What does that mean to your customer?  Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses.  Rule #11: Male and Female brains are different.  Find out how these rules make a difference in communicating with your customer.

Topics we’re going to cover on today’s podcast:

[1:39] Quote of the Day

[2:55] Sales Tip of the Day

[5:17] Rule #8: Stressed Brains

[9:23] Easy = Right?  Simple = Right

[10:21] Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses

[13:35] Rule #11: Male and Female Brain are Different

[18:52] Motivational Summary

More about our guest Dr. John Medina:

JOHN J. MEDINA, a developmental molecular biologist, has a lifelong fascination with how the mind reacts to and organizes information. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Brain Rules—a provocative book that takes on the way our schools and work environments are designed. He is also the author of Brain Rules for Baby, a must-read for parents and early-childhood educators. Now, in his new book Brain Rules for Aging Well, Medina shares the scientific facts about aging–and the prescription to age well. Medina is an affiliate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

Links from today’s podcast:

Homestreet Bank

Dr. John Medina

Read Full Transcript

Jeff: Here’s a newsflash. People don’t pay attention to boring things. That’s just one of the brain rules that we’ll talk about today on “The Buyer’s Mind.”

Male: Welcome to “The Buyer’s Mind” where we take a closer look deep inside your customers’ decision-making mechanism to reverse engineer the perfect sales presentation. Now, please welcome your host, Jeff Shore.

Jeff: Welcome, everyone, once again to “The Buyer’s Mind” where we investigate exactly what’s going on in the brains of prospects who are considering a purchase decision. The podcast is all about taking that stroll through the buyer’s mind about knowing the customers so well that the sale begins to roll right out in front of you. And today, we’re going to continue our fascinating conversation with Dr. John Medina.

We had already introduced this in our last episode. If you haven’t listened to that, it was so interesting that we extended the conversation and we broke it up into two different podcasts. So we’re going to cover three more of John Medina’s 12 brain rules taken from the book by the same title. The science will blow you away. Murph, in a while, we’re going to talk about how male and female brains are different. Does that scare you just a little bit?

Murph: Only if my wife is in the room when we discuss it because then I’m going to be in trouble.

Jeff: Fair enough. Fair warning to everybody, then, who’s listening. If your significant other is around, you want to be careful about that. But we’ll get into this with John Medina on a number of topics about the way the brain works. I think you’re going to find it absolutely fascinating. But let me give you our quote of the day from William James. He says, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” This is such an appropriate thought for our subject matter today. “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”

I want you to apply that to your own sales conversation. You must be the stress manager, the anti-stressor, if you will. How you get your customer to focus on the right things will make all the difference. So as you hear part two of our conversation with John Medina, you’re going to want to keep that in mind. Look for those applications to get your customer focusing on the right things, not for you, but for them.

We take a moment to let you know that the podcast is brought to you in part by our good friends over at Home Street Bank, our show sponsor, also my lender of choice. This is just wonderful people, professional, dependable, great rates, great service. If you’re a real estate professional, you’re just not going to find better people to work with who will take good care of your clients. So go to homestreetbank.com to learn more. That’s homestreetbank.com.

Before we get to part two of our interview with John Medina, let me give you our sales tip of the day. It’s to ask yourself this question, “Why does my customer feel out of control?” You’re going to hear Dr. Medina talk about this in a bit. He’ll tell us about the fear that customers have of being out of control. I think if we’ve all been in this situation as a customer from time to time, that is a fear where if we don’t fully trust our salesperson, then we fear the salesperson is going to take control away from us and even against our will.

Your task here is to check in regularly and find out where those threats lie. What is eating at your customer? What is causing them to feel out of control? What unknowns are they struggling with? You don’t know, so you must ask. So just be bold and straightforward. Just say to the customer, “I can help you best when I understand you the most. Tell me your concerns. Tell me about anything related to this purchase that has you concerned.” You want your customer feeling they can share anything at all with you. So those check-in questions are so important. It gives your customer permission to tell you what is on their mind.

I want to encourage those of you who are real estate sales leaders, sales managers, VPs of sales, we are right now enrolling in next year’s sales leadership roundtable. This is a mastermind group, a select number of sales leaders that I take here, we work together over the course of an entire year, we meet together face-to-face once a quarter in different cities around the country. We talk every single week. We have assignments that are built around your growth.

I have to tell you we’ve been doing this now for four years and we’ve had so many managers who have come back and said, “My life has been changed. Not just my job, but my life has been changed.” For me personally, these are all now good friends of mine. So if you’re a real estate leader, if you’re a sales leader in the real estate world, go to jeffshore.com/roundtable. I would love to have you along on this journey.

I’m joined now by John Medina, the author of the book “Brain Rules,” an absolutely fascinating book. Let’s go to rule number eight, “Stressed brains do not learn the same way as non-stressed brains.” This is very interesting to me because I work in a world where we’re dealing with consumers, oftentimes who are making one of the more important decisions in their life and there’s a lot at stake financially.

For example, you’re thinking about buying a home. It doesn’t matter, I don’t think, if it’s your first home or your fifth home or whatever, but that’s a stressed brain and it’s stressed because it’s tremendously overloaded. So why does decision-making become much more difficult in times of stress? I think we probably all agree intuitively that stressed brains do not learn the same way. But as we look at the application, why does decision-making become more difficult in times of stress?

Dr. Medina: Sure. Probably the biggest is because as soon as it detects a threat, the brain redirects blood flow away from itself and down to your thighs. Do you know why? What do you think?

Jeff: Because it’s probably telling you, “Get ready to run,” I would guess.

Dr. Medina: Dang right. It’s not interested in whatever, you know, buying a house is. It’s interested in getting away from the house.

Jeff: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, right. Yeah.

Dr. Medina: Here’s an important principle I think you can get with a brain scientist. Interestingly enough, it’s not the presence of stress, what we call it, versus stimuli that the brain gives a rip about. It doesn’t care because it’s in stress all the time. You wake up in the morning and nearly have a heart attack shifting the blood flow, you know, down when you put on your slippers and go down and use the bathroom. It’s not interested in stress. It’s interested in your ability to control the stress. The more out of control you feel over a stressful experience, the more likely you are to shift blood flow to your thighs and get out of Dodge.

Jeff: You are literally suggesting here that the blood flow is going to shift…that’s not a metaphor. You’re saying that’s really going to happen.

Dr. Medina: That is exactly what happens. You have a choice of two hormones. One is called cortisol, which you may have heard of before. It’s part of what’s called the HPA axis and that can be your first responder. Others use epinephrine, norepinephrine, except if you’re in Britain, then you would call those molecules adrenaline and noradrenaline. But they both are built to change the cardiovascular outputs in a very particular way. And for most of us, you may have heard of fight or flight, right?

Jeff: Sure.

Dr. Medina: It’s mostly not a fight because we’re too wimpy. Look at your fingernails. You know, it doesn’t do well against a raccoon, right?

Jeff: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Dr. Medina: We’re actually the Pleistocene’s biggest chicken. We ran. That’s why you’re directing blood flow to your thighs. That’s what it is. It’s not the whole thing. I am overly simplifying something that’s very complicated. But I’m not oversimplifying this. It’s not the stress that bugs people. It’s the feeling of being out of control. So if somebody’s, say, in real estate and someone really wants to buy this house but they’re not sure they have enough money, there’s the feeling, there’s the “owie.” The owie is they feel out of control. They may not be able to get what they want.

So before a salesman would address the beauty of the house, they should address the ability of the person to pay for it. And if there is a particular owie, to work with them to ease into the house in such a fashion that that worry is allayed. So finding out where people feel out of control over something and then addressing the control issues is much more important than addressing the stress issues. Life is stressful, but sometimes you have options over control.

A great example so you can see this is…I know we were talking earlier about war zones. In combat situations we still don’t have strong defenses against ballistic weapons. We have Kevlar, but it’s not much. So whether you die or not on the battlefield is a crapshoot. You’re out of control, and that’s where we think most of the stressors begin to come in people’s lives. So the advice would be simple. Figure out where the client feels out of control over something and address the control issues, not the stress issues.

Jeff: Throw one thing out here and see if it’s related to this topic. I often instruct people that I’m talking to that there is a shortcut that we take when we’re making decisions, and this is really…Kahneman did not put it this succinctly, but I think this is where I got the concept of it. But the mental shortcut we’ll take is that easy equals right. The easier something seems to me, the righter it feels to me. First of all, do you agree, and is it tied specifically to the idea that, well, yes, because if it’s easy for me to understand, then I feel like I’m more in control?

Dr. Medina: I wouldn’t use the word “easy.” I would use the word “simple.”

Jeff: Yeah.

Dr. Medina: Remember that the brain is being overloaded, continually overly stimulated with stimuli. So the simpler you can make something…it may not be easy but it might be simple…the more brain-friendly it’s likely to be. So I would say that your instincts are in the right case. I would just change the words.

Jeff: Got it, got it. Okay. Rule number 10, “Vision trumps all other senses,” so first of all, by how much?

Dr. Medina: Well, it’s so powerful that we even give it its own name. It’s called the “pictorial superiority effect,” PSE. And it’s so powerful that it can actually even override other senses. Do you have time for a quick 30-second story?

Jeff: Sure, go.

Dr. Medina: One way you can show this is with wine. A group of folks in England created a food coloring that would change a white wine to a red wine, and then gave this fake wine to a group of professors over at the University of Bordeaux whose tastes were just perfect. You know, they had words for red wine and words for white wine and whatnot. They gave them the fake reds and the pictorial superiority effect was so powerful that they started using the words for red wine even though what they were tasting was actually a white wine that had just been colored wrong. So vision is so powerful that it can even trump other sensory inputs. That’s why we call it the pictorial superiority effect.

Jeff: Right, right, and we see this even with, again, designed optical illusions where people say, “I know what I’m seeing. Don’t tell me that that’s not blue or that the wavy line doesn’t have a penny in it,” or whatever, right? “I know what I’m seeing.” So that gives credence to idea “seeing is believing.” It doesn’t have anything to do with truth or fact. It’s just seeing is believing.

Dr. Medina: Well, in fact, about half of the brain is devoted to visual processing. That’s a huge amount of neural real estate to devote to exactly one sense, but that’s actually what happens. So any time that you have…Another way of looking at this, I will sometimes give lectures about how to use PowerPoints more effectively. Don’t have more than about 150 letters on the PowerPoint slide. The reason why is that the brain, it turns out when you do eye tracking experiments, doesn’t look at individual words and say, “Oh, there’s the word…like if you said the word “boat.'” Can you visualize the word “boat?”

Jeff: Sure.

Dr. Medina: Okay. Your brain does it. It’ll look at a B, and it’ll look at an O, and it’ll look at an A, then it’ll look at a T. Why? Because it thinks it’s a picture. It’s visually apprehended as just a squiggle. It’s just a picture. Text, then, becomes extremely inefficient if you have like 150 of those together. Can you imagine a PowerPoint slide where you actually had 150 pictures of boats? You couldn’t process it. Well, that’s exactly what you do when you do letters. PSE has the ability to percolate into business in a lot of different ways, and one of them is you put a giant picture on your slide, one picture, and the letters, you can’t have more than 150 letters or you will choke your audience.

Jeff: Welcome to Twitter. There you go. We are just about out of…

Dr. Medina: I think that was with the SMS feed, right? That wasn’t a new brain science thing.

Jeff: Yeah. I get it. I get it. So they got lucky is what you’re saying.

Dr. Medina: Yeah. So much of brain science, I see that, Jeff. Actually, people will just run into this stuff. Like, a good marketer knows about all those six questions even though they didn’t know it was about brain science. They’ll know about control even though they didn’t know there was a brain science behind it.

Jeff: Sure.

Dr. Medina: I totally interrupted you, Jeff.

Jeff: No, no, no, last question. We’re just about out of time, but I have to go here. Rule number 11, “Male and female brains are different.” Look, this is not lost on me. I think it’s sort of silly that, societally, it seems there’s something of a movement to try and deny that, but I think we all know this intuitively. Obviously, you point out, rightly so, it doesn’t mean one brand is better than the other. They’re just different. But here’s my question, when you look at the differences, how does the difference in the male and the female brain affect their decision-making?

Dr. Medina: Well, in a fairly big way. First, I should say that the differences between individual women or between individual men are almost always larger than the different intersex between men and women except in three areas, and it’s those areas that I talk about in the book. The biggest one probably, to answer your question, has to do with how they relate to stress. Women tend to look at and process beautifully the details of stress. Men tend to process the gist and miss the details. So women look at the details of a particular stressful event and really get it down. They tend to miss the gist. Men tend to miss the details and get the gist.

So the best recommendation I can give is that you need to have men and women working side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder together, particularly in situations that actually require reacting to aversive stimuli. You’ll get a much better decision than if you try and make it all male or all female. That’s why it infuriates me when I see boards that are all male. They are missing out on a tremendous amount of cognitive resource. That probably has some deep evolutionary significance. For further research, I’d talk to a guy named Larry Cahill, C-A-H-I-L-L, who was the first to really bring this into the front.

Jeff: Yeah, it’s an entirely different perspective and you’re just not going to get everything you need to know. Boy, I have to honor your time, but I’ve got to tell you, I could talk about this stuff all day long. It is so fascinating. Again, I want to thank you on behalf of all of us who live out there in the real world for giving us a peek behind the curtain and giving it to us in a way that we can understand, that we can digest, and most importantly, that we can apply to live better lives and help people around us live better lives. So, John Medina, thank you so very much for being on “The Buyer’s Mind.”

Dr. Medina: Oh, my pleasure. You ask terrific questions, Jeff. It was delightful to talk to you.

Jeff: Thank you. Well, Murph, once again, John Medina throwing some really, really good stuff our way. Let’s talk about this a little bit. He started with rule number eight, “Stressed brains do not learn the same way as non-stressed brains.” And just the whole idea that you get stressed and the blood flows from your brain to your legs. I have to confess to you, when he first said that, I thought it was a metaphor. I didn’t think that he was actually serious. But that’s pretty interesting stuff.

Murph: Well, and this actually ties back to Scott Halford and a lot of the things that he brought up, you know, fight or flight defense, the things that we do where our brains are wired to protect us, those kinds of things tie it back in to that very first episode. It’s pretty interesting.

Jeff: It really, really was. And the idea that, you know, that stress is not the key issue. It’s the idea of feeling out of control, and boy, if we’re sales professionals, if we can ask ourselves the question in what situations does my customer feel out of control? If I can think about that, then it changes the way that I might work with and talk to them. There’s also the concept of “easy equals right,” something that we talk about a lot. He changed that to, “Simple equals right.” I want to chew on that but I understand what he’s saying right there. That makes a lot of sense.

Then you have rule number 10 that, “Vision trumps all other senses, that half the brain is devoted to visual processing.” That is really, really something. When we look at it, that’s a whole lot of brain, and I’m just trying to think, you know, I think, as he pointed out, we know this in marketing. I wonder how often we pick it up in sales because so often in sales we think it’s about how we speak and the words that we use. I’m not trying to diminish that, but where are the applications for what it’s going to look like in the sales conversation?

Then finally, he talked about the idea that male and female brains are different, that they process differently. I think we could have him on the show for another full segment just to talk about that. But it’s so fascinating to look at whether we are taking in the details and bubbling it up or whether we are just getting the gist of it and then getting only the necessary details, really, really great stuff. And I want to encourage you all, buy the book “Brain Rules” because it’s not just…we only talked about a number of things here that are relative and relating to our sales process. But when you look at rule number 1 that, “Exercise boosts brain power,” and rule number 7, “Sleep well, think well,” or rule number 12, “We are powerful and natural explorers,” there are great things about your life. I highly recommend the book “Brain Rules” by John Medina, and we’ll post a link in the show notes below.

So as we wrap this up, let me ask you, how is your empathy level? Are you feeling “for” someone, or are you feeling “with” someone? That’s really what empathy is all about. It’s about feeling with someone. It’s about being able to step into their place, and I believe it’s one of the great unheralded skill sets, not just in sales, but in life in general, our ability to feel “with” someone. What we find so often in the sales process is we think about the way the customer feels in order to strategize the way that we want to move the sale along. I want to suggest to you that the far more important opportunity that we have here is to feel what they feel because they feel it. And if I can do that, I can come alongside and I experience what they are experiencing, it makes all the difference in the world in my ability to connect in a rich and deep way with my customer.

There is so much going on in their brain, there is so much that we do not understand, and quite frankly at times, that they don’t understand. But the skill called empathy is critical to your success in helping people to get what they really want. And here’s my encouragement to you, practice this in your own life. Practice with your significant other. Practice with your children. Practice with your friends. No judgment. No solving. Just come alongside and say, “I’m here,” and then work on feeling what they feel. Empathy is such a powerful life skill that will easily transfer into helping you help your customers.

That’s a wrap on our podcast. Hope you enjoyed it. You can find everything you need over at jeffshore.com. But until next time, my friends, you know what to do. Go out there and change someone’s world.

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About the Author: Jeff Shore

Jeff Shore is the Founder and President of Shore Consulting, Inc. a company specializing in psychology-based sales training programs. Using these modern, game-changing techniques, Jeff Shore’s clients delivered over 145,000 new homes generating $54 billion in revenue last year.