Modern buyers are more difficult to engage with than ever before because of a myriad of factors. Thankfully, science is here to help. My guest in this episode of the Modern Selling podcast brings us the answer to the modern seller’s woes in a simple phrase: sell the way you buy.

Joining me is David Priemer, the Founder and Chief Sales Scientist of Cerebral Selling. David’s unique science and empathy-based approaches to driving revenue and talent growth have been published in the Harvard Business Review as well as Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Inc. magazines.

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Sell the Way you Buy Book CoverOften referred to as the “Sales Professor”, David is also the author of the Bestselling book, Sell The Way You Buy, and an Adjunct Professor at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University.

David started his career not as a sales rep but as a research scientist. He actually holds a B.Sc. in Chemistry and Atmospheric Science from York University and a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Toronto. Nonetheless, he has spent 20 years leading top-performing sales teams at high-growth technology companies including Salesforce, where he was the Vice President of Commercial Sales and creator of the Sales Leadership Academy program.

Listen to our conversation to learn how David jumped from research to sales and how he now bridges the gap between science and sales to train sellers in modern selling techniques.

The State of Modern Selling

As a sales leader, you know that today selling is more difficult than it was 10 years ago. There are factors on the buyer’s side and on the seller’s side, according to David.

The main factor on the side of B2B buyers is the advent of the Internet. Today, buyers do independent research online before connecting with a salesperson.

Additionally, customers have almost infinite choices. There is a very low bar for people to create solutions of all kinds, which has saturated the B2B technology market. For example, there are more than 8,500 martech tools and more than 700 sales tools available in the market.

With so many choices it is hard for buyers to decide, their attention is very thin and all sellers sound the same to them. In fact, buyers are less tolerant of pushy sales tactics than ever before.

For the modern seller, this means they need to make more attempts in the sales cycle to connect with a savvy and impatient buyer, using an omnichannel approach and a multitouch sales cadence.

Furthermore, the average tenure of a sales rep is decreasing and as a result, sales leaders have a less experienced sales force that must sell to older and more experienced buyers.

In fact, David points out that sellers are getting younger, creating what he calls Experience Asymmetry. This is how he defines it: “The genesis of most sales cycles involves a younger, newer, or generally less experienced sales or business development rep calling on a more senior decision-maker whose job they’ve never done. Hence, experience asymmetry.”

Imagine a young inexperienced sales rep cold calling a VP of Sales at a large company. The executive will be skeptical of what he can learn from the seller, and the rep will be worried about establishing credibility and adding value to a wary prospect.

In a 2019 HBR article, David explained the three tactics younger salespeople can use to win over older customers:

  1. Knowing their pain points.
  2. Invoking the credibility of others.
  3. Presenting arguments with conviction.

We discussed this last tactic during our interview. When David was a sales leader at SalesForce, he listened to the calls of sales reps who were not converting and discovered that the problem was that they sounded afraid, as if they were bothering the potential customer and not adding value.

In his experience, a sales person who speaks with conviction can win over any customer. How your sellers pitch is every bit as important as the words they use.

You must infuse your sellers with the passion and conviction they need to engage with experienced buyers. One way to this is by creating an emotional linkage, leading with feelings and emotions instead of just pitching the ROI message.

David teaches a modern selling tactic that he calls ‘picking an enemy’ that is emotionally enticing to the buyer. The seller should start the pitch invoking what the buyer hates, thus supercharging the sales conversation with emotion. In other words, selling to the problem, not the solution.

Listen to the episode for some great examples of how to apply this tactic.

What science tells us about how people make buying decisions

Science shows that the mind plays tricks on us, making us think we are very logical, but the truth is that we buy based on feelings and emotions almost 100% of the time, from ordering lunch to purchasing B2B technology. It’s only afterward, that we use logic to justify our decisions.

#ModernSellers check out this episode of the @GoModernSelling to discover what buyers are not telling you and what resonates emotionally with them 💥 from the experts @M_3Jr and @DPriemer Click To Tweet

However, according to David, sales professionals are not selling the way they buy. Instead of leading with emotions, they are leading with logic.

3 Science-Based Modern Selling Tips

1. Sell to the emotions

Sales leaders often encourage their reps to go out and sell value, meaning ROI.

The logical pitch goes something like this: “If you buy our solution, you will save time and make more money.”

The above is an ROI proposition, but that doesn’t mean that is what the buyer or decision-maker values. David gives a great example of this. Think about an employee who has been charged with looking for IT security software for the company. If he buys the wrong solution, the consequences could be catastrophic, so during the buying process he is not thinking about ROI, but about not getting fired.

The seller who can speak to that unconscious emotion will close the sale as opposed to sellers who just talk about ROI. A good example of messaging that addresses the kind of fear in the case above is the famous IBM ad: “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.”


IBM appealed to the fear of getting fired and positioned themselves as a safe bet.

David points out that for most of us as buyers, this is completely unconscious, we don’t internalize why we buy one product over another. But as sellers, we can look into the science of buying and leverage that to our favor.

Check out these #SocialSelling tips and what science tells us about how people make buying decisions 🧪 on this episode of the @GoModernSelling with @M_3Jr and @DPriemer Click To Tweet

For instance, researchers have identified the top emotional motivators that drive consumer behavior. Here is a list of the top ten:

Emotional Motivators Buyers

David’s advice for modern sellers is to find out what their ideal customer values, keeping in mind that what the customer values and the business benefit of the solution they are selling are completely different. They must find out what the buyer is not telling but that would resonate emotionally with them.

“Find the enemy and craft a narrative,” David says. “People are conditioned to respond to stories. They get hooked to stories but tune out sales pitches.”

2. Present data in a way that appeals to the brain 

When crafting sales messages or cold calling scripts, sellers must present data in a way that is easier for the brain to process. For example, it’s not the same to say, “save 10% of your time” than to say, “get 20 hours of your time back every month.”

Although both statements may be mathematically equivalent, they are not processed the same way in the mind. The percentage is more abstract than the absolute, which is more tangible and relatable to the average person.

3. Reply to objections with questions

Many sales playbooks list one-size-fits-all answers to common customer objections, but that is a mistake. Responding to objections has to be a narrative, a back and forth conversation, because every customer has different circumstances.

Data actually shows that the best sales reps respond to objections with questions, so they can understand the intent and the root cause of objections and address them accordingly.

Be sure to listen to the episode for more tips and insights from David Priemer, the “sales professor.”


Outline of This Episode

  • [2:43] David’s Story: From Research Scientist (and Certified Meteorologist) to Sales Leader.
  • [7:15] Why selling is more difficult now than in the past.
  • [10:47] What science tells us about buying decisions.
  • [16:57] The top challenges of modern sellers.
  • [27:43] Selling value the right way.
  • [33:12] Messaging and pitch tactics.
  • [37:25] The Cobra Kai Paradox.
  • [40:37] Handling customer objections.

Resources Mentioned

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