Show the Crocodile Brain ‘Contrast’ to Grab Its Attention

“Why is this so different from that? The difference might make it dangerous… or tasty.”

Contrast draws the attention of the crocodile brain, which must then pass the information to the neo-cortex for consideration. This series of posts about the development of sales messaging is based on the brain research of Dr. Robert Ornstein. Contrast is one of the seven characteristics identified by Dr. Ornstein that will grab your prospects’ attention.Contrast

In my last post I described the first of the seven characteristics (Concrete) that your prospects’ brain stems (aka ‘crocodile brains’) consider worthy of attention. Today’s post is about the second characteristic:


The crocodile brain is interested in contrast. And the closer in proximity the contrasted items are, the more interested the crocodile brain is.

Research shows that humans need to perceive contrast in order to make decisions. Our brains will find something to furnish the contrast they need. Typically, what buyers seize on to create contrast is price. Pricing conversations often aren’t really budget-driven. They result from the absence of any other contrast to consider. So give them a contrast other than price to focus on.

The contrast you want to create is between your prospect’s current situation, and the safety of moving to your solution. Your prospects may feel that doing nothing is safer than doing something. So, through contrast, show them that their status quo is more dangerous than they realize (e.g. they’ll be left behind by their competition, they’ll be unable to take advantage of fresh opportunities, they’ll waste resources on an outdated process, etc.).

Keep their status quo and your contrasted future vision in close proximity. Show your prospects that they aren’t in as good a place as they thought (often they know they’re not in a good place, but the pain isn’t strong enough to move them), then immediately show them that you can get them to a much safer place.

Case studies are a good vehicle for this. Don’t take the chronological approach, though (where you start at the ‘before’ situation, describe the sale and installation, then finish with the ‘after’ situation).

Describe the ‘before’(with its inherent dangers, problems and pains), then immediately describe the ‘after’ (with its peace of mind inducing safety). You’ll have their undivided attention. Then you can share the details about how you moved your case study customer from before to after.

For example, here’s how I would formulate one of my case studies:

This software vendor had a highly complex, expensive application for the healthcare industry. What it did, and why it was worth the price, were difficult to explain. They had a 40 minute PowerPoint presentation. When sales people were able to give the presentation, they usually moved the sales cycle forward. The problem was getting their target prospects (hospital CFOs) to sit through the presentation. Sales cycles were too long. Sales people were frustrated. The bottom line was suffering.

We were able to change all of that. CFOs are now able to quickly and easily understand the application and see the benefits. They often contact the vendor to ask for a sales call. They are, in essence, pre-sold. Business is booming.

We accomplished this by building a five minute multimedia video that quickly (and entertainingly) communicated the value proposition of the software. This video is available 24/7 everywhere in the world. A 14 page follow-up whitepaper fills in the details. Prospects download the whitepaper and read it because the video convinced them that it will be time well spent.

In my next post I’ll discuss the next characteristic – Emotion!


About the Author:

Managing Consultant at acSellerant. Seasoned business marketer currently focused on positioning, sales messaging, content marketing and visual storytelling.

One Comment
  1. Good article, Bob, as you are absolutely right that all of us need to feel we have explored our options or choices before making a decision. In some ways, Sears pioneered this approach for consumers over 60 years ago by offering a choice of “Good”, “Better” and “Best” in many categories like appliances.

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