Monkey See, Monkey Do? How mimicking helps you close deals

Everybody feels that they are smarter than the next guy.  Everybody feels that they can sniff out a fake a mile away.

Sorry.  Statistics, probabilities and evolutionary genetics shows that you’ve been fooled more times than you think.

A crappy sales person will talk a mile-a-minute to unload info on you.  A good sales person will ask you questions before he introduces his solution.  A superior sales person will read you like a book and read your very thoughts back to you.

One thing you learn in evolutionary biology is ‘Like Likes Like’ or more familiar, ‘Birds of a feather stick together.’  Similarity means mating opportunities and group safety.  Before the evolution of language, culture and gang colours, there were programmed behavioural loops.  Instinctive behaviours that immediately let other members of the same species know exactly what you wanted.  Every single species on the planet, from seahorse to race horse have what are called stereotyped behaviours that are instantly recognizable to other members of the species.

It has begun.

You’re no different.  In fact, many of your behaviours are immediately familiar to chimpanzees, orang-utans or gorillas.

Sales coaches have always taught you to mimic and mirror your buyer’s actions and repeat your buyer’s words.  They may not have known the science behind it but they were absolutely right.  We have what are called mirror neurons in our brains that fire when we recognize certain behaviours.  Instantaneous recognition helps us immediately make a decision whether to fight or flee.  By mirroring the behaviour of your buyer, you create a comfortable, predictable and more pliant mind-frame to sell to.

Spoken language is a late evolutionary development, probably occurring around 3.5 millions years ago.  Prior to that, communication was in the form of gestures.  Babies are seen to mimic behaviour as early as 40 minutes after birth.  Gestural communication far out powers spoken communication but we’re so attuned to receiving information verbally, we don’t notice when we’re being purposefully mimicked. Detecting mimicked speech is easy.  Detecting mimicked behaviour isn’t if you’re not looking for it.  Your mirror neurons fire the moment it detects a series of recognizable events.  You’re not aware of it.  The response is context specific.  It’s what you would call behavioural recognition.  The more familiar the event, the harder your neurons fire to initiate a response. Even using words that denote a physical action will cause those same neurons to fire.  Can you ‘grasp’ the idea?

A good sales guy, presenter, or communicator will know how to initiate the sequence of behaviours that will cause you see his actions as safe and trusting.  Sorry, you’re not immune to it.  It’s just that you haven’t run into a lot of behavioural neurologists who are selling used cars and Florida time-shares.  If you become adept at initiating trust behaviour triggers, the mirror neurons in the listener’s brain fire as if they were performing the very actions themselves – and since the listener’s brain isn’t very good at detecting error or fault, it tells the buyer that the situation is safe.

We buy because we want to buy.  We trust because we want to trust.  We seek similarity because that’s the only way for genetic exchange and genetic preservation to happen.  Mimicking your listener induces a physiological response that’s been pre-programmed since the beginning of life.  “Like Likes Like.”  This is the fundamental rule of selling yourself.

When you look at people at the most basic level, you don’t see differences.  You only see the similarities.  This is actually a good thing.

And it will also help you close a ton of deals.


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