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Right and left brain selling

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by John Foust
Newspaper Advertising Trainer – Raleigh, NC

Diane was telling me about her early days in selling. “One day stands out in my mind,” she said. “I had back-to-back appointments with two different prospects to talk about a special section. The first person was interested in what his ad would look like and the importance of selecting illustrations to project the right image. The second person jumped right into the numbers and wanted to know the details of rates and tracking systems.

“Both people bought ads, but it fascinated me that they arrived at their decisions in such different ways. Both cared about the appearance of their ads, but the first person cared more. Both people cared about numbers, but the second person cared more.

“That’s when I realized that there is a lot of truth in the right brain-left brain concept I had heard so much about. The left side is the logical, mathematical side and the right side is the emotional, creative side. Of course, no one is 100 percent on either side, but most people have a natural tendency toward one side. Tendencies usually show up in childhood. Left brain children are better at math and right brain children are better at creative writing.”

Diane explained that these traits are clearly evident in adults. “We’ve all been in conversations where the other person seems to be on a completely different wavelength. That could be due to different thinking styles. One of the key principles of selling is to ‘know your audience,’ which goes beyond knowing their company history and marketing motives. We have to get in step with the other person’s thinking style, too.

“During a sales presentation, I try to adapt to the other person’s style. When I’m talking to left brainers, I focus on facts and figures – and I use testimonial examples with lots of statistical evidence. When I talk to right brainers, I concentrate on creative strategy, with similar testimonials. When I meet with two or more people, I make sure to include information for both types.”

What about the ads themselves? “It’s interesting to study ads that deliberately take thinking styles into consideration,” Diane said. “Look through a technical publication and you’ll see ads that are filled with product specs and statistics. The same advertisers would have to take a different approach in a publication which appeals primarily to right brain readers. But in a general interest setting – like a newspaper – it’s smart to include ad elements that appeal to both types.

“All of this has convinced me that flexibility is one of the most important traits of an advertising professional,” she explained. “Too many people in this business think they can make the same presentation to everybody. That just doesn’t work. We have to make adjustments and do everything possible to connect. We shouldn’t expect them to adapt to us. We have to adapt to them.”

Diane makes a good point. It’s not always about right and wrong. Sometimes it’s a matter of right and left.

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(c) Copyright 2019 by John Foust. All rights reserved.

John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information:john@johnfoust.com