The Neuroscience of Selling – John Asher

In this article I will review the book The Neuroscience of Selling of John Asher with the subtitle Proven Sales Secrets to Win over the Buyer’s Heart and Mind. John Asher has also written the award winning book Close Deals Faster.

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What is neuroscience ?

Dr. Andrew Huberman is a neuroscientist and tenured professor in the Department of Neurobiology and by courtesy, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford School of Medicine. Huberman is one of the people who got me interested to learn more about patterns in neuroscience.

But before we fully jump into the book, let’s start with a definition of what neuroscience actually is:

“Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system – from structure to function, development to degeneration, in health and in disease. It covers the whole nervous system, with a primary focus on the brain. Incredibly complex, our brains define who we are and what we do.

What is neuroscience? | School of Neuroscience | King’s College London (

Working as a value engineer (pre-sales role) at BMC Software and being a person interested in personal development and (life) coaching neuroscience is an highly interesting field. When neuroscience is combined with sales and sales-process, this is even more exciting.

Book Structure The Neuroscience of Selling

The book starts with explaining the brain structure and showing that the “old brain” (reptilian and mammalian parts) make the decisions. In other words “we decide on emotion and justify with logic” as proven by Dr. Hanna Damasio. The decision making old brain responds to 6 main activators:

  1. ME ME ME focus
  2. Simple, Easy to grasp Ideas
  3. Beginnings and Endings
  4. Clear Distinction
  5. Vivid Images
  6. Active Engagement

Each of these activators is being discussed in more detail with practical examples and guidance of how to use these during the sales process.

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Than John Asher explains the concept of cognitive biases (in the sales process) based upon a recruitment example, and why it is important to be aware of cognitive biases. A formal definition is outlined below:

Cognitive biases can generally be described as systematic and universally occurring tendencies, inclinations, or dispositions that skew or distort information processes in ways that make their outcome inaccurate, suboptimal or simply wrong (e.g., Lichtenstein and Slovic, 1971;

Cognitive Bias – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics

How are the sales skills in the next 5 chapters build around neuroscience-based practical applications (and the cognitive biases in these 5 sales skills).

  1. Prospecting for new business
  2. Identifying buyers and using coaches
  3. Rapport building
  4. Perfect listening
  5. Closing the deal

CHAPTER 01Six Activator That Wake Up the Buyer’s Brain1
CHAPTER 02Cognitive Biases in the Sales Process23
CHAPTER 03Prospecting for New Business29
CHAPTER 04Identifying Buyers and Using Coaches49
CHAPTER 05Rapport Building63
CHAPTER 06Perfect Listening91
CHAPTER 07Closing the deal111
Next Steps133
About the Author139
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Chapter 3 – Prospecting for New Business

The Asher Sales Team starts by explaining how leads are developed and handed over to sales professionals. Nothing new here.


While one can expect that highly qualified leads are discovered, described and handed over, the practical truth is different. You need to qualify the leads by answering a set of questions (p. 31-32) that give you a better feeling on the likelihood that the opportunity will successfully close. It also gives you a good angle on which areas you still need to do some work to successfully progress. Qualification (both qualifying in and qualifying out) is a key skill required for successful sales professionals.

Cognitive Biases that are relevant to qualification are:

  • Availability Bias
  • False Consensus Bias
  • Choice-Supportive Bias
  • Optimism Bias
  • Sunk Cost Bias
Lead Management

Once a lead is qualified in, the opportunity management phase is where leads are transformed into opportunities of actual buying customers. Cognitive Biases that are relevant to lead management are:

  • Familiarity Bias
  • Reciprocity Bias


According to research it takes an average of 12 touches to make the sales from a qualified lead into a business-to-business sales (p.40) with some clear description of what can count as a touch (and not all touches are a “quality” touch) . Interestingly statistics also show that the average sales professional only does 3 touches and than quits or moves on. In addition data has shown that at least 7 quality touches are required prior to closing the sale.

In summary how you engage, and what information or value you bring in each touchpoint is the key message.

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Chapter 4 – Identifying Buyers and Using Coaches

“You can greatly increase your probability of success if you have identified exactly who the real decision-makers are and have connected with an internal coach.” (p. 49)

Buyers Biases

John Asher and team have identified the following 3 relevant buyer biases:

  • Likability Bias
  • Safety Bias
  • Trust Bias
Identifying Buyers

In most sales opportunities 3 types of buyers can be distinguished according to the Asher Sales Team.

  1. User buyer (needs)
  2. Technical buyer (requirements)
  3. Economic buyer (return on investment)

Being aware of these different types of buyers, and influencing each for a go/no go decision might require a different strategy. You probably need to convince all three types.

Using Coaches

“The most important buyer is your coach. A coach , also known as an insider or champion, is a person inside the prospective company who is helping you close the deal.” (p.57)

John Asher makes the reader aware that multiple coaches are needed to successfully close a sale. In order to make this concept of champion more tangible the Asher team has listed 4 criteria:

  1. The person is usually someone inside the prospect organization and credible within that organization (or working very closely to the organization as for example a consultant.
  2. The person is knowledgeable of the organization’s requirements.
  3. The person with whom you have credibility.
  4. The person want you and your organization to get the business.
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Chapter 6 – Perfect Listening

“The best sales people are not the great talkers – they are the great listeners” (p. 91)

Personally I think that listening is a key skill in professional life, not just for a sales person. I’ve spent a significant portion of my work life on consultancy/professional services, and active listening to understand a customer (problem) and validate an agreed way forward is critical. However in practice I see tons of consultants, talking and sharing a lot about superior product features or capabilities. Limited listening there, so I argue that this is one of the most important chapters in The Neuroscience of Selling.

Listening Biases

Just like the other sections, the most applicable cognitive biases for perfect listening are shared.

  • Action Bias
  • Consistency Bias
  • Rationale Bias

And also the practical guidance, when such a bias occurs and how you can work around or simply use that specific cognitive bias to influence the stakeholder one is talking to.

Three Steps to Perfect Listening

“We often passively listen to respond, rather than actively listen to understand.” (p. 96)

  1. Totally Focus on the Buyer’s Point of View
  2. Ask Permission to Take Notes and Take Notes
  3. Summarize and Repeat Back to the Buyer to Get Agreement

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Concluding thoughts and wrap-up

The Neuroscience of Selling takes some of the mystery out of how and why people buy, and it better enables you to connect to any buyer and close deals faster.”

John Asher has written an easy to read (and digest) book of 140 pages that you will read on a lazy Sunday. However the contents is full with valuable hooks and new angles on existing sales topics that I can use in my job as a value engineer (pre-sales role) at BMC Software.

“This book shows how understanding 25 specific cognitive biases can help you be more effective in five of the most important sales skills.” For me this is the biggest take away for a small easy to read book with a price-point of around € 25,00 !

  • What great sales book(s) would you advise ?
  • Did you read John Asher’s book “Close deals faster” ?

Other (book) reviews on can be found in these categories:

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