In sales and marketing professionals have always known that being genuine and believable is of prime importance in winning over a customer. “Believe in your product!” is the mantra of sales gurus like Zig Ziglar, “if you try and fake it, the customer will know.” Mirror neurons may be a part of this process. In Scientists Say Everyone Can Read Minds, LiveScience describes research that shows primate brains have an area where neurons fire sympathecally when one subject is watching another one. The first experiments showed the effect for physical actions, like moving one’s leg. If the observed subject moved his leg, the observer-primate had neurons fire in its premotor cortex, an area of the brain responsible for planning movements. The bigger surprise was that showing an emotion also produced a sympathetic or mirror response.
One path of research that is moving forward is trying to determine if individuals with autism, who normally have great difficulty reading the emotions of others, have some type of deficiency involving their mirror neurons.
From a sales and neuromarketing perspective, this research suggest a basis in neuroscience for the “believe in your product” advice. While the individual hearing the sales pitch may be listening to the words, her brain’s mirror neurons are firing at the same time in reaction to the salesperson’s emotions, demeanor, etc. If there’s a disconnect between the words that are cognitively processed and the emotions that are mirrored, the pitch will probably be less effective. Neuromarketers should take note, too – while ads normally employ professional actors who have the ability to accurately simulate the desired emotions and state of mind, pitches that use celebrity endorsers, sidewalk interviews, etc., may suffer if the viewer finds the emotions don’t match the words.