Would you like to unlock the secret of what causes buyers to buy? If you’re ready to discover the words and images that trigger the brain centers for buying behavior, Clotaire Rapaille’s research has the key.

  • Almost all real estate marketing is cortical rather than reptilian in nature.
  • Be sure to have creature comforts at hand during open houses.
  • Stage your listing for relaxation and have snacks -- the reptilian brain always wins.

Would you like to unlock the secret of what causes buyers to buy? If you’re ready to discover the words and images that trigger the brain centers for buying behavior, Clotaire Rapaille’s research has the key.

The Culture Code / Clotaire Rapaille

“The Culture Code” / Clotaire Rapaille

In previous columns, I have discussed how Clotaire Rapaille has unlocked the culture codes and the global codes that trigger buying behavior.

In every one of Rapaille’s books and research articles, there is one principle that takes precedence over all else — “The reptilian always wins.”

What Rapaille’s research has shown is that decisions to buy are not made at the cortical level — instead, they are made at the brainstem (reptilian brain) level.

Buyers are not liars

There’s an old adage that buyers are liars. The truth of the matter is that buyers really aren’t liars; they’re just answering your questions about the home they want based on their rational or thinking brain (the cerebral cortex).

According to Rapaille, the purchasing decision originates in the reptilian brain. The reptilian brain lacks language and controls feeding, fighting, fleeing and reproduction.

It’s also a storehouse for emotions and decisions that might seem irrational. Although the cortex thinks it knows what it wants, the reptilian brain ultimately decides.

Discovering what your buyers will really buy

Based upon Rapaille’s research, understanding how to tap into the reptilian brain is critical. The question is how to do it. A detailed buyer’s interview is useful in terms of uncovering what the cortex wants, but there are ways to tap into what triggers your clients’ reptilian buying behavior.

The first strategy is to give the buyers a fake check made out to the buyers for $10 million. The second strategy is to order a pack of play million dollar bills and to count out ten bills to the buyer.

You follow up by saying: “You just won the lottery for $10 million. Tell me about the house you will buy.”

This strategy taps into the reptilian brain because you have just rewarded it with something that made your cortex feel good. That good feeling is also linked to you as the giver of the money, even though it’s pretend money. The reptilian brain only recognizes the good feeling.

I have used this approach for over 20 years, and it always provides a more accurate picture of what the buyers want — even if they are only buying an entry-level condo.

For example, your buyer’s lottery house might have a view and spacious rooms with high ceilings.

Even if you are selling them their first condo, you now know that a unit facing another building or something that lacks a view will not work. Instead, search for condos that have an open floor plan, high ceilings and some sort of view.

The next strategy taps into the reptilian brain more directly.

I remember my very first transaction with a young couple looking for their first home. I picked out three terrific properties, a fourth that was marginal but was in their price range and one that was a dog.

You can guess which one they bought — the dog. Why? It reminded one of the buyers of his grandmother’s house.

I never understood the ramifications of this information until I read Rapaille’s work. The buyer purchased a house that tapped into his happy childhood memories.

These memories began forming while he was still a baby, long before he had language. Every time he walked into that house, it made him feel happy.

Consequently, here’s the question to ask that can tap into the reptilian brain: “Tell me about your favorite house from your childhood and what you liked about it.”

Those pleasant memories are rooted deep in the reptilian brain. When you tap into them, you have a much better idea what the buyers will purchase, regardless of what their cerebral cortex tells you about what they think they want.

What the reptile wants

Lizards like to eat, bask in the sun and to appear big and powerful. Translated into human buying behavior, Rapaille’s work shows that the first thing that women look for when they buy a car is the cup holders. We want our drinks and creature comforts nearby.

To take advantage of this, when you hold an open house, provide refreshing drinks and food. Brokers have long known that serving food at open houses works well — because the reptilian loves free food.

Furthermore, people buy SUVs as well as hillside properties because looking down on others makes them feel more safe and secure. To illustrate this point, the taller the SUV, the more powerful they feel. The higher the floor is in a high-rise condominium, the more expensive it is.

Photos, videos and the reptilian brain

In the age of 3-D virtual tours, drone videos and digital photography, won’t those photos tap into the reptilian brain? The answer is yes, provided that they are the right type of photos.

Pictures of the property alone fail to tap into the reptilian brain — they are what the cortex uses to decide about what it thinks it wants. In other words, almost all real estate marketing is cortical rather than reptilian in nature.

dotshock / Shutterstock

dotshock / Shutterstock

Instead, a reptilian photo would be similar to the one in the picture to the right. The reptilian brain is about relaxing, having its creature comforts (note the drink), basking in the sun and, of course, sex.

Marketing this way might not exactly be the image you want to put forth on your listings, but you could use a photo like the one below.

michaeljung / Shutterstock.com

michaeljung / Shutterstock.com

The idea of a tropical drink poolside spells relaxation for most people. When you stage a bedroom, leave an open book and a coffee mug on the nightstand — that also spells relaxation to the reptilian brain.

When you work with buyers, always remember to ask that critical question about their favorite house from their childhood as well as what they liked most about that house. If you have listed a house, stage it for relaxation, serve food at your open houses, and remember — the reptilian always wins.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles and two best-selling real estate books. Learn about her training programs at www.RealEstateCoach.com/AgentTraining and www.RealEstateCoach.com/newagent

Email Bernice Ross.

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