The Science Behind Making a Connection With Your Clients

July 4, 2013


A talented interior designer still searching for the big break she deserves gets the chance of a lifetime to remodel an old-money mansion. But after presenting her detailed vision of ‘maximal light penetration,’ she walks away without the commission.

After years of paying his dues, a fantastic marketing consultant finally gets the opportunity to rebrand a fast-growing online training company. He thought he nailed the presentation with careful explanations of ‘the power of A/B testing,’ but he lost the business.

Don’t let your great ideas become orphans

I’ve seen both these things happen and worse. In fact I’ve seen opportunity lost more times than I care to remember. It feels terrible. Every time I see it happen I’m reminded of how painful it can be to know you have the right solution—the real ability to help someone in a significant way—and yet leave empty-handed. What cases like these tell me is that it’s not the solution that matters most, but your ability to get people to adopt your ideas.

Princeton University has the answers

Good news for you is that Dr. Uri Hasson of Princeton has been researching the brain science behind what happens when you communicate with someone else. And his findings could have a huge impact on making a connection with your clients and getting them to adopt your ideas.

He’s discovered something called “neural coupling.” This fancy phrase describes what he saw when he looked at the brains of a speaker and a listener in real-time. Normally, when a speaker tells someone a series of facts, the only effect on the listener’s brain is that the small area that processes language lights up. The facts barely register. The listener is not engaged.

Light up your client’s brain

However when the speaker tells a story his own brain lights up all over the place. The areas that govern motor control, your senses, your emotions—everything gets in on the act as you relive the actual experience. And the really surprising thing is that, as they hear the story, the listener’s brain lights up in all the exact same ways. The listener literally feels the emotions and imagines sensing all the same things the speaker experienced.

When I spoke with Dr. Hasson about his research he told me, “The better the similarities in brain activity between the speaker and the listener, the better the understanding between the two. It’s like wireless communication. My brain produces this wireless signal and transmits it to your brain, which creates the same brain-waves in your brain as in mine.”

So, when you tell a story you light up your client’s mind like Times Square. And that’s how strong connections are made—how effective communication can make listeners empathize with what you are saying and become more receptive to your ideas.

Tips for lighting up your client’s brain

Storytelling has been a trendy topic for a while now, but Dr. Hasson’s insights into why and how it works have deepened my understanding of its importance. And from my experience with my own clients I have unearthed some truths that will make you a better storyteller.

Find the pain, focus on the pain

Focus your stories on clients you have worked with who have the same needs as the person in front of you. Focus on the pain your clients felt in their business or life, rather than your expertise. Build a connection by including all the senses in your stories. Focus on feelings and build emotion, rather than reciting facts or features. Neural coupling will make the listener identify with your client. They will realize at a deep level they have the same needs.

Share the success, feel the joy

Once you have established the need in your listener’s mind, focus on how your clients’ businesses or lives have changed after working with you. Again, it’s not about the features or details of your solution. It’s almost not about the solution at all. Keep it about the client. Don’t overwhelm them with information. Tell compelling stories of new-found success and neural coupling will produce in your listener those same feelings of relief or even euphoria that your clients felt after you’d helped them.

Change your client’s mind—literally

If you do these things well in your next meeting neural coupling will ensure your client’s brain lights up like a carnival midway. You’ll make stronger connections and far fewer of your great ideas will end up as orphans.

More great ideas to grow your business

Discover how to use the power of story to get paid for your great ideas.


about the author

FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.