How To Influence Your Customers to Buy Using Neuroscience with Glen Hellman


Glen Hellman is a business expert and strategist that writes and presents on the topic of “How To Pitch to the Reptilian Brain.”  It’s an approach grounded in neuroscience that is designed to influence others and move them to action.  In this interview, Glen shares his insights on how to use these principles to sharpen your business’s sales pitch and how they can improve your leadership and business in general. 


"We talked, and I changed your thinking.  Because when we had that conversation, I used neuroscience as an outline for how we discussed things. It was designed to change your opinion or to make you take action. An understanding of neuroscience helps to influence people."

"Without pain, there is no change. It's in our DNA and if we can't drive pain we're not going to drive change."

"We are very risk-averse and therefore if you don't cause pain, I'm going to stay steady state.  And even if you do cause pain, the pain you cause must be greater than the risk of changing my behavior."

"Stay concrete, talk about real things that are important. Don't use jargon words. Talk to benefits."

"A well-constructed pitch is constructed around “hurt and rescue.”  So you talk about the pain before you talk about the solution."

"You don't want to overwhelm them with all the things that your solution can do, you only want to present to the needs. So you don't “spray and pray.” You understand what their needs are, and you pitch to the need."

"Buying introduces risks. So sometimes we need to be pushed to make a better change."

About Our Guest

Glen is a Business Strategist who provides coaching, training, and facilitation services to businesses through his company, Driven Forward LLC

He's founded companies, joined early teams, been a general manager of a Fortune 500, directed organizations to multiple IPOs including a $360M IPO of Progress Software in 1991, mergers, acquisitions including a 2001, $92M acquisition of Call Technologies by 3Com.

Hellman spent over a decade as a hired-gun turn-around executive in the employ investors who lost faith in portfolio company management, He founded Driven Forward to dedicate his time to preventing companies from requiring a "Turn-Around" of any kind. 

Glen was trained as a certified Vistage CEO Peer Group Facilitator and Executive Coach and was a Vistage Rookie of the Year.  He's a former board member of The University of Maryland, Dingman Center for EntrepreneurshipAngel Investor and advisor to CEOs all over the world. In 2012 Glen was voted the #1 Angel Investor by Tech Cocktail readers. He's a Top Rated, Global 100 Mentor out of 3,500 mentors for the Founder Institute, and is frequently quoted in print and broadcast for his views on business and entrepreneurship and served as a business analyst for ABC7, WJLA.

You can catch his musings on his blog, Forward Thinking.


Seth:  Alright. Hey, everybody. Thanks for joining us here on Modern da Vinci for our latest interview. Our goal is to help our small business clients get unstuck and to grow with speed and purpose. And we recently did a post on that very topic talking about three places where small businesses get stuck. And one of the key areas we mentioned was flat-lining sales due to having a “stale pitch.” And for those of you that saw that post we shared some tips based on a very exciting and innovative concept called “How to Pitch to the Reptilian Brain” and lucky for us we have the expert behind that topic on here with us today. So I'm very pleased to introduce Glen Hellman.

Glen is a business strategist.  Glen has done it all from founding companies to working in large Fortune 500 companies, to helping launch multiple IPOs, he's worked as a turnaround executive, and in the last couple of years has worked as an adviser and coach with Vistage where I met Glen, and now he's currently offering executive consulting and executive peer support through his company Driven Forward. You can check that out at We'll have links on the interview page on our site. You can subscribe to his blog Forward Thinking there, and Glen has been featured in the Washington Business Journal as well as on ABC channel 7 here in the area and just a few weeks ago had the privilege of seeing Glen when he presented on this topic here in the Northern Virginia area. So Glen, awesome to have you on, thanks for being here today. How are you doing?

Glen:  I'm doing well. Thanks for having me, Seth.

Seth:  My pleasure. So, Glen, I saw you a couple months ago maybe, and you started telling me about this topic, and immediately it connected for me. You gave me some feedback very specifically on some things related to the idea of a business pitch, and it really got my mind going. And it kind of fundamentally changed some of the things that we thought we were going to do with Modern da Vinci even in terms of, how do we tell people what it is we're trying to do and how do we draw them in?  And so that was shocking for me, and then I actually had the chance to come see you speak on this again. So that's where this topic came up and got me so excited. So before we get into the details, let me step back. Why is having an effective pitch so important?

Glen:  Well, in your introduction just now you underlined why it's important when you said: “we talked, and I changed your thinking.”  Because when we had that conversation I used neuroscience topics, or I used neuroscience as an outline for how we discuss things. It was designed to change your opinion or to make you take action. And that's what understanding of neuroscience helps people do and influence people.

We are, while we are logical beings, we do not make decisions logically. There're tons and tons of studies about this, much of our behavior is guided by the same part of the brain we share with reptiles. It was developed 280 million years ago, it has no capability for abstract thinking, for logic, for language. And therefore, if we understand that we have a much better chance of influencing people. And the main thing in the brain of reptiles, of all vertebrates, is we avoid pain because pain means we're going to die. Without pain, there is no change. It's in our DNA and if we can't drive pain we're not going to drive change.

Seth:  So when we sat and talked, Glen, I mean you tapped into that concept of fear both in terms of talking about how this could work with any potential client or somebody we want to influence, but it also tapped into the fear for me that, "Oh, my gosh. If I do this wrong, this entire business venture is at stake, and my livelihood and our interest in serving small businesses through this vehicle are all at stake." I felt that fear, it became very really for me in that moment.

Glen Hellmen  Business Strategist  Driven Forward

Glen Hellmen
Business Strategist
Driven Forward