Selling to the Right Ear

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If you want to get someone to do something, speak into his right ear. Research by Dr. Luca Tommasi and Daniele Marzoli from the University Gabriele d’Annunzio in Chieti, Italy, shows not only that we have a preference for processing spoken information via our right ear, but requests made to that ear are more likely to be successful:

Tommasi and Marzoli’s three studies specifically observed ear preference during social interactions in noisy night club environments. In the first study, 286 clubbers were observed while they were talking, with loud music in the background. In total, 72 percent of interactions occurred on the right side of the listener…

In the third study, the researchers intentionally addressed 176 clubbers in either their right or their left ear when asking for a cigarette. They obtained significantly more cigarettes when they spoke to the clubbers’ right ear compared with their left. [From Science Daily – Need Something? Talk To My Right Ear.]

Of course, most sales don’t happen by yelling into one ear. Nevertheless, I think Neuromarketing readers will find some practical applications:

Dinner Seating – If more than two are dining, the key sales communicator should sit to the right of the decision-maker.

Sales Office Layout – While most communications in a typical sales office will be more or less face-to-face and binaural, it would be wise to avoid any seating layouts in which the salesperson is talking to the left side of the prospect.

Networking Events – We’ve all been to networking receptions, trade shows, and other events where one has to talk into someone’s ear to be heard over loud music or other background noise. While listeners will generally adjust their position to one that is comfortable, keep in mind the right side preference when initiating a conversation. This situation is quite similar to the one used by the researchers, and they were significantly more successful when initiating contact via the right ear.

One thing that I like about this research is that it wasn’t conducted in a structured, artificial lab setting but rather in a real world venue with unsuspecting subjects. That should increase the probability of success when putting these findings into practice.

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