The first thing the Southwest flight 1380 passengers heard was something that sounded like an explosion. And then, without warning, the oxygen masks deployed and the plane rapidly started losing altitude.

This was the beginning of a terrifying scene during a recent flight gone awry. A flight scheduled to land in Dallas had to reroute to Philadelphiawhen the left engine had a malfunction and broke apart. The plane lost about 20,000 in altitude in 5 minutes and lost the power of one of its engines. The passengers were obviously and understandably distraught.

One person aboard wasn’t. Her name is Tammie Jo Shults, and she proved without a shadow of a doubt that certainty, no matter whether you’re talking about piloting a plane or selling a product to improve someone’s life, is everything.

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Shults showed nerves of steel while she wrestled with the plane to get it down safely. Shults is a former Navy pilot, and as one of the first female Navy fighter pilots in history, she has a deep history of handling tough situations. On this occasion, she calmly announced to the passengers what was happening, evenly spoke with air traffic control, and wrestled the plane to the ground despite not having control of half her engines.

Afterward, Shults walked through the cabin to reassure passengers.

What Shults did was provide certainty to her crew and everyone on board that she was in control. She knew what she was doing, and she wanted everyone to know that she was their trusted guide. She would lead them to the ground, and in the end she saved a lot of lives.

As sales warriors, we may not be saving lives the same way Shults did, but we’re certainly improving lives. And we do that by following the playbook Shults laid out: provide certainty and lead the way. Because when certainty is lost, all is lost.

Our brains actually crave certainty and shut down when there’s uncertainty. Look at what happens to your brain when you introduce uncertainty and ambiguity.

A 2005 study found that just a little ambiguity on its own lights up the amygdala. The more ambiguity, the more threat response, and the less reward response there was in the ventral striatum. Think about someone you have spoken to a few times by phone, but never met or seen a picture of. You feel a mild uncertainty about them, yet even this tiny uncertainty seems to alter your interactions: notice how differently you interact once you know what that person looks like. Uncertainty is like an inability to create a complete map of a situation. With parts missing, you’re not as comfortable as when the map is complete.

This affects everything, and it absolutely affects sales. When you aren’t able to lead your buyer, you’re “lighting up” the amygdala, which is like the primal part of your brain. This controls your fight, flee or freeze response, and you want none of those things from your customer. You want to give them freedom from their objections and from their current situation. And you can do that by connecting them to your product because you believe it will fundamentally improve their lives.

There’s no better way to do this than by using our 7 Steps of Starting Strong methodology. We developed this in a real-world selling laboratory over years of interacting with customers. What resulted was our tried-and-true method for starting every interaction with your customer on a strong footing. When you follow this process, you’ll be on your way to giving your customer the certainty their brains crave.

Customers don’t want friends. They want to be led, and you’re the one to lead them. Just like Tammie Jo Shults shows us, certainty is the key that unlocks the door to a better life for you and a better life for your customers.

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