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Sales Dope – Getting High While Selling

by Victor Antonio, Sales Influence

Furthest from your mind at this point is any correlation between a cocaine junkie and the profession of selling. I mean, what can you possibly have in common with a strung-out drug addict? More than you know!

Advancement in neuroscience, the study of what goes on in our brain, has accelerated with the help of fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) machines which measure the amount of oxygen to parts of the brain. The fMRI images show ‘brain hotspots’ allowing scientist to see what parts of the brain are being stimulated in given situation.

The exciter of these hotspots is a neural chemical called dopamine (that’s where the street word ‘dope’ comes from). The brain has roughly 100 billion neurons and less than 1/1000th of 1 percent produce dopamine. Yet, this small amount, when activated, takes as little as 1/20th of a second to alert the brain’s anticipation circuitry. The anticipation of some type of reward triggers the dopamine to sprays its pleasure inducing properties to different parts of the brain (e.g., nucleus accumben) giving the individual a sort of natural high.

It’s probably hard to imagine how this plays into our everyday sales lives, but it does. In fact, it’s the ‘dope’ that keeps you coming back for more. Let me illustrate with two sales scenarios:

Scenario 1:
Pretend for a moment that your boss says he’d like to speak with you in 5 minutes in his office for a job review and discuss your future with the company. Now last year you made 120% of quota and currently you’re on track to make 150% for this year.
What are you thinking going into the meeting? Are you anticipating a great meeting? How do you feel? Probably stoked! At that moment your dopamine is firing salvos to regions of your brain activating your visual-imaging (visualizing a great outcome) and pleasure circuitry.

Scenario 2:
You’ve been after a new client for months and it’s now down to you and one of your weakest competitors. You know they would never go with the other company and unless fate is a malicious bastard you’ve got this deal nailed. You then get the call from the company saying they’ve made a decision and they’ll be emailing an award letter announcing the winner.
How do you think you’d feel? Can you feel the excitement? Are you starting to imagine yourself telling your boss you landed the harpooned the white whale or bagged the white elephant! Can you see in your mind’s eye the backslapping you’re going to get from colleagues? What about the look on the faces of all those naysayers who said you couldn’t do it? Can you feel the anticipation as you refresh your email inbox every 2 seconds? That’s the dopamine lighting up your brain like the fourth of July.

Hans Breiter, a neuroscientist at the Harvard Medical School has compared the brains activities of a cocaine addict anticipating a hit to businesspeople who are anticipating a windfall and found that when you overlay their brain activity images from an fMRI, they’re almost exact matches.
So whether you’re a salesperson anticipating another new order from your customer or a drug addict anticipating a fix, your brain hotspots are “virtually right on top of each other. You can’t get a better bull’s eye than those two.” says Breiter.

Author of Your Money, Your Brain and senior writer for Money magazine Jason Zwieg puts it best, “Lay an MRI brain scan of a cocaine addict next to one of somebody who thinks he’s about to make money, and the pattern of neuron firing in the two images are…” the same.

So maybe for now the mystery has been partly solved. This causal relationship between anticipation and reward (money) may well explain why some of the best salespeople just keep making their number, and more money, year-in year-out. Could it be that top salespeople are like sales dope addicts in that they want to feel that ‘dopamine rush’ of excitement when they work on landing new clients or new orders. Like a junkie, they’re hooked and the anticipation of their next sales fix from their pipeline flow keeps them high on success.

Lastly, scientists are also discovering that dopamine hits have a ‘memorable’ component to them. A person is able to recall win scenarios more vividly when they scored big on a sale. So when another similar opportunity presents itself under similar circumstances, the person’s anticipation circuitry will be activated once more. In the case of a salesperson, the need to close another deal will be similar to a junkie trying to land his next fix.

Copyright © 2009 by Victor Antonio - Atlanta, Georgia GA. All rights reserved.

Victor Antonio is a sales trainer and motivational speaker with a BSEE, MBA who rose through the ranks of corporate America to become VP of Int'l Sales for a Fortune 500 company and then President of Sales & Marketing for a $420M company. He is the founder of Sales Influence, a sales training company based in Georgia. All inquiries should be directed to Victor Antonio at info@victorantonio.com.

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