January 26

The Neuroscience of Effective Selling


I often tell my clients that effective selling combines physiology, psychology, and consultative skills. We live in the Information Age. Salespeople have access to more information on sales than ever before, with podcasts, webinars, books, and workshops.

So we have to ask ourselves: With all this good information, why are we still facing some of the same challenges in sales that we did 25 years ago? 

For example, how many of you have seen a salesperson move into a product dump, even though she knows she should be asking more questions, not presenting solutions? How about the salesperson that discounts too soon and too often—even after he has attended a formal negotiation-skills training course? 

The problem is that most sales managers are working on the wrong end of the problem.

When a selling challenge appears, the sales manager focuses only on improving his sales team’s hard selling skills.  Let’s apply some reality testing.  Most salespeople know what to do. But under difficult selling situations, they often buckle and execute non-productive selling behaviors. Emotions start running the meeting rather than effective selling and communication skills.   

It’s Physiology 101. When a salesperson meets with a challenging prospect, he or she often defaults to fight-or-flight behavior. The amygdala, or what is referred to as the reptilian brain, overrides the prefrontal cortex, the logical, rational part of the brain. No sales techniques are used in this selling situation because the salesperson is in survival mode.  She turns her prospect into a saber tooth tiger. 

As a result, blood, which carries oxygen, leaves the salesperson’s brain to prepare for a fight— or flight with this tiger in disguise. And the salesperson’s body starts emitting cortisol, a stress hormone, which affects one’s clarity of thought.  At this point, the salesperson is left with the functioning of a gnat! 

Yes, emotions ran this sales meeting rather than effective selling and influence skills. So what can you do? 

Here are two tips to limit fight-or-flight responses during sales meetings.

#1: Teach your sales team self-awareness and breathing. Get in tune with emotions and recognize when you are moving into survival selling behavior.  (Hint:  Your heart starts beating rapidly, or you just shut down).  With increased self-awareness, take a deep breath. Breathing restores oxygen — and logical thinking— to the brain.

 #2: Change the story. Ask yourself, “What else could be true?” Maybe this challenging prospect is guarded because another vendor recently did the over-promise and under-deliver routine. Perhaps the prospect isn’t saying much during the meeting because he doesn’t want you to know how little he understands about purchasing your product or service.  Change the story, and you will change the emotion and the direction of the sales conversation.    

Improve your sales effectiveness by practicing the words of the late John Wooden, former UCLA men’s basketball coach. 

Manage your emotions, or they will manage you.


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