The Sales Person With Two Brains!

I have always been fascinated by human behaviour and the more I read and learn about how our brains work the more fascinated I become. We are truly incredible beings and each of us is capable of achieving remarkable things.

As incredible as we are I am often dumb struck by the things neuroscience tell us we can’t do, especially when these limitations relate to sales. I had one such experience recently attending an event at this year’s Vivid Festival.  It was a panel discussion on the subject of creativity and one of the panelist was none other than scientist and CEO of the About My Brain Institute Silvia Damiano.  

The question being explored was “Where does creativity come from in the brain?” and I think you’ll be as stunned as I was at the answer. I’ve asked Silvia to replay her response below:

“Creative moments (what neuroscientists call ‘aha’ or ‘eureka’ moments) are likely to emerge a few milliseconds after we have an explosion of gamma waves in our brains. For these fast waves to occur, we need to experience moments of relaxation just before. These relaxing moments can take place when we have a shower, go for a walk, a ferry ride or as soon as we wake up, to name a few.
When we are too busy on the computer or around a table having an argument with colleagues for example, creativity diminishes simply because our brain waves are operating at a different frequency -usually known as beta or high beta waves.”

Now if we think about the sales environment, millions of entrepreneurs, partners, advisers, consultants, corporate salespeople or anyone who finds themselves fulfilling any type of sales function around the world are being tasked to address complex business issues and to do so while navigating an increasingly volatile and hyper competitive world where the sales interaction is typically adversarial in nature and where trust is low and fear is high. By fear I mean that sales people fear they won’t meet their sales targets and that they won’t advance their careers or achieve their financial goals; and that clients fear they’ll be ‘sold’ a product or service or solution that doesn’t help them or their organisation to achieve their business objectives.

Given all this let’s overlay what Silvia shared with us about the way the brain works. We now know that the creative part of the brain is active when we’re in a relaxed state, and we know that in order to overcome the complex business challenges our clients’ face we need to be at our most creative, innovative and collaborative. However in the high stress environment outlined above we are far from relaxed and as a result our capability to do just that is severely retarded because we just can’t access that part of the brain.

So what’s the solution?

For sure this is the $64 million dollar question and I certainly don’t have the ultimate answer that will cure all that ails us. But here’s what I do know:

  • Sales people, in all their many guises, and their clients want the exact same thing and that thing we both want, need, desire is value. So, let’s relax. We’re on the same side.
  • We need to stop behaving like adversaries and become allies in the search for more and better value. It’s time to take your eyes of yourself and focus 100% on your client. While you can’t always ‘make a sale’ you can always create value for the people you interact with, inside and outside your organisation.
  • For that to happen we need to address the deficit of trust out there in the world because nowhere is this lack of trust in sharper focus than in the world of sales and selling. Make a start by shifting your mindset from “What’s in it for me?” to “What can I do for you?” and mean it.
  • Only we can change this low trust reality. It’s an inside out approach. If we want to be trusted we first need to be trustworthy, or worthy of trust. Throw away the ‘mask’, step into who you are, be real and constantly find ways to communicate and demonstrate your true authentic self.
  • Leaders need to address the culture clash. All too often we hear from sales people who tell us the behaviours of their leaders and the culture of their organisation is at odds with the corporate values and principles printed in their brochures, websites and corporate reports. This schizophrenic ‘leadership’ style has to stop, words and deeds absolutely, positively must be in complete alignment inside and outside the organisation.

Although we all like to think we can multitask, that we’re resilient and adaptable to any situation, neuroscience tells us a different story. We don’t have two brains, we can’t go in two directions at once and factors like fear, stress and conflict kill a key driver of individual, team, organisational and most importantly client/customer success - our creativity.

Ian J Lowe is the CEO of Go-Givers Australia, a sales transformation, coaching and consulting organisation offering a unique culture-defining philosophy and framework that makes giving value the cornerstone of a refreshingly open and authentic approach to selling. Download the first chapter of ‘The Go-Giver and Go-Givers sell More’ here.

Image Credit: The Man With Two Brains Movie (1983) - Warner Brothers.