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The Biochemistry of Sales

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We want to close this deal. But, our customer has sweaty palms, rapid heartbeat, deep breathing, hints of anger, perhaps fear, certainly distrust. There's no question in our mind: we're watching the sale evaporate.

By contrast, any seasoned salesperson will describe a receptive and sales-positive customer in the following physical and emotional terms: relaxed, warm, focused, high-trust, and, indeed, happy.

The critical question is, do salespeople have the power to consciously create these biochemically-induced states? Yes.

After doing years of worldwide research on the attitudes and behaviors of the happiest and healthiest people, we realize that sales relationships are highly reflective of the impact of biochemistry. And, it is completely within the control of salespeople to create relationships in which, either sales are lost because negative biochemistry has gone wild, or positive biochemistry is consciously created, leading to profit.

Understanding the connection between happiness and profitable sales has required a connect-the-dots voyage.

Early in our research, we learned that happiness is neither a magical state nor an accident. Happy people make specific behavioral and attitudinal choices that leave them with feelings of well being, calm, and contentment, and these choices are entirely cognitive - that is, they are conscious choices to act certain ways. We reported on these choices, and the effective, productive, extremely happy people who make them, in our first book, How We Choose to Be Happy (1999, PenguinGroup USA).

As our research deepened, we became involved in the medical community, whose practitioners pointed out that the nine "choices" made by extremely happy people are actually behavioral tools that they use to regulate their own biochemistry in the positive direction, that is, away from feelings of depression and pessimism. All of this internal biochemical regulation is highly correlated with positive health outcomes, enhanced immune response, and intellectual skills and focus. This work led to our second book, Happiness & Health (originally published in hardback as Choosing Brilliant Health, 2008, PenguinGroup USA).

And, finally, the big step connecting happiness, biochemistry and sales: Medical anthropologists provided the missing link, as it were, by pointing out that any behavior that induces a palpable, physical response is hardwired into our human genetic code. Positive biochemical rushes for certain behaviors lead us to feel "happy" because these behaviors are the foundations for the survival of our relationship-dependent clan species.

There is no doubt that profitable sales are the results of productive sales relationships. And, these relationships can be consciously generated when salespeople rely on their genetic heritage by using the discrete set of nine behaviors that regulate the positive biochemistry between salesperson and customer. Many of these behaviors are used naturally and intuitively by the top sales reps. And, the good news is that they can all be learned by anyone in the field who wants to bolster their sales relationships - and their bottom line - with them.

Here are two examples: Truth-telling and options-opening are both behaviors of the happiest people and compelling relationship builders. On the truth front, we can measure the physical ill-effects of lying with polygraphs that show us emphatically what happens to our biochemistry when we lie. It's bad for our health and it's not good for profit-generation. If we want to avoid the rapid heart rate, perspiration, and increased blood pressure that un-truths evoke from our customers, we'll tell the truth in ways that it can be absorbed. When it comes to "options," if we want to create the biochemistry of hope - as opposed to its opposite: despair - we'll create a sales relationship full of options and possibilities.

And so it goes. Among the other behaviors that create sales-positive biochemical states are accountability, intentionality, appreciation, and generosity. If salespeople learn how to infuse their relationships with these behaviors, their income figures will increase. Sales folks who can't create shared biochemistries full of equanimity, trust, and ease, will be poor producers. On one hand, creating happy, healthy relationships is not rocket science. On the other hand, high performance requires some behavioral and attitudinal savvy that is often missing in the sales force. Most sophisticated salespeople know that customers don't buy the product, but, rather, they buy because of the effects of the product and their relationship with the salesperson. Understanding sales as the outcome of complex, hardwired, biochemistry created by the sales relationship is a route to profitability.