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ARTICLE – Brian Chemicals & Sales: How a dopamine-norepinephrine cocktail could help you close the deal

Brain Chemicals & Sales: How a dopamine-norepinephrine cocktail could help you close the deal

By Jonathan Graham

Published October 29 2021


During an episode of Book Club, Mike and I were musing on Oren Klaff‘s book titled ‘Pitch Anything’, when we discussed a section of the book wherein Klaff outlines the effect brain chemicals can have during the pitching process, and by extension the sales process.

To summarise and paraphrase: when a person is feeling both desire and tension, that person is paying serious attention to what’s in front of them. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter of desire, while norepinephrine is the neurotransmitter of tension. Together, they add up to attention.

How’d you get more dopamine flowing in your brain? Novelty. Now I think that’s very smart. What Klaff is saying is you create that novelty for the punter in the presentation and it creates dopamine in their brain, effectively generating desire for your presentation and therefore your product. But then you antithetically and deliberately also invoke norepinephrine which creates tension, which in turn creates stress. And what you do here is you artificially create this ‘push-and-pull’ psychologically with the recipients of your pitch.

I get that. I think that’s a very cunning, very smart play. However, I don’t think the people we and IRC work with would necessarily do that.

I think some of the really top guys will. Some of the tip-top level salesmen will say: ‘Tell you what I’m going to do, I’m going to design my presentation around this, starting with a bit of novelty. Then I’m going to take things a little bit away from them to create tension’. But I don’t think many will do this.

Solely because a lot of this process requires a big fat pair of nuts.

That, and the fact that this requires a very big change in approach. It’s new-school. It’s scientific. You take myself and Mike, who’ve been in this game a fair while now, and try to get us to adopt this methodology into the way we’ve operated for the last 20+ years and suddenly get us to consider dopamine, norepinephrine? We may well both turn around and say ‘well, what I’ve been doing seems to have worked up until now, why should I concern myself with brain chemicals?’. I am perfectly happy just turning up with my pretty face in my navy suit without my tie on.

Does this make us old-school? Almost certainly.

Another challenge here is that a lot of what a lot of people are selling is so easy to sell nowadays that they’ll never dig this deep into the process to consider how they’re going to get a little edge on the market. But equally, I think there are people we deal with who will look at this and potentially add this to their repertoire, or at least engage with the prospect. They may well end up including some novelty at the start, be it a story or a little game (a quick session of ‘Where’s Wally?’ comes to mind). Then follow that up at some point with a little bit of tension: ‘You might not be right for us’, ‘Well, I don’t know if I can solve your problem’, withholding the answer until the end to keep them on the cusp.

So, bottom-line, would I utilise these brain chemical techniques that Klaff brings up?

If I had to do a really, really big pitch or deal, I’m talking make-or-break, all-in-the-pot sort of stakes? Yes, I would. I would reread the book and design a presentation around it.

That’s not to say I’d change or revise my entire philosophy of sales that I’ve built up over the years. Rather, it would be more that I’d very much consider and perhaps use aspects of the book in the framework of my presentation. I seldom have to do these sort of pitches, but if I had to go and do a big, enormous pitch tomorrow that the next year rides on, I would definitely get this book out again, find my notes from it and go from there.

This is one of many interesting takes and deliberations we have on our Book Club podcast. Give it a listen via your favourite podcast hubs, or find it in the Knowledge section of our website.

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