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Next Time Bring Your Whole Brain - Brain Science on the Sales Call

 Left-Right Brain theory jumped from cocktail party conversation to credible science in the past decade.  Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), the latest testing technology, has allowed scientists to open up the hood and peak into the machinery of the human brain.    Here’s how it works - a researcher guides your thoughts in a specific direction and monitors changes in blood flow within your brain.  

A simple research experiment was conducted with post card sized pictures.  The postcard displayed the shape of a person made of letters of the alphabet.  When asked to concentrate on the picture – blood flow to the right half or lobe increased.  When asked to read the letters making up the picture – the blood flow in the left lobe grew.   For sake of this article I will refer to the left brain lobe as the Left Brain.

Each lobe of the brain functions to “process” different kinds of information.  The Left Brain processes speech, time, and sequential information.  The Right Brain recognizes pictures, faces and spatial concepts.   The two sections are not functionally equivalent, and often, the coupling of the two brain halves is less than perfect.  As an illustration of this phenomenon, close your eyes and picture Marilyn Monroe.  If you are like the majority of western adults you immediately visualize an attractive blond movie star (who has been dead since 1962).  You, I and millions of others would be able to pick Marilyn’s photo out of a line up of literally millions of people – all blonde and of similar physique.  This is a Right Brain exercise.  Next, think of the words required to adequately describe Ms. Monroe compared to say any other blonde female movie star (say Pamela Anderson).  Word choice (and associated logic) lies entirely within your Left Brain.    

For simplicity sake, think of the Left Brain as a logical, analyzing, and computer like organ.  Our Left Brain understands calculations, realizes time measurements, and gathers objective data.  At the same time, our Right Brain sees pictures, picks up on voice inflections, senses emotion and things like body language.  In her book “Mind Mapping” author Joyce Wycoff explains the importance of using the best of both lobes of our brains in daily tasks.  There are few human activities which benefit more from the Left-Right analysis than sales – yet sales scholars tend to be either Left Brained logical or Right Brain emotional. Sales horsepower doubles when the two are hitched to the same plow. 

Salespeople and their managers find themselves “stymied” by clients who do not act “logically”.  Sales managers in their coaching apply logical approaches to issues that may not be logically based behavior.  Experts say industrial sales calls cost nearly $400 each. Innovative companies like Proctor & Gamble, Dell, Starbucks and BMW have added whole departments to apply “Right Brain” thinking to their business.   I suggest a few moments to involve both brain lobes and harnesses the combined power is well worth the “price of admission”.   The following are 5 Left – Right Exercises for the sales process. 

If you are a successful veteran with a disciplined sales approach you will no doubt find the Left Brained exercises to be old hat.  At some point you may have had “fleeting” thoughts rooted in the right brained side.  As I sit here typing - I think back to some powerful “right brain” flashes that occurred to me while driving home from a call or while out for a morning walk.  Our purpose here is to yank those thoughts down from the back shelf of our brain – dust them off – and make them part of our process.   

1)      Planning the call – a dash of Right Brain to a gallon of the Left

There is nothing new here – a quick Google Search for the words “Plan & Sales Call” produced over 268,000 individual references.  If you are not planning your calls – don’t mention it to your boss –  instead, drop me a line and I will secretly forward a couple of good articles on how to start. Getting past the Left Brain tasks and thinking about engaging both halves of a clients mind is brand new.  In 28 years of industrial sales I have seen literally thousands of product demonstrations.  A good percentage did not work well.  A far larger number amazed me when they did work.  The demo case was beat up, hundreds of wires hung out like spaghetti, and there was more fumbling than a 5th grade football game.  Here are some ideas to energize your whole mind.

Left Brain



What we know about the client?


What issues might this customer face?


Are multiple people involved in the selling process?

Right Brain



What word pictures can be used to portray our product?


What visual messages (brochures, pictures, otherwise) are available?


Is our demo set up to be visually inviting?


What emotions do we want to portray in our voice patterns?

 2)      During the sales call – not everything is as it seems

Ok… now you have arrived at the inner-sanctum, holiest of holies of the sales business.  Business owners and sales managers constantly tell me – we want our sales people spending “face time” with the customer.  Why?  What will the sales person do while enjoying this “face time”?  Are you paying attention – asking open ended questions – taking notes?  Good Left Brain activities. 

Very successful salespeople watch body language.  They pick up on small visual details.  Word pictures used by the customer give great clues to attitude and personality type that can be used to build a relationship.

Left Brain



Did we come with questions we needed answered?


What did the customer say?


Did you take notes?


Are there objective questions that need to be addressed?

Right Brain



What was the body language during each segment of the call?


Did vocal inflections match the words?


What word pictures did your customer use?


How was your customer dressed?

 3)      Committee or group sale – the Right Brain helps unravel the mystery

Many selling courses give rich advice on establishing a coach-mentor within accounts.  Others recommend identifying economic buyers and technical buyers.  In very few instances is Right Brain work more critical than in the group sale.

Once I had the opportunity to spend the day with the Director of a Fortune 100 corporation.  I was allowed to take a seat in the corner of his office and watch the interaction between this gentleman and a number of subordinates.  I watched the body language and the phrases used as a half dozen people came into his office for items ranging from routine to very important.  I had the feeling I was in a place of power and with a man of power.  Later we had lunch in the executive dining room.  Here, I saw the dynamics of interaction with Vice Presidents and other directors.  It became clear to me that title does not always clearly measure power and prestige within an organization.  In selling conditions salespeople will often read business cards at face value… often at their own peril.

Left Brain



Who else was part of the sales call?


What is their name, position, location?

Right Brain



What non-verbal signs may have indicated their relationship?


Does your direct contact show more or less power / leadership / etc.?


Where you warmly received?  Why do you believe this?

 4)      After the sales call – Analyzing is not just a Left Brain task

The very best of sales people often have a difficult time with analyzing their own work.  Did the call go as planned?  Was information discussed openly?  What could have been done better?  But these questions are mostly left brained in nature.  A bigger issue might be whether or not the customer was relaxed, was a level of human connection made.  These are right brained activities that do in fact make a difference.

Left Brain



What new issues were discussed?  New objections?


Was new information discovered?


How much time did you spend with the customer?


Was the customer on time?


Did you establish a follow-up appointment?

Right Brain



Did the customer seem to be relaxed during your meeting?


Did the customer like you? Did you like the customer?


Were there visual clues to the disposition of the customer?

 5)      Preparing a follow-up or quotation – Left Brain yes.. Right Brain too

Have you ever paid attention to the front page of USA Today?  There are very few daily examples of left and right brain power tied together.  It is a mix of thought provoking headlines and attention getting pictures.  Now take a look at your own proposal and follow-up items.  I have seen multi-thousand dollar proposals forwarded to a client with no cover page, no attention getting headlines.  Instead a computer generated list of materials with encrypted descriptions – understood by the business system computer (and no one else).  Now suppose your proposal is in the in-basket of a busy client.  How much natural interest does it generate?  Your clients are exposed to world class examples of left-right balance on a daily basis.  You do not need to be as good as USA Today, but you do need to be better than the other guy.  A few simple insertions will work wonders.

Left Brain



Is the follow-up delivered on time?


Did you under promise and over deliver?


Do you have a strong understanding of the value to the customer?

Right Brain



Did you make use of headlines and attention getting wording?


Did you use visuals, graphics, and pictures in your follow-up?


Can you control the timing of your follow-up to maximize its impact?

 Sales is the Crossroad of Left and Right Brain Thinking

God gave you both for a reason.  Sales is the cross roads where the two meet in every day life.  Combine and take advantage of these simple thoughts and bring the power of the whole you to bear.  You will feel better, your customers will note the difference, and you will notice the difference in your business.


Frank Hurtte ( is a consultant to distribution and the sales channel at River Heights Consulting.  He has 28 years of real world experience and is available as a speaker and executive coach.  He has written a number of articles and white papers on distribution and the selling process.  Frank has helped a number of businesses and not-for-profit corporations through the strategic planning process.  You can contact Frank  at 563-514-1104 or through








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