Quantum Blog

08 Dec

The Neuroscience of Intuition: How Sales Reps can “Thin Slice,” Pivot and Win with HCPs

Your pulse suddenly quickens. Your eyes focus to the point of tunnel vision on a set of eyes staring at you from across the room. Everyone is familiar with the sensation. It’s called amygdala activation or the “fight or flight” response. Your body begins reacting to the stimulus before you are consciously aware of what is happening.

From a survival standpoint, this makes a lot of sense. Creatures that stand around mentally processing a threat before deciding how to respond are likely to end up being lunch. Eons of evolution have trained our brains to process certain kinds of information differently, in a way that bypasses logic and allows direct action.

In fact, we are so hardwired for certain stimulus that even the blind can tell when someone is looking at them.

The Neuroscience of Intuition

A recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience showed that cortically blind patients who have no conscious visual sensation or visual awareness still show a statistically significant activation of the right amygdala (“fight or flight” reflex) when shown photographs of faces with a direct gaze (DG) versus an averted gaze (AG). Brain areas specifically related to face and gaze processing were activated when participants were shown a DG versus an AG — despite the fact that the individuals could not consciously tell what they were looking at.

Furthermore, the phenomenon was also recorded using a behavioral procedure. Cortically blind participants were shown slides of DGs and AGs in a random order and asked to identify which was which following an auditory cue. Only after the participants were told to give their guesses zero effort, to go with their gut feeling, did the experiment begin to work. In other words, rapid and intuitive responses can be much more accurate than long-analyzed ones. That’s called “thin slicing”.

In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell made the case that “thin slicing” — the ability to find patterns and make rapid decisions based on “thin slices” of information — is a powerful form of intuitive thinking. We agree. While it appears that everyone is capable of thin slicing potentially threatening stimulus — like sets of eyes — very few are able to thin slice information in other settings.

So why does this matter in biopharma, pharma, and medical device sales?

Top-performing sales reps are among the few that can thin slice information not only for survival, but also for success. Get enough sales reps to do it and you can alter the destiny of your brand.

How Sales Reps can Thin Slice, Pivot and Win

Quantum Learning’s research has shown that, in general, top-performing sales reps are more perceptive than their middle-performing counterparts. They thin slice information naturally. They pick up on the subtle nuances of the conversation and then pivot to the exact piece of information or data point that will resonate with the health care provider. They always deliver the information in a way that is clear, credible, and compelling. That’s thin slicing for success, not just survival.

Helping middle performers get better at thin slicing is an important goal of Quantum’s approach to moving the needle. We show salespeople and their managers how to pick up on the micro-messages that signal risk, concern, or buy-in and then show your salespeople how to pivot to the right action to win the day.

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