The neural mechanisms involved in social intelligence and its relation to the performance of salesprofessionals
Identifying the drivers of salespeople’s performance, strategies and moral behavior have been under the scrutiny of marketing scholars for many years. The functioning of the drivers of salespeople’s behaviors rests on processes taking place in the minds of salespeople. However, research to date has used methods based mainly on verbal self-reports. Advances in techniques from neuroscience such as Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) suggest that despite their complexity and relative inaccessibility, mental processes can be measured more directly.
Theory of Mind and mirror neurons are two mechanisms that operate at an automatic or reflexive level, and are important drivers of social intelligence. We use fMRI and field studies to investigate how individual differences in the functioning of these social intelligence mechanisms relate to the job performance and moral orientations of salespeople. In addition, we use fMRI to analyze the psychometric properties of scales that gauge salesperson-customer interactions. Our results show that when salespeople are presented with social stimuli during fMRI scanning, they display individual differences in the amount of neurological processing in regions that play key roles in social intelligence, and these individual differences show associations with salespeople’s performance, strategy and moral orientations. Implications for training, selection & recruitment of salespeople are provided. The theoretical contributions relate to the field of Marketing, Social Neuroscience, and Personality Research.