The Four Chemicals of Sales Motivation

One of my favourite cocktails is a Vodka Martini. It has four distinct ingredients – vodka, vermouth, olives and ice – it’s delicious.

In the same way, it’s been discovered and popularised by Simon Sinek, that happiness or motivation is created in the human brain with four distinct chemicals, and our role as a sales leader can become much easier if we understand how these elements affect our sales team and provide an environment to motivate.

They’re known as EDSO – endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.

Mixed together, they explain why humans are motivated and why salespeople do what they do. This is essential knowledge for any sales leader. Let me explain further.


This afternoon, I played squash with my best buddy Paul; he beat me 2:1, it was close and I played better than I normally do. When the game started, my right arm ached a little. I thought this was going to hurt but after 10 minutes of warming up, my brain created endorphins which eradicated the pain and I could continue.

Although I lost, it was close and I felt euphoric afterwards. However, I can feel a little ache now as I type on the keyboard.

Endorphins do exactly what they are designed to do. They mask pain when exerting or exercising and give you a high to reward you and to encourage you to come back.

You create your own endorphins by:

  • Smelling some vanilla or lavender
  • Taking some exercise
  • Seeking out daily laughter
  • Eating some dark chocolate
  • Listening to music
  • Eating something spicy

All sales leaders should provide opportunities for their team to generate endorphins. They can provide exercise time and equipment, gym passes, showers at work: Engender fun at work, laughter as a culture: Allow music, have a playlist of tunes that motivate and change your state.


In my first sales job back in the 80s, when I closed a deal, I’d thrown my pen in the air and cheer. Boy it felt good. Little did I know that was dopamine kicking in. I loved it and it inspired me to get more sales. It can get addictive though and occasionally when the deals dried up, I could come crashing down.

Accomplishments trigger dopamine. Goals, achievements and objectives are ticked off. To-do lists are favourites with many salespeople and the ritual of crossing off and finally completing the whole list gives them so much pleasure – a shot of dopamine.

Dopamine’s real role though is to encourage more achievements, however small these are and in ancient times, finding food was enough to trigger a burst of the chemical. Finding food meant you would stay alive and it still works by merely eating.

That’s where dopamine can become dangerous, since it’s massively addictive, similar to alcohol dependence or gambling habits. Checking your phone every 5 minutes gives you a hit, particularly if you’ve received some likes on your Instagram posting or Facebook update. I see people in my gym, admittedly the younger generation, picking up their phone every 5 minutes. A vibration in their pocket means they must look; it’s addictive and it’s dopamine causing the compulsion.

Sales leaders can help their sales team get hits of dopamine. They can reward them for achieving the small goals that lead to ultimate victory, rather than just the final triumph. They can show them how to break down giant goals into bite sized chunks which can be attained quickly.


Now we begin to look at the chemicals that sales leaders can use to influence their sales people. Serotonin kicks in when we feel good: Pride, status and being part of a winning team. Whenever we feel significant or important, it triggers the release of serotonin and sales leaders can provide lots of this for their sales people:

  • Positive feedback
  • Recognition of success from peers
  • Opportunities to grow with career direction
  • Self-development breaks

These are all classic motivators we’ve known about forever.  Here are a couple of new ones:

  • Since the brain can’t distinguish between real or imaginary successes, trick it by imagining future successes.  I call this mental rehearsal and it’s not just useful to eliminate nerves about a future event, but it’ll also generate some rather handy serotonin.
  • Likewise, recalling past successes can give you boost of serotonin.
  • Enjoy a burst of sunshine – this’ll top you up with vitamin D, but also some serotonin.


This is designed to foster human relationships which continue humanity. Oxytocin is generated when you feel connected to someone else, or in love. Trust and intimacy, physical touch and embracing your friends or lovers injects you with lots of it.

It boosts the immune system and makes you feel safe. Generosity and helping others give you a shot too.

So, sales leaders, make sure you:

  • Hold regular team bonding outings to create trust and attachment.
  • Encourage mentor programmes so others can help your people and get some oxytocin to boot.
  • Hold regular one to ones with your salespeople to stimulate caring and progress.
  • Give your sales people a hug a day. I’ll leave this one to your discretion.

So those are four chemicals which create happy, motivated and productive salespeople who can be influenced by their leader. At long last we have the ingredients and I can keep enjoying my Vodka Martini. Even James Bond enjoyed them too, but his were shaken not stirred; I never did understand the difference.