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Willem Verbeke

pro­fes­sor Sales & Account Man­age­ment at EUR

The eight seconds

In the king­dom of blind men the one-eyed is king, Eras­mus once said. Lis­ten­ing to Willem Ver­beke makes us real­ize that we are in the king­dom of blind men but thanks to him we can catch a unique glimpse of the land­scape. Willem Ver­beke is the Euro­pean author­ity on sales. Recently he has worked in a field that would seem to relate more to the realm of sci­ence fic­tion than to every­day life as we know it. Yet he is capa­ble of mak­ing his find­ings quite acces­si­ble by apply­ing them in every­day sit­u­a­tions. For instance, in the brain scan research. He has worked with neu­rol­o­gists on explor­ing var­i­ous new appli­ca­tions of fMRI tech­niques. The results are thus that he can now right­fully claim to be read­ing people’s minds and pre­dict­ing their behav­ior before they con­sciously know what they will do them­selves. In fact, Ver­beke has proven that eight sec­onds before a per­son is aware of it, the brain already knows how it will react and what it will choose. He can pre­dict for exam­ple what polit­i­cal choice a per­son would make in an elec­tion. This sounds like vin­tage James Bond but it isn’t secret codes that Ver­beke aims to crack: it is the lit­tle secrets peo­ple pre­fer to hide, like a ten­dency to fraud or psy­cho­pathic traits. It is not in the near future, it is now already that employ­ers can use fMRI scans to check pos­si­ble can­di­dates for just these traits that no nor­mal ques­tion­naire will bring to light. Ver­beke is also explor­ing how fMRI can be applied in research into sell­ing, account man­age­ment and other subjects.

Many labels would suit Ver­beke. He seems to have dis­trib­uted his work into dif­fer­ent fields of exper­tise and to have added some­thing quite bril­liant to all of these. He reg­u­larly works in teams with other excel­lent researchers. This gives him the oppor­tu­nity to com­bine het­ero­ge­neous knowl­edge, which effec­tively stim­u­lates his cre­ativ­ity. Orig­i­nally a philoso­pher, he was trained not to work in a spe­cific field, but to cre­ate and to com­bine dif­fer­ent sources of knowl­edge in such a man­ner that his stu­dents and read­ers can learn and gain new perspectives.

Prof. Willem Ver­beke Ph.D stud­ied phi­los­o­phy at the Uni­ver­sity of Gent and the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia. He is hold­ing the cur­rent posi­tion pro­fes­sor in Sales and Account Man­age­ment at the Eras­mus Uni­ver­sity Rot­ter­dam. In 1996, he founded the Insti­tute for Sales & Account Man­age­ment. ISAM now is one of the major exper­tise and research insti­tutes for sales and account man­age­ment. He has trained more than 2500 sales pro­fes­sion­als and is a con­sul­tant of var­i­ous man­age­ments and boards of firms such as Coca-Cola, Camp­ina and Delta Lloyd. The eight books that he wrote include: “Ik verkoop, dus ik besta”, “Ik netwerk, dus ik besta”, “Adap­tief en strate­gisch account­man­age­ment”, “Suc­cesvol shapen van key accounts” and “Het verkopen van ken­nis”.


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