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Selling and Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Neuro-Linguistic Programming: what can you tell me? What are your thoughts on the concept of NLP applied to personal selling? - by SalesGuy
I wrote a blog post about a technique which could be considered NLP. Here it is reproduced in sparkling technicolor :

Mr Miyagi says, “Act As If, Salesman, san”

Take on the qualities of others to overcome short-term self-doubt

This technique seems so “new age-y” that I’d like to tell you that I learned it from some Mr Miyagi style sales guru in a misty Japanese valley when training as a complex-sale ninja.

In fact I learned it from an obnoxious middle-aged sales manager halfway up a tower block in Bristol. Still, it really works, and if you suspend your scepticism for a moment, you could take a look at this and see if it’s for you.

All of us have been in situations in which we feel out of our comfort zone. Meeting senior executives early in your sales career, negotiating lump-in-the-throat important contracts, or presenting to large numbers of people are good examples for most people.

The strange thing is (unless it requires specialist knowledge you don’t have), you do actually know what needs to be said and done to successfully deal with the situation (for example, “I need to go in there, shake hands with everyone, look confident and strike up conversation with the CEO”).

Furthermore, in almost all cases you are physically capable of doing these things (i.e. saying the words, making the movements), but some how you feel you just “can’t” do it, because of all the things that make you, you.

This is an effective quick fix that can get you through those moments of self doubt :
  1. Ask yourself “Who would THRIVE in this situation? Who would absolutely ace this, without question?” (Perhaps a family friend, former boss or colleague, TV/film character)
  2. Picture this person in your head successfully dealing with the situation. Watch them in your mind, look at their movements, listen to what they say, and think what they would think, adopt their body language…
  3. Take the useful elements of what you have just seen and heard, get up and walk into that situation, imbued with the qualities of the person you were thinking about.
Ridiculously simple and very effective. If you find using other people as examples weird, just think of a time in the past that you performed brilliantly and replay it in your head. It may take you a little time to "get", so try it 5 times in the next week or so before you make your final judgement.

Even if you are sceptical now, I guarantee you’ll try this next time you’re faced with such a situation (That’s just a guess by the way – seeing into the future is next week’s sales ninja blog post ;-) - by Ed McLean
Keep in mind everyone that NLP was originally promoted in the 70's. Most of the stuff used in sales that claims to have come from NLP was already being applied by sales trainign long before.

For instance, re-framing was a part of Xerox's PSS course in the late 60's, J. Douglas Edwards taught it in the early 60's and, if I am not mistaken, Earl Nightingale taught it in the 50's ... I am certain it is much, much older than that. I would research this but I know it is an unimportant fact ...

As soon as you confirm that NLP and other studies did not "invent" things such as RE-PHRASING you realize just how old great selling skills are. And, in no way am I suggesting that you should not read the book referenced in this thread or avoid taking NLP - just don't think it is new. - by Gold Calling
Wow, great topic........

If we apply a cognitive learning process or didactic learning process we can judge the level of comprehension with the most rudimentary observation process, which is the observation of body linguistics, or body language.

At the most basic level of communication we express our selves in simplistic manner. What we learn whether it is favorable, not favorable, or indecisive. We are going to express this physically in one form or another.

I am not going to get to cerebral on this subject, but, long ago when most of were still on a bottle, we learned very basic forms of expression in language. We learned to superimpose thought process ie (i'm hungry / with acts of irritation). Through this learning process we learned to express ourselves through body language.

Now lets superimpose this over a sale. I know I can make you put your hand on your hip without telling you. Just by doing it, I can make you do the same, it's a cognitive/linguistic reflex. Maybe I am having fun with this client & want to control them that way, or not. Maybe I am better off mirroring their own movements, and helping them identify myself more with them.

The important part here is this. Whatever you tell this client, it is important to read their body language. Whatever you tell them, it can be read physically. (I'm using voice inflection as a physical process here because it is the mechanical change of the larynx, voluntary of involuntary) The cognitive/linguistic expression is most definitely an important process Nuero Linguistic Programming.

j.p.o - by DIAMONDSTAR
... I know I can make you put your hand on your hip without telling you. Just by doing it, I can make you do the same, it's a cognitive/linguistic reflex. Maybe I am having fun with this client & want to control them that way, or not.
If you are busy thinking about how to make a prospect scratch his or her nose or are too focused on non verbal communication, you may and in fact probably will miss the verbal communication that contains even more clues than non verbal.

Non verbal communication - call it body language if you like - while it may be a big part of NLP, was not new to that 'system'. The study of it is approximately 4,000 years older than NLP, give or take a hundred or two ... !

At Wiki there is an interesting notation that I think should be included in this discussion;

"Because of the absence of any firm empirical evidence supporting its sometimes extravagant claims, NLP has enjoyed little or no support from the scientific community."

Now, except for Xerox and Huthwaite (Neil Rackham), we could say the same about sales. There is very little "proof" that what we do works - yet we continue to keep factories and businesses hopping.

Interesting ... again, it is important to note that there are some good books on "non verbal communication" that date way back before NLP existed as a ... as a what? Not a science, I used "system" above as in "system of communication". But whatever we call it, the sales skills that we have proven to work are not augmented by NLP. Therefore, I suspect, it has little meaningful affect on our industry.

I have tried mirroring, I think we all do it to some degree, those of us who are good enough. And I feel it had less to do with the outcome than my ability to understand the prospect's needs. - by Gold Calling
Yea...I think the question is why on earth do I want to make someone put their hand on their hip anyway - by MPrince
I think the question is why on earth do I want to make someone put their hand on their hip anyway?
MPrince, a way of addressing the topic of non verbal communications is somewhat important in sales. However, the issue in this thread is NLP and where it fits in.

In the pool hall, when there was no "mark" to gamble with, out of pure boredom, we would sometimes bet $5 or $10 we could get people to do things. Yawning is an easy one - so auto suggestion works. That I am sure of but what of it?

Here is what I am saying;

Can you auto suggest to someone to (for instance) over look the drawback in your product that is a hold up on them deciding to buy?

I think not, because at best auto suggestion is a simplistic thing - there is a limit to what you can cause them to do. You still need to know how to deal with a drawback through the proper application of proven sales skills if you want to succeed in this example situation and most real situations.

And it is proper to say that "auto suggestion" and "mirroring" are not the only techniques taught in NLP. However, so far, I have not found any to be as important as even basic selling skills. This is just honesty and opinion - if I had found them to work better I would have made more of a study of the topic. Since they did not, I consider it mildly interesting in the grand scheme of mastering the art of selling.

Finally, can I say this and respectfully bow out of this thread? I feel that an introduction to NLP would help those who had not been taught basic selling skills.

I have spent some time in the last week and a half trying to prove in this forum that most of you can not even name selling skills. This in two separate threads (with more planned) ... at this stage, it looks like a valid statement.

In fact, even the above average sales person in this forum can't name sales skills, with very few exceptions (and I know who they are).

So, NLP would improve a non trained or partially trained sales person with the introduction basic communication skills that effect sales results. If that describes you then enroll in a course or buy the DVD's or read the book or whatever. However, if you are already well trained I beleive you would find NLP to be - like I put it - mildly interesting. - by Gold Calling
Nuerolistic Programming is written about by many phenomenal authors and successful people whether they are knowing of this term or not. Generally what I have seen is that successful people implement this methodology into their psyche weather they have heard about it or not.

My first exposure to Nuerolistic Programming was when I was in 10th grade (before this term was invented) & was relayed to us by our Geometry teacher. Story went like this. He had a friend another teacher that wanted a Porsche, but he was broke though he wanted it badly, he new it would take a long time to get it and he didn’t want to lose sight of this goal. He cut out a piece of leather put it in a jar and told himself that this is what the leather in my new Porsche is going to smell like and took a whiff of it everyday on his way to work. After some time guess what, he was driving a new Porsche.

My exposure and usage of the term nuerolistic programming after 10th grade was in an exceptionally different environment as both a student & cadre. We used the term interchangeably in INTAC, (Individual Awareness Course) & SEAR (Survive Escape Evade &Resist) In the INTAC course we used the term to describe how a terrorist projects themselves, & in the SEAR course we used positive & negative imaging to illicit what we wanted. IE We would allow one student to shave, shower, & put on new Pajamas, & see the camp medic (me). We would take another student and give him some extra love. We would take both of these students put them in front of the class and tell the students this is what you will look like if you cooperate, & this is what you will look like if you don’t, thereby making a positive & negative roadmap. (Sidebar note: voice stress analysis has been around for awhile)

The practical application of nuerolistic programming as it pertains to this thread & sales. By creating or internalizing a positive self image, ie I feel good, I look good, I’m intelligent we externalize or project the same. This internalization not only affects “self” but also projects a positive image onto others. When you create a pictorial or sensorial roadmap superimposed over an action plan you achieve your goals. A successful strategy that I have witnessed are those that take their desired goal, ie house or car, clip this picture out & put in a prominent location that reminds them of this goal. They back it up with a step by step action plan that actuates their goal. Trainers of self actuation that help people create inner positive roadmaps, sometimes use fire walking. It’s an effective and harmless technique. Just imagine, if I can walk across a hot bed of coals I can do anything. They visualize themselves walking across these coals, create a picture of a positive self image of accomplishment & self potential and implant a strategy of getting across these searing hot coals, & they do it. One small step in the self actualization for this human being’s success in achieving the impossible.

j.p.o
- by DIAMONDSTAR
I've found traditional sales people are unopen to change. They want to go in there and bang in their sales looking in from 1st position (their perspective).

As a trainer i've found this to be true with the old school mentality
Are you saying you first observed this as a trainer?

I'm sure that whatever you mean by "traditional sales people" would have varying degrees of competence. I can assure you that the top people among them would be as familiar with 1st person, 2nd person, and third person as yourself, and have been long before Bandler and Grinder (or Erickson) penned their stuff.

You may want to reference your material on NLP to see the error of making hasty generalizations about any group with a model derived from the lower end of the competence chain that you somehow observed as a trainer. - by Ace Coldiron
I'm sure that whatever you mean by "traditional sales people" would have varying degrees of competence. I can assure you that the top people among them would be as familiar with 1st person, 2nd person, and third person as yourself, and have been long before Bandler and Grinder (or Erickson) penned their stuff.

You may want to reference your material on NLP to see the error of making hasty generalizations about any group with a model derived from the lower end of the competence chain that you somehow observed as a trainer.
Outstanding comments!

In this thread I repeatedly tried to make the point that NLP the name may be knew, in comparison to sales training,
but the techniques were far from new.

In this forum I have continually tried (as have others like Ace) to point out that "the old way" is a notion that seems to relate to those who taught incompetent skills, not to those fore fathers of sales - the true professionals.

In fact, my own teachings uses stuff about psychology, which I only listened to for the first time two years ago, that was first recorded in the early 60's and first released on 78 LPs (later converted to audio tape and re-released)!

The point is, there is not much that is new.

Having said that, great sales people are the first to open their minds to anything that is good and works. They are more teach-able than the average individuals, more open minded but it better be good. Because, at the same time, we can be highly highly critical (as we should be) of ideas without solid grounding.

Now, I have not stated that I dislike NLP, far from it. I have just made the point that if you were highly trained in professional sales techniques that NLP was not needed, if you were not I think there is serious value from sitting through this style of training. And, since I have done both, I can assure you ... this is an opinion born of expereince.

Ace is clearly writing with ruffled feathers, as he should be. And I know a sales rep & trainer who, having won the National Sales Contest in 1963 at the then largest photocopier company in the world, now in his eightieth year, still producing daily, would literally bristle (quite visibly) at anyone who tried to promote the ridiculous notion that sales professionalism did not exist prior to any thing that has been taught in the last 4 decades (70's, eighties, 90's & new millennium).

In other words; SPIN, NLP, CONSULTATIVE SELLING, HUTHWAITE, NEIL RACKHAM, SANDLER and many more are relative new comers to the 'professionalism party'.

Carnegie, Nightingale and J. Douglas Edwards came before. And all of them were amazing. Look at Carnegie, his book "How to win friends and influence people", with a copyright on 1936, was and still is the benchmark of that topic.

Suck it up one and all, as it is totally valid to state that there were pros way back when, serious ones. People who listened very well, probed as well if not better than anyone today, prospected better (on average, this is a dieing art), "mirrored" (when they needed to), had already mastered re-phrasing ... and I could go on and on.

I finish with saying that NLP has its place. It is not as important as professional sales skills nor a replacement of such. Mind you, there are so few places that teach sales people at any thing that I could totally and freely endorse that it might be worth taking the NLP course just because you do not know who to trust in sales training.

If you can open a sales meeting effectively, probe without upsetting the prospect, know when to use closed and open probes/questions, can uncover needs/pain/hot buttons, show the prospect how your product or service addresses their needs/pain, deal with objections, skepticism and indifference, know how and when to close and have the guts to do so effectively, and are good enough to pull all of the above off, you will take serious beating. The only thing to add to that is prospecting skills ... oh, yah, dare I forget to mention relationship building, but the best of us do that instinctively, don't we?

... "old school mentality" eh? Now you've done it, you have gone and picked a fight!

... LOL. - by Gold Calling
I've found traditional sales people are unopen to change. They want to go in there and bang in their sales looking in from 1st position (their perspective).

As a trainer i've found this to be true with the old school mentality
Well, MrChrarisma; Let me tell you about traditional...it is open, accepting, always looking for ways to improve and certainly not trying to belittle if we disagree. It is doing our best to have respect for not only our partners in sales but also our competition. It is being who we really are not who we think we might be. In other words traditional is being real, at least that's how I see it! Traditional Sales is a traditional business transaction between two people. - by MPrince
Ace, you state the top sales people most likely know material like 1st/2nd person that NLP teaches you... and as you may be aware, the point of a trainer is to continue to develop the average joe to reach his potential. I agree, the top writers are usually doing advanced techniques. For every top 5 writers, there are 20 who need assistance and if these people can take on board new concepts which they aren't using... it'll only enchance their abilities and grow as a salesmen. We all start somewhere.
I agree with much of that. Where we may differ is probably best isolated with the question, "New" to WHO?

Maybe the use of the word "traditional" muddies the water. Long before anyone knew much about NLP, or Anthony Robbins was teaching his stuff, I was "modeling behavour" of a world-class salesman and achieved a quick launch of a successful career. If tradition means THEN and new means NOW, then where does the modeling techniques of NLP fall with regard to tradition.

Perhaps a lot of people--perhaps the majority--have never devoted the time or interest to reach a level of understanding of "traditional" selling. It was always easier to memorize the profound platitudes without giving their validity any thought. When the smoke cleared over the years, traditional selling was practiced with incompetence and took on the stigma of Willy Lomanism. That said, the people who learned and practice it right are not biting on the idea that we need something that wasn't there from the start. What we always need and continue to pursue is an even deeper understanding of what has ALWAYS worked and why. - by Ace Coldiron
@ace

Absolutely.

After I went through the training as a salesmen, I went out scratching my head learning very few new concepts. It was a method I was never taught yet I was doing it already.

As I continued studying it, I come to realise that a lot of it is awareness. Most good sales people know this information already but it's the awareness that if a particular situation arrises then to start using it in our regular routine and not our bad habits.

Concepts like Master/Victim, the 5 Filters, uncovering customers WIIFM's so they perceive value in our product using benefits... All very useful things I've taken out of it and now instantly identify when put in a sales encounter. - by MrCharisma
All and all a very valuable discussion in this thread, though it started on a different premise. As part of a kind of recap, I had to throw in some thoughts;

… Where we may differ is probably best isolated with the question; "New" to WHO?

Maybe the use of the word "traditional" muddies the water. Long before anyone knew much about NLP, or Anthony Robbins was teaching his stuff, I was "modeling behavior" of a world-class salesman and achieved a quick launch of a successful career. If tradition means THEN and new means NOW, then where does the modeling techniques of NLP fall with regard to tradition.

Perhaps a lot of people--perhaps the majority--have never devoted the time or interest to reach a level of understanding of "traditional" selling. It was always easier to memorize the profound platitudes without giving their validity any thought. When the smoke cleared over the years, traditional selling was practiced with incompetence and took on the stigma of Willy Lomanism. That said, the people who learned and practiced it right are not biting on the idea that we need something that wasn't there from the start. What we always need and continue to pursue is an even deeper understanding of what has ALWAYS worked and why.

Once again, fantastic insight from Ace; “What we always need and continue to pursue is an even deeper understanding of what has ALWAYS worked and why.” Bang on.

I keep saying that the all too common comments like; “that doesn’t work any more” are some of the most maligning of our profession because, if it doesn’t work, it never did.

Willy Lowman or as suggested by Wikipedia, a play on words, as in Low-man, is not something I relate to (I never saw it). But I have sat through Glengarry Glen Ross a few times and there is certainly something to the fact that the media has had a part in mistakenly making our great profession look like it contained mostly amateurs and certainly not role models.

MrCharisma replied to Ace;

After I went through the training as a salesmen, I went out scratching my head learning very few new concepts.
Most sales training is poor at best, often product knowledge or so-called “industry specific”, which is not what’s needed, skills training is sorely deficient. In addition, repetition is hugely beneficial when good skills training is available and, even then, few companies are aware that adopting a corporate philosophy of continuous improvement of sales people is critical.

MrCharisma went on to say;

As I continued studying it, I come to realize that a lot of it is awareness. Most good sales people know this information already but it's the awareness that if a particular situation arises then to start using it in our regular routine and not our bad habits.
Awareness is key. Recognizing what is happening to our prospect during the process is critical so that we know how to react. This cannot be overstated and, the greats do know.

The one thing I would like to point out though is;

If the TOP 5 are the producers, as MrCharisma suggested – the premise is the bottom 20 need help. My experience has taught me that the producers are best to work with to generate improvement. And most of the bottom 20 are there just because they want and need a job (a salary), if you don’t mind my bluntness.

As a result I work with two categories personally; untrained, those without bad habits, and producers, ‘knives that can be sharpened’. I mostly leave alone the experienced that fall into the 20 (or 80%) of the total of 25 that are average or below average.

Finally MrCharisma said;

Concepts like Master/Victim, the 5 Filters, uncovering customers WIIFM's so they perceive value in our product using benefits... All very useful things I've taken out of it and now instantly identify when put in a sales encounter.
I think it would be good for those unfamiliar with NLP to explain in general terms what is meant by; “Master/Victim” and; “The 5 Filters” and; “WIIFM” (obviously the later is an acronym for; “what’s in it for me”).

Those who have been well trained will then relate these terms to what they already know and those who cannot will then be able to decide whether or not to study NLP. Having said that I am still a proponent of sales skills training (real quality training) and repetition.

The GROKDOTCOM website has an interesting insight on WIIFM. They relate that each individual personality type needs you have to present to them uniquely. Relating to the WHAT, WHY, WHO, HOW and so on of ___________ “your product or service is best to solve their problem” as in;

… what your product or service can do for them to solve their problem

Or;

… why your product or service is best to solve their problem

The one that sticks out is who has used your product or service to solve problems? I relate to this strongly, not by the personality type but rather the all important attitude displayed by a propsect. Allow me to explain …

This “who” example would be related to those in selling who understand the use of proof sources as the prospect that needs a reference letter or list of customers to call to feel secure in his/her decision, most often occurring or being recognized in your prospect through a display of skepticism. In other words, the sales training I studied first, which began in the 60’s, taught this in a very different way than NLP (if my information and research are correct).

Truly fascinating stuff. - by Gold Calling
To SalesGuy...NLP is a great tool for sales but what you need to consider is the use of embedded commands. Find out what they are and how to structure them. Then, write your scripts and practice, practice practice. Embedded commands are simply verbal commands placed into a sentence to get your customer/client to do what is needed. - by martykapp
To SalesGuy...NLP is a great tool for sales but what you need to consider is the use of embedded commands. Find out what they are and how to structure them. Then, write your scripts and practice, practice practice. Embedded commands are simply verbal commands placed into a sentence to get your customer/client to do what is needed.
martykapp;

I think that it is best to explain references, such as embedded commands. I mean the meaning you provided could sound as if we, as sales professionals, use commends to get them to buy or, as you put it, "do what is needed".

I think you will agree that this can be misconstrued. I know that is not what you mean but there are rreaders who have no clue what an "embedded command" is ... an example might be warranted.

Having said that, questions are the most preferred method of getting the cleint to do what we want, which is provide us with enough information so that we know what is important to them - in order to forward the sale or at least know we can't.

A "command" sure does not sound like questions, does it?

Since top performers in sales for 5 generations, going on 6 now, have continually shown they can get the prospect turned into a client in a very high percentage of cases thru asking questions I do not believe the advice of studying "embedded commands" is a great idea. I do however love "practice, practice, practice" if it is in regards to probing (which is asking questions).

Do we really want the sales industry to teach things that are taught as follows;

"Embedded Commands are commands which have been softened by embedding them in a particular sentence. This means that they are less likely to be noticed and it is more likely that the client will follow the command.

Be aware that if you lead people to do what's in their interest they are likely to thank you, if you lead people to do what is against their interest they are likely seek revenge!"


Not from where I am sitting at. Especially since we get to the results more often not employing such strategies!
- by Gold Calling
What would be an example of embedded commands used in sales? - by Seth
What would be an example of embedded commands used in sales?
Here is an example of embedded commands in bold & astericks.

*Take notes*, embedded commands are used in succession to facilitate an instinctive mind map that follows directions.

*Repeat After me* embedded commands aren’t for everybody

*Sign the contract*,this offer will expire

*Trust me*, embedded commands can be used in effectively in different circumstance

*Accept this offer*, free is good

I am trying to help you *Work with me*

*Decide now*, if you like this style

*Act now*, there may not be another opportunity like this

*Do what I say*, I am working in your best interest

If this is right for you *Do as I say*

This is a great opportunity*Feel motivated*

*Get excited*, there isen’t a better web site to learn this stuff

*Take action*, use these as a template & make up your own to suit your sales circumstance
j.p.osn; - by DIAMONDSTAR
First and foremost, I want to thank you for taking the time and effort to post these examples. Forum readers can now assess these to understand better, Seth was correct to ask for them. And, since DiamondStar, in the member's personal profile section of this site, lists no website, there is no expected benefit from this effort.

Next I want to say that I wish to comment on these if I may, to provide a point of view of a master trainer and trust that all will accept these comments as constructive rather than less than positive in nature .... assuming that DiamondStar provided these from another source!

*Repeat After me* embedded commands aren’t for everybody
Having read the rest of the list, I can certainly agree, most "embedded commands" ought not to be used by any sales person (at least while selling), if the following are common examples of the use of this NLP technique in selling;

*Sign the contract*, this offer will expire

*Accept this offer*, free is good

I am trying to help you *Work with me*
Unsophisticated at best.

*Decide now*, if you like this style
Best to ask which style they prefer instead for a whole lot of reasons.

*Act now*, there may not be another opportunity like this
Does anyone read this example and think of USED CARS?

*Do what I say*, I am working in your best interest

If this is right for you *Do as I say*
The word COMMAND certainly comes to mind after reading those two. They are not subtle and as a result will offend some prospects - where as the great majority of professional sales techniques are subtle, therefore working effectively without causing offense.

This is a great opportunity *Feel motivated*


This is a great opportunity but more important than my impressions are yours. And, I can see that you feel good about this!

Much more subtle.

*Take action*, use these as a template & make up your own ...
My advice would be to use language in less offensive and therefore more effective was. - by Gold Calling
First and foremost, I want to thank you for taking the time and effort to post these examples. Forum readers can now assess these to understand better, Seth was correct to ask for them. And, since DiamondStar, in the member's personal profile section of this site, lists no website, there is no expected benefit from this effort. ...
Rest assured Gold Calling®, the majority of these embedded commands aren't part of my sales style.

Some elements are more effective as a managerial style

*Repeat after me*, I will not be late for work!

j.p.o - by DIAMONDSTAR
Rest assured Gold Calling, the majority of these embedded commands aren't part of my sales style.
I was not worried about you DIAMONDSTAR. As always, my first concern is for those who we at Sales Practice might refer to as "the impressionable"., It is this group that stands to loose the most through somewhat misleading information than the group who are old salts.

Some elements are more effective as a managerial style
Words are powerful, that cannot be argued.

I suspected that technique had more merit outside of selling, it could surely be effective in coaching and in some ways in management, but I seriously doubt the benefits of spending time learning this communication technique for face-to-face selling.

*Repeat after me*, I will not be late for work!
*REPEAT AFTER ME* training in proven basic selling skills, plus reinforcement through repetition, will do more to improve sales performance than mastering "embedded commands" - by Gold Calling
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