Written by Gary Walker
Neuro-linguistic programming is a method for modelling excellence. It is the study of how we do what we do, especially the behaviour that works well. By studying thinking patterns and behaviours that create excellent outcomes, NLP professionals can teach other people strategies for achieving their own best outcomes. These goals range from personal (such as improving self-confidence, quitting an addiction, resolving trauma and health problems, becoming happier…) through to corporate success (such as increasing sales, improving public speaking, developing better marketing strategies, creating better workplace dynamics). NLP supporters love NLP because it creates rapid change by providing tangible steps for a person or an organisation to put in place to create great outcomes.
It’s easy to see how the study of NLP is advantageous in multiple areas of life, from someone’s personal relationships to virtually any occupation. One field in which NLP is especially relevant is that of sales and marketing
‘Neuro’ – understanding how we process information and meaning. ‘Linguistic’ – improving communication.
NLP can help those involved in sales to become more skilled at communicating. By helping to be better communicators, you can better identify clients’ needs and meet those needs more easily. Through emphasis on both verbal and non-verbal communication, you can learn principles that turn you into a more powerful, confident and flexible communicator.
Being a good communicator (ie understanding others) and being aware of your own perceptions (ie understanding ourselves) are great life-skills. NLP can help salesforce and marketers increase their level of rapport with their customers through the improvement of connection and get more VALUE from sales and marketing interactions
Whilst NLP is clearly relevant to one-on-one sales interactions, it also is applicable to other areas of marketing, such as advertising. While it is easier to discern how to sell to a particular person when speaking to him or her individually, advertisers are faced with the more difficult task of targeting a mass of people at once. Consequently, many advertisers have overlooked how NLP might benefit marketing campaigns.
The main difference in using NLP in sales vs. marketing is that salespeople are generally engaged in one-to-one interactions. They can assess whether their buyer prefers visual, auditory, or kinesthetic language, and lean into that preference.
On the other hand, marketing materials have to cater to many people with many different preferences. Since it’s rare to see any one emotional language bias among a type of buyer or target audience (if you assume the population is roughly split into thirds) marketers should instead try to hit all three bases with their messaging.
Of course, when targeting different groups of people, it is still important to be strategic. The mere presence of images or words in a marketing campaign will not be enough to cause people to want to buy your product. The key is to recognize which images or words will elicit the reaction you’re trying to achieve, depending on the type of customer you’re targeting.
A persons ‘state’ (emotional position) needs to be ready for the call to action… this creates a powerful motivation to buy..
Neuromarketing is the study of what is going on the human brain when people react to advertising, and a successful marketing campaigns recognise the power of the following:
Evoking a gut reaction, Images, Faces, Colours, Names, People’s desire for belonging
Assuming you’ve worked out your basic proposition and have an ideal customer list, you need to be clear about your customers’ buying cycle, the problems your service solves, and the value it can bring.
You then have to make contact with the appropriate customer decision makers and influencers. You then want to drive/nudge the sale forward towards a successful close. This involves helping your customer through their buying process.
Understanding their value sets, writing effective proposals, and negotiation are also important and can all benefit from NLP techniques.
Successful sales and delivery and helping your customers identify the value they’ve received will lead to case studies, referrals and testimonials leading to additional business.
In modern life, and in sales, where everyone seems short of time, being really listened to can be rare – all too often, a conversation can be just a competition for airspace. However, really listening to your customers will build rapport and ensure you don’t waste their time or yours, as your sales pitch can be geared to their stated needs. Likewise, listening to those around you a little better, should strengthen your relationships in general. So, learning active listening skills, can truly help you win sales and influence people!
For example, before starting a sales conversation which could be outside your comfort zone, try relaxation exercises such as deep breathing, as nervousness can make you seem disinterested. In addition, watch out for non-verbal signals given out, such as tone of voice, gestures and posture, which can increase your understanding of what’s being said. In this way, you can quickly master the art of active listening, and the benefits to your sales figures and your life may just surprise you.
As communication is a two-way street, it’s also vital to choose your words carefully, and this is something NLP methodology can help with. Words which are variously referred to as ‘power words’ or ‘magic words’ can be used to elicit certain emotions and responses that may help overcome customer objections and close the sale. These are a selection of words which have been found to be helpful and influence others. For example, to invoke positive emotions, words like believe, change, success and happy may be effective, while words such as imagine, truth, secret and expose can trigger curiosity. You could also try adding extra emphasis to these words to give them greater strength, turning them into action commands (called embedded commands).
In addition, repeating key phrases, like ‘You’ll love this product’, in subtly different ways can also steer your customer in the desired direction and win the sale
Building rapport with your customers is also vital if you want to succeed at sales, and techniques which help you do this quickly can be invaluable. One such NLP technique is ‘mirroring’ – a method of imitating the behaviour and language of others to rapidly establish rapport. As research suggests that we are drawn to people who are like us, subtly mirroring a customer’s body language, tone of voice, speech rate, gestures, opinions and choice of words, may make them feel more comfortable around you and build trust.
In addition, one surefire way to create rapport fast is to identify the other person’s preferred communication style, which could be visual, auditory or kinaesthetic (tactile), and use the same style of language to communicate. This preferred style should be evident from their turn of phrase, for example ‘Can you see what I mean?’, for visual style, ‘Can you hear what I’m saying?’, for auditory, or ‘Do you get a feel for this?’ for kinaesthetic style. However, mirroring should only be used in moderation – overt mimicking may offend and is not the name of the game!
Having learnt whether your customer is a visual, auditory or kinaesthetic kind of person, you can now use this new-found knowledge to gear your selling strategy to their preferred way of buying. For a visual person, show them pictures as part of your presentation; for an auditory customer, if possible, find ways to use sound in your sales pitch; and for the kinaesthetic person, let them touch any products they can, even if just by handling a brochure. Understanding your customers’ buying preferences can give you a head start when it comes to sealing the deal, and NLP techniques can help with this.
For example, find out how your customer bought products before – have they needed time to think about it, or to get someone else’s opinion? As repeating someone’s previous buying pattern could give you a better chance of closing the sale (meta programs).
In addition, this methodology suggests that if you can discover your customer’s hopes and dreams and link your product to helping them achieve these, you should have one very happy customer and a signed, sealed and delivered sale!
Selling confidence comes down to maintaining a positive mindset, as negative thought patterns can reduce chances of success. With a more positive frame of mind you can boost your motivation and reprogram yourself to achieve your goals. A technique known as ‘reframing’ can work wonders when it comes to overcoming any bad selling experiences you may have. In essence this is a tactic of choosing to focus on any benefits of such a situation you can find, rather than dwelling on the negatives.
Another such technique is to practice what is called a pattern interrupt – finding ways to step out of your routine to break unsuccessful patterns and increase your chance of success, which may be just what you need to improve your perspective. Similarly this could be used to ‘interrupt’ an external train of thought or dialogue that is not useful.
And by using a method known as ‘anchoring’, NLP techniques could help you instantly lift your mood, by embedding and using a ‘trigger’ such as a movement, sound, smell or taste, which can be an invaluable tool to get you in the right frame of mind to get that sale!
Assuming the sale discussion has followed a good decision support process and we know that investing our time in this opportunity is a good investment, we can ask questions like:
NLP should not be used to ‘manipulate’ into making a decision. Sales closes are a bit like NLP techniques, the best practitioners weave them into the conversation so they’re only noticed in the context of doing what’s best for both parties. They’re useful, but how you use them if often more important than the words themselves. If you’re in the right state and have an appropriate belief set, almost whatever you do will work.
Dr Richard Bolstad reviews some of the research into the science of purchasing with a multiple of referential sources. He concludes with 3 areas to improve sales through NLP. These include a powerful state of mind, rapport, and language patterns
Relational skills are absolutely necessary for trainers and managers to create a bond with their audience. This paper demonstrates how a NLP approach to the presentation process, provides a better understanding of the linguistic characteristics, techniques and strategies which enrich and make our speech more persuasive.
James Muir’s book ‘The Perfect Close’, demonstrates how that by simply asking just one closing question raised the percentage of successful sales from 25% to 61%. So we can’t assume sales will close themselves.
However James also suggest that beyond the first attempt there is often a negative correlation between closing frequency and sales success
We make fast instinctive decisions.
All of us react to situations and make judgments at a subconscious level. Malcolm Gladwell explores this phenomenon in his best-seller, Blink. Marketers, whether they are salespeople or advertisers, would do well to increase their skills in non-verbal communication and in perceiving people’s presuppositions.
What separates effective communicators from truly successful persuaders? With the rigorous scientific research and accessibility, Robert Cialdini explains how to prepare people to be receptive to a message before they experience it. Optimal persuasion is achieved only through optimal pre-suasion. In other words, to change “minds” a pre-suader must also change “states of mind.
Over the last 20 years, growing research from Neuroscience, Social Psychology and Behavioral Economics has been providing new insights on how the brain makes buying decisions. That gave birth to a new field, Neuromarketing. With his extensive knowledge and experience in both Neuroscience and marketing, Dr. Wu helps businesses grow revenues rapidly by guiding their customers to make informed decisions
I remember standing in front of the burning coals in front on me and knowing that I had 20 steps on the fire-walk to prove the power of mind over body. That first step was the hardest and the rest became history as I realised how much the brain can do for us – both positive and negative.
With a background in Psychology and business, I did my NLP masters and a diploma in HypnoTherapy to confirm my love for all things Neuroscience based.
I am a coach, counsellor, trainer and speaker on using the power of the mind to effect great change in our lives. My main drive is to help people THINK better, FEEL better and BE better to enjoy life with purpose.
In a business sense I focus on strategic leadership, particularly focussing on sustainability and persuasive communications and presentations. Neuromarketing and Neuroselling are becoming more commonplace and understood as being a good framework for understanding buyer behaviour
For enquiries about using NLP for sales and marketing or to join our professional development and supervision group (for associate and professional members of NZANLP), contact me on Neuromarketing@changlife.co.nz
Visit my websites on changelife.co.nz and gsd.co.nz for more about me and what I do.