Selling, with NLP Patterns and Skills

In today's post, I share a sales-closing I think you'll love, and follow that with NLP skills applied to selling, including: Sensory Acuity, Sensory Awareness, Calibration, Using Suggestions to 'plant' thoughts ethically, and other NLP language patterns!

How I used NLP to Close a Client's Real Estate Deal

Some years ago, I was called in to a Real Estate office where I'd been doing some custom training work. One of the managers, Tom, also brings me into deals occasionally. I'm like his secret weapon. They know my methods can be unpredictable and counter-intuitive, and I haven't failed them yet, so, they give me license to do unexpected things.

Tom was trying to close a deal with a guy named Marvin. Tom was holding out for a higher price.  Marvin was also just holding out for a better deal. Every day Marvin waited, was costing him.  Every day Tom was waiting was also costing him in multiple ways.  He knew it, too, and he was blindly hoping he could do better than those losses by waiting. Marvin also didn't know Tom had another lower offer on the table. Tom's efforts to date hadn't been able to close the deal.

I went into one of their meetings... sat on Tom's side of the table, and I paid attention to what was going on. And I listened to Marvin's language... and I heard what he was saying... and watched what he was doing. And I mirrored Marvin. Only I took what Marvin was doing, further. He had his arms crossed, so I crossed my arms. Meanwhile, I was sitting next to Tom, on Tom's side of the table, and I started sliding further off away to the side. I almost disengaged from the meeting. I mirrored Marvin's arms and started looking over at my client, radiating mild annoyance. I knew that Tom thought it was doing him good to hold on to his little secret about the other deal on the table. And I knew he wanted it closed with Marvin. But Tom didn't want to pay him extra money if he didn't have to, partly because he knew Marvin would make money starting from the day he closed the deal! It was purely emotional, because Tom would also make money and avoid wasting money by closing on that day.  So I metaphorically went over to the opposition's side, and asked Tom, "why aren't you telling Marvin the whole story?!"

Tom looked at me like I was nuts... even though of course I'd prepared him, letting him know I might do some very weird things. So he went along with it for the time being. Reluctantly! Meanwhile the dynamic was changing.... Marvin suddenly felt like his holding out had "won over" a guy from the other team... who was now doing his closing for him. I said out loud to Tom, "You have this other offer on the table, from someone you could call today. Why haven't you explained that to Marvin? Because ALL of us could just go home right now and enjoy a long martini and a swim knowing how much money we'll all be making tomorrow? But no, both you guys have to have the upper hand in this.

Pay close attention to that phrasing.  By saying they both had to have the upper hand in this, what their conscious mind was hearing was that they were still butting heads.  What their unconscious minds were hearing was that they were in rapport, in agreement on something.  Both were included together by the word "Both."  And neither knew it at the time.  Additionally, had Tom shared his other offer himself, he would have created animosity in Marvin, because there would be no way for Marvin to prove that other offer existed, either way.  But by me sharing it, and Tom being shocked, it had instant credibility.

So, naturally, Tom's jaw was wide open in shock. Which is to say that his state was anchored, not so much by me, but by Marvin's reaction (and vice versa). Meanwhile, Marvin was starting to make pictures of closing the deal successfully right there, and realizing that if he didn't close the deal right then and there, Tom was eventually going to offer the deal to someone else. And that state of needing to close to prevent loss was achieved not in response to something Tom was saying to him, but by Marvin's own thought process!  Marvin's goal then became not one of holding out, but of preventing loss.

This strategy created an instant propulsion system for Marvin and Tom to close the deal that night (at a reasonable price good for both of them). WIN-WIN for everyone. A final agreement was brokered five minutes after my antics. Everyone ended up happy. And I didn't have to make anything up or lie or do anything inappropriate.

Both parties had a potential win-win they couldn't see.

Granted, I could have made a little more money for my client, rather than both parties, and that would likely have delayed the sale longer. I knew both parties would benefit by closing sooner rather than later, and that both parties would lose out by waiting. It occurs to me that all it took to get the close, was to sell Marvin on feeling really good by closing now, and feeling bad about everything he'd be missing by not moving forward. Also, both parties involved had already dealt with the pros and cons of having the deal go through. They'd already thought through that. So there was no chance of either of them being irritated about finally closing.

Sensory Acuity, Sensory Awareness, Calibration – and Simply Being Fully Present

When you... open up your eyes... open up your ears... and pay attention differently with more clarity... to the signals people are giving you all the time, you become a more effective salesperson.

When you choose to be there, fully present with your sales prospects, completely – you both connect with each other more easily. You create a stronger sense of credibility and trust. You create an easy rapport together.

It's OK to learn a script cold – but then forget the script. Pay attention to your prospects, and be as aware as you can about what's going on with them. That's essential whether you're on the phone or with them in person.

There are many NLP exercises taught that increase your sensory acuity – that teach you to see more, hear more, and feel more of what's happening between you and another person.

If you see, hear and feel more of what's happening for others (and it helps to have reduced or cut out that internal dialogue, too), then you're more likely to notice when your prospect:

  • Shifts from doubtful to certain.
  • Shifts from certain, to doubtful
  • Starts asking themselves questions internally
  • Is imagining things inside their mind (visually)
  • Has brief subtle unconscious negative (or positive) responses to things you say

Most NLP-trained salespeople know that these are all significant moments in any sales experience for a prospect. The question is, have you been trained to notice them? And if you did notice them, would you know what to do in response to them, for best results?

I invite you to consider that if you miss these moments, or worse, if you do the wrong thing after them -- you'll lose the sale, and never know why -- relegating them to the pile of 'it just wasn't a good fit", even if that was never the case. Food for thought!

VALUES-based selling with NLP: People don't resist their own thoughts.

NLP is extraordinary for enabling you to speak to people's inner wants and needs, and provide thoughts to people 'as if they were their own thoughts.'

There was a movie that came out recently called “Inception.” Inception was based on the idea that you could plant an idea in someone's mind, through a dream state, and that they would then act on it as if it was their own idea.

If you think about doing this for your own gain whether they need that result or not, that's a sneaky and manipulative intention -- and has no place in ethical selling skills.

But, if you're doing this to help people get past their own hesitations and resistance in order for them to get their own needs met – suddenly that's not manipulative or improper.

NLP gives us tools and skills for doing this – partly.

You CAN use NLP like Inception to provide a person with specific suggestions or ideas... if those suggestions or ideas will satisfy some of that person's values, without violating any of their other values.

You cannot use NLP like Inception to provide a person with specific suggestions or ideas that would violate any of their values.

The critical distinction is that you simply can't use “Inception” to quickly implant a new value in someone's mind. People value what they value; values are formed throughout life based on life experiences. Values will change only very slowly through normal life, and sometimes more quickly through dramatic or tragic circumstances.

With NLP, however, you can more quickly learn and identify what people value – and then you can present ideas to them that will satisfy those values. And NLP helps us do this in a way that people don't resist, because when its done well, they think it's their own thought – and it matches their deep values. And they'll often thank you for your assistance.

Many people go weeks, months, years – without getting their values and needs met. If a salesperson learns how to help a person get their wants and needs met – thereby satisfying some of their values (without violating others), then they're creating win-win results.

NLP Language Patterns

Language patterns can and do help – but for salespeople, far too much emphasis in NLP is on the choice of words and language patterns. In using NLP with selling, I would focus more on understanding the process of communication, sequences of emotional responses, and how all of this changes from moment to moment over time.

Let's laugh, please, about the typical language patterns in NLP that were originally suggested as a way to manipulate people unconsciously: “By Now, you may have discovered, how nice this will be for you.” The idea behind that crap is to suggest “Buy Now.” Here's why I don't recommend this: It's pretty much 'out there' now, and while a rare person won't catch you doing this, those who do – will never trust you again. So please join me in purging this from the NLP vocabulary. Those of us who believe in selling ethically with NLP do not believe in the use of language patterns like this.

There are however multiple Ericksonian language patterns that are useful to learn and use regularly. These include:

  • sensory-rich-language (so you can flesh out desirable results and create more vivid pictures in prospects' minds – for the right reasons)
  • embedded commands (so that you're not unclear with your suggestions)
  • time distortion (so you can walk customers through thorough descriptions of desirable futures and have them feel as if they've already lived through the results of their choices)
  • modal operators (so you can move people from negative necessity or possibility, to positive possibility and necessity – and only when it makes sense for them)
  • and lots more