Sales and particularly large item ticket selling, generally depends upon the sales professional’s ability to establish a relationship with his prospect involving mutual trust within the sales situation. Typically, trust in this type of situation, takes a period of time to engender. Nuero-linguistic programming or NLP is a technique that enables a sales professional to more quickly establish an element of trust and rapport in either a large or small business sales situation.

One Definition of NLP and its Utilization in Sales

The technique was developed by psychologist, Richard Bandler and linguist, John Grinder during the 1970s. It has been primarily used in psychology, however NLP has a great deal of applicability in a sales situation. In its usage in sales, NLP allows the development of a relationship at a fundamental level. In short, neuro-linguistic programming refers in a general way, for the sales person to slightly alter speech patterns, expressions, body attitude, facial expressions and even dress, to very subtly resemble those of the prospect. It is much deeper than simple body language.

This technique, if applied correctly, is a way of establishing rapport on a deep level. Great sales professionals due it almost unconsciously. These sales techniques can even be used during a job interview which is the ultimate sales situation within the business world. The concept behind NLP, very simply, is that people in general, are more comfortable with others who speak, dress, look and act similar to themselves. This should be taught in a basic sales training course, but regrettably, it’s often overlooked.

Basic NLP Characteristics in Sales

This comes down to matching very slightly, the following characteristics:

  • Adopting a similar body position/attitude to that of the prospect
  • Speak in a similar vocal pattern: fast, staccato, emotional, etc.
  • Usage and types of expressions and words should be similar to that of the prospect
  • Facial expression should also be similar,i.e. smiling, grave, understanding, skeptical, etc
  • Dress, whenever possible, in a similar fashion

One must avoid acting in a “monkey see – monkey do” fashion. The sales person will need to lag behind the prospect by a second or two. For instance, if the prospect starts to lean forward, than the sales person should very subtly lean forward as well, after a second or so. All changes in expressions, wording, speech patterns should very slightly mirror those of the prospect. If the sales person is too obvious, the whole technique will appear contrived and ridiculous, at best and irritating, at worst, to the customer.

NLP Selling Situation Mismatch

Many times, a sales person doesn’t understand why a rapport can not be established regardless of how hard he or she has tried. Typically, when this happens, notwithstanding other factors like the quality of the product, pricing, etc, the problem may be that the prospect’s style is so vastly different from that of the sales rep that rapport may be difficult or impossible, to establish.

If this occurs, a sales professional should take stock of the situation and try to alter his approach to the prospect. However sometimes this may be impossible. At this point, perhaps another sales person on the account would be more effective.

The techniques of NLP in sales is not a silver bullet. The sales rep must be able to effectively deliver a value proposition to the customer. He or she must be able to answer questions and concerns in a timely fashion and be able to close the sale at the appropriate time in the sales cycle. Assuming that everything else is in place, NLP is an effective tool that should be learned and applied for future sales success.