Can Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Really Influence Sales?
Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is not a new concept for sales professionals, but remains largely misunderstood as a viable tool for converting potential clients. Understanding its basic concepts, however, can potentially improve long-term business relationships, and more importantly, enhance a salesperson’s ability to attract customers more consistently.
Background on NLP
The concept of neuro-linguistic programming stems from the research of U.S. therapists who pioneered its tenets during the 1970’s. At the time, Richard Bandler and John Grinder were University of California alumni searching for new ways to improve treatments for a variety of ailments related to mental illness. They collaborated on a modeling process that enabled them to tap into the work of great therapists of the period, particularly that of Dr. Milton Erickson, Virginia Satir, and Fritz Perls.
Using these contemporary peers as guides, the two men conceptualized an approach to modern psychology designed to improve communication channels by using suggestive language and learned behavior to influence human decisions. Over the years, marketing professionals adapted these concepts for business transactions that impact sales organizations.
The techniques they formulated were designed to improve strategy and customer service initiatives, allowing staff members in many different disciplines to achieve specific goals and increase productivity. The scientific community has continually discounted the NLP phenomenon based on its broad overview of human psychology and a lack of empirical support among members.
Applying NLP to Sales and Marketing
NLP proposes using specific language to affect the central nervous system, appealing to emotional responses that lead to sales-related decisions. A student of neuro-linguistic programming, in turn, would develop techniques designed to alter a customer’s perception of selling, their willingness to buy as a natural progression of a planned process for improved relationships.
Sounds great on paper, but the reality (and reliability) of NLP’s greatest aims remains elusive, even for seasoned professionals. In the absence of hard evidence supporting NLP’s ideal results, sales managers remain cautiously optimistic that its principles are worthy of at least some concentration.
Regardless of desired outcomes, NLP ideology does offer insight into sharpening skill sets that might train salespeople on how to be more aware of conditions and clues that leads to positive results.
Stephen Covey’s habit of “begin(ing) with the end in mind” applies, a clear vision of a path to a successful sale, looking for visual clues that monitor how successful your sales pitch is, or whether your attempts at conversation are working well or failing miserably. Does a prospect divert attention, fidget, or look away when you attempt to steer their thinking towards a purchase?
Neuro-linguistic principles also stress remaining flexible, taking action, and having a keen awareness of cues from customers to overcome objections and win the hearts, minds, and wallets of potential clients. To get desired results, staff members must have an inherent drive to succeed that allows them to vary their presentation as necessary.
While wholesale subscription to NLP principles like anchoring and reframing may be less than ideal, managers should be aware of some general concepts that could impact an individual’s performance and potential as a team member.
NLP ideology, for example, says that past experience is not a predictor of future, or more importantly, present behavior, that designing a desirable outcome involves, primarily, shifting one’s perspective. Proponents of neuro-linguistic dialogue stress that today’s encounter is the only one that matters, a unique opportunity to monitor the flow of conversation and engage prospects with a logical, sensible sales pitch.
Worthy sales professionals, they say, retain the ability to distance themselves from failure and personal rejection as critical to establishing a distinction between a person and their behavior.
This works on both sides of marketing equations, where sales prospects are less wary of the dogma of high-pressure salespeople that immediately put them on edge, and sales pros are less likely to be intimidated by negative feedback and clients that are unimpressed by their products or services.