Category Archives: Persuasion

The Anatomy of a Persuasive Offer

If you’re a professional salesperson, it’s in your best interests to become more persuasive.  The better able you are to convince people to take action based on your offerings, the more successful you’ll be financially.

However, developing the ability to craft and deliver a persuasive offer shouldn’t just be a priority for salespeople.  All of us will have to negotiate with others at some point in our lives – whether that occurs as part of a salary adjustment request, a car purchase decision or even smaller scale exchange in which both parties have the potential to benefit.

To learn how to handle these negotiations appropriately, it’s important that you learn how to develop a compelling offer that will persuade your contacts to close the deal with you.  Here’s how to do it:

A persuasive offer focuses on benefits

Features refer to a product or service’s characteristics, while benefits encompasses how these features will improve the user’s life.  As an example, if you were in the market for a new TV, a feature might be one model’s higher resolution, while the benefit of this feature is a clearer, more enjoyable viewing experience.

In general, when crafting your persuasive offer, be aware that people tend to respond more strongly to benefits than features.  Whenever possible, frame the effects of your proposal not in terms of “what” you’re offering, but by how your offering will improve your negotiating partner’s life in some measurable way.

A persuasive offer is delivered confidently

Of course, knowing the benefits that your offer provides isn’t enough.  If you want your negotiating partner to respond well to your stated benefits, you’ve got to deliver them in a way that he or she can get behind!

For this reason, it’s important to practice delivering your offers confidently before deploying them in the real world.  Try to put some excitement and a sense of reassurance into your voice, and make sure that your hands or body language aren’t betraying you with nervous ticks.  Controlling your physical and vocal nervousness will help to make your offer seem much more persuasive overall.

A persuasive offer is limited

When crafting your offer, keep the concept of “limited time only” in mind.  The most persuasive offers are those that come with some limitations – whether those limitations exist in terms of quantity or time available.  After all, do you really think people would sign up for time shares or “exclusive” membership programs if they weren’t so afraid of missing out on a good deal?!

If your negotiating situation doesn’t inherently include some type of limitation, find a way to introduce this concept.  As an example, if you’re negotiating for a new car purchase, make it clear to the salesperson that you intend to make a firm decision within a day or two.  Creating this narrow window provides an additional incentive for the salesperson to work with you, lest he lose out on your business entirely.

A persuasive offer avoids extra choices

Next up, when creating a persuasive offer, be aware that offering too many choices can confuse negotiating partners – making it less likely that you’ll reach a satisfactory conclusion.

It can be tempting to think that, by padding your offer with multiple options, you’ll be more likely to close one deal – even if it’s not based around the particular option you want most.  If you’re negotiating a job offer with a new company, for instance, you might decide to request a higher salary, or more vacation hours, or a larger sign-on bonus.

However, by failing to focus on a single priority, your offer becomes disjointed – and, therefore, less persuasive.  To combat the indecision that may occur within your negotiating partners, select a single priority and make it the basis of your entire offer instead.

A persuasive offer highlights your prospect’s pain points

Finally, when developing your offer, think about your prospect’s “pain points” – the specific things he’d like to avoid.  As humans, we tend to be more motivated by avoiding pain than by seeking rewards, so it’s a good idea to spend the time necessary to understand what exactly your negotiating partner stands to lose by not following through with your offer.

As an example, if you’re negotiating to buy a house that’s been on the market for a while, keep in mind that the seller is likely sick to death of preparing for frequent showings that never end on a positive note.  By offering a quick escrow period and a fast close, you may be able to get the seller to accept a lower offer in exchange for the resolution he’s been seeking for so long.

Obviously, the process of crafting and delivering a persuasive offer takes time to master.  However, by practicing frequently and incorporating the above elements into your proposals, you’ll soon be on your way to better resolutions for all your future negotiations.


3 Nervous Habits That Betray Your Self-Confidence

There’s no arguing with the fact that we’d all like to be taken more seriously and perceived as being more self-confident.  In life, it’s the self-confident people that get the raises, the promotions, and the best looking singles at the party.

But no matter how much of an effort you put into your clothing choices, your posture and your body language, it’s possible that there are still nervous habits that are betraying your self-consciousness to others.

Do you have any of the following habits?  If so, follow the steps below to break them once and for all!

Habit #1 – Biting your nails

Biting your nails is widely regarded as one of the most common nervous habits.  In fact, it’s so prevalent that New York psychologist Penny Donnenfeld estimates that as many as, “[A] third of young children, 44 percent of teenagers and 19 percent to 29 percent of adult,” all bite their nails.

And while Donnenfeld posits that nail biting exists as an extension of thumb-sucking – a mouth-oriented self-soothing behavior that’s common with babies and young children – the bottom line is that it doesn’t look good.  Adults with the ragged nails of a nail biter are less likely to be taken seriously, and may even be seen as less competent by their peers and bosses.

To get rid of this nervous habit, consider painting your nails regularly (men can use a clear, matte-finish polish).  Doing so will make your nails taste bad, in addition to making the signs of nail biting more obvious – which may subtly pressure you into avoiding this habit.  Also, consider setting up a series of rewards you’ll receive, based on how long you’re able to go without biting your nails.

Habit #2 – Fidgeting with your hands

Another common habit that makes people appear less self-confident than they really are is fidgeting with the hands and fingers.  According to a Survey Central poll, fidgeting was listed as the third most common nervous habit – affecting more people than lip chewing, knuckle cracking and teeth grinding!

Although many practitioners of this habit can’t describe exactly why they do it (meaning that they don’t associate the behavior with observable instances of stress, pressure or other negative emotion), observers may still believe that those who fidget with their hands are uncomfortable or anxious.  Because both of these observations can lead to fidgeters being perceived as less confident, it’s important to nip this nervous habit in the bud!

To stop yourself from fidgeting with your hands and fingers, start by removing any external stimuli that may prompt unconscious fidgeting.  For example, if you tend to fidget with small desk items (like paper clips, rubber bands or other office supplies), store these products safely away in your drawers.  If you fidget with your watches or rings, consider removing these objects when you know you’ll be interacting with the people you want to impress.

Once you’ve removed potential fidget-inducing objects, try to become more aware of what your hands are doing at any given time.  If you notice that you’re unconsciously fidgeting, take a second to clasp your hands and focus on keeping them stationary.  Over time, it will become much easier for your hands and fingers to assume this calm, confident position without thought.

Habit #3 – Touching your face or hair

One final nervous habit you’ll want to eliminate from your personal and professional life is touching your face or hair.

According to Carol Kinsey Goman, PhD, former therapist and author of The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help—or Hurt—How You Lead, “These kinds of self-pacifying gestures can be interpreted as a signal of insecurity or deception.”  And no matter what type of interaction you’re having, odds are the last things you want to be perceived as are insecure or deceptive!

In order to stop using these subconscious behaviors to unintentionally convey weakness or a lack of self-confidence, you’ll first need to become aware that you’re doing them.  The next time you interact with a superior or other person of power, count the number of times you touch your face or hair.  The results may surprise you!

If you find that you use these behaviors to comfort yourself in frustrating or anxiety-laden interactions, you’ll want to practice keeping your hands at your side or folded on your desk (when seated) as much as possible.  It can be a challenge to minimize these nervous habits – especially when you find yourself in tense or uncomfortable situations – but doing so is an important part of being taken more seriously and perceived as more self-confident throughout your life.

Do you experience any of these three nervous habits?  Or do you have others that you’ve identified in your own life?  If so, share your experiences – as well as how you’ve banished your negative habits – in the comments section below.

3 Proven Negotiation Tactics to Control Salary Negotiations

No one really *likes* salary negotiations, but the truth is, these five minutes of your time – when executed correctly – can have a tremendous impact on the strength and stability of your financial life over time.  Here’s why…

Suppose you’re interviewing for a mid-level engineering position and have been offered a low salary of $45,000/year.  While you might argue with yourself that you can certainly live on less money each month, the true impact of this lowball isn’t just seen in your bi-weekly take-home pay.

Because future salary negotiations and pay increases will be based on your current salary (for example, you may receive a 2% increase in pay twice a year), accepting a lower starting salary will limit the potential of your future salary increases as well.  In addition, if your company offers a percentage-based match for your 401k retirement account, taking a low salary means lower contributions to this account – potentially leaving you financially unprepared for old age.

When all of these different factors are taken together, some experts estimate that negotiating as much as $5,000/year more over your offered salary can have an overall financial impact of $100,000+ over ten years of employment – making your salary negotiations some of the most critical minutes you’ll ever go through.

Obviously, then, it’s in your best interest to learn how to negotiate effectively – and NLP techniques can help you do it.  Consider implementing all of the following tactics to your next salary discussion and see what a difference a little negotiation can make!

Tactic #1 – Matching and Mirroring to Build Rapport

Depending on the company you’re interviewing with, earning this extra $5,000/year or more through salary negotiations may be as simple as asking your future employer to consider the raise.  Companies that are doing well financially often have a significant amount of “wiggle room” to bring on talented employees – and if you’re to the point of negotiating salary, you already know they value you in this way!

If you encounter signals that indicate your negotiations may not proceed as smoothly – for example, hedging language or an HR representative who appears uncomfortable – incorporate NLP mirroring into your salary discussions.

Take a look at the person with whom you’re negotiating and attempt to mirror everything about him.  How is he sitting in his chair?  How frequently are his hands moving?  What tone of voice is he using?  Where are his eyes focusing?  By mimicking these actions, you’ll build a level of subconscious rapport with your representative that may lead to better salary negotiation outcomes.

Tactic #2 – Reframing Your Value as an Employee

Modulating your physical behaviors to match your representatives can be a surprisingly effective technique, as it leads to the feeling of “We’re all in this together!”

However, if simple mirroring isn’t enough to get the job done to your satisfaction, try to pick up on the specific language your negotiator is using to shoot down reasons for denying your compensation requests.  These clues may provide insight into potential opportunities to reframe your value as an employee, thus justifying your higher salary request.

One way to reframe salary negotiations is to move the focus away from what you’ll cost to bring on in order to focus on the type of value you’ll bring to the company.  For example, suppose that, although you’re being brought on as an engineer, you have sales or public speaking experience in the past that makes you a more effective employee than engineering hires with no communication skills.

Whatever your “x factor” is, drawing attention to it and in order to reframe your salary discussion to focus on value – rather than dollars and cents – can be a powerful way to take control of the negotiations.

Tactic #3 – Use Empowering Questions to Guide the Negotiation

Finally, once you’ve established a proper NLP reframe that positions you as a valuable hire apart from your resume and stated experience, it’s time to seal the deal with empowering questions.

Essentially, empowering questions are designed to bring about the response you want, but to do so in a way that allows the subconscious buy-in of your salary negotiation representative.  Empowering questions are best understood by looking at the classic sales example of a potential buyer who, after watching a sales presentation asks, “That’s great, but does the product come in red?”  The sales person who answers, “No,” has a significantly lower chance of closing the deal than the sales person who uses empowering questions to ask, “Would you buy it if it did?”

Now, let’s apply an empowering question to our salary negotiations.  If you’ve used reframing to demonstrate your value to the company, use an empowering question to close the deal.

For example, if you’ve made your case that your exceptional communication skills will help the company close more business and eliminate the training costs most engineers need to boost their interpersonal talents, you could use the empowering question, “If I brought in an extra $100,000/year in business and eliminated $10,000 in training costs, wouldn’t that be worth an extra $5,000/year in salary?”

Of course, be careful not to promise more than you can deliver, as you’ll likely be held accountable to these standards once you’ve accepted the job.  Be realistic, but don’t sell yourself short – truly effective salary negotiations rarely occur when you undercut yourself!

Image: 401K

Using Human Psychology to Create a Compelling Sales Offer

Whether you’re selling a defined physical product or service – or simply trying to “sell” others on the idea of following you – you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you aren’t paying attention to the basic principles of human psychology.

When you take the time to look at how people making purchase decisions, as well as the specific factors driving the emotional responses they experience when confronted with a buying opportunity, you’ll find that you’re better able to tailor your pitch in order to create a more compelling sales offer.

Here’s how to do it…

Step #1 – Understand your prospect’s motivations

In NLP, we often talk about the key distinction of being “towards” or “away” motivated.  That is, are we more likely to be persuaded by the opportunity to move “towards” a benefit or “away” from a potential source of pain?  Understanding which camp your prospect falls into could significantly change the way you structure your sales pitch.

For example, if you’re selling a training course, you could market your product based on the benefits users will experience or by highlighting the opportunities these participants will miss out on if they don’t enroll.  Since tailoring your pitch to the wrong source of motivation wouldn’t be nearly as effective, it’s important to take some time to figure out appeal will resonate best with your audience.

But how do you find this out?  Simple – listen to the words your prospects are using, either in in-person conversations or through web comments and other types of digital communication.  If you hear your prospects discussing their hopes, dreams and goals, it’s likely that they’re “towards” motivated, meaning that you’ll want to focus on selling your product’s benefits.

On the other hand, if your audience spends most of its time talking about missed opportunities or other regrets, you’ll want to craft a sales pitch based on “away” appeals to meet this audience’s needs.

Step #2 – Understand stereotypical buying behavior

No matter how much we might argue that we’re logical, rational thinkers, the reality is that most of us make purchase decisions based on emotions and feelings.  Although we may use facts to justify the conclusions we’ve already drawn, the actual decision to purchase is typically rooted in our emotional thought processes.

So what does this mean for salespeople?  Well, for starters, it means that we need to focus on achieving and ideal emotional state in order to encourage the sales process to move forward.  And to uncover exactly what that ideal emotional state is, we need to delve deeper into what our prospects are thinking and feeling to determine their hidden, “hot button” emotional issues.

Suppose the training course we’re selling in our previous example is a personal finance coaching package, which we plan to target to young families that are struggling with debt.  Based on our examinations of the niche, we’ve found that our target prospects are typically more “away” motivated, as they worry about how they’ll be able to provide for their growing families in the future.

Now, by putting ourselves in the shoes of these couples, we can think about the emotional triggers that may make them more likely to purchase.  For example, the couple in question may be concerned about how rising college costs will affect their future financial security.  By highlighting how our personal finance class will help them to be prepared for this situation, we’ve both raised a potent emotional “red flag” and demonstrated how our product will eliminate this concern, which may trigger a buying decision.

Step #3 – Understand how to clearly convey value

The final key to using human psychology to create a compelling sales offer is to understand how to convey value to our sales prospects.  Truly, the value of an object is never set in stone – it’s up to you, as the salesperson, to create value for your audience within the products and services you’re selling.

As an example, consider our personal finance training course.  To a wealthy heiress, it has very little value as understanding these principles will likely have little impact on her world.  On the other hand, to a struggling, growing family, the value of this course could be akin to being thrown a floatation device after falling into rough waters.

However, in order to get our struggling family to recognize how important our course will be for their financial well-being, we need to find a way to convey that sense of value.  There are a few different sales techniques you can use to accomplish this goal:

  • Use targeted stories to get readers to claim ownership of the value of your product.
  • Compare your product or service to other to highlight key elements of value.
  • Share social proof indicators (for example, testimonials from past customers) that indicate other people have found value in your product or service offering.

It can take some practice to determine how to integrate these value signifiers into your pitch, but you’ll likely find that taking the time to learn how to use human psychology to craft a compelling sales offer will be well worth the effort in terms of increased sales and opportunities.

Image: One from RM

How Persuasive is Your Personal Brand?

You don’t need to be a marketer to think about your personal brand.  Each and every one of us conveys a unique brand that influences how we interact with and are perceived by others.  This outward brand encompasses your actions, behavior, appearance and every other element that makes you a unique, separate person – creating the person others see us as (even if we see ourselves differently).

Now, unfortunately, whether or not you’ve been proactive about managing this brand doesn’t matter.  Each of us has a personal brand that influences how persuasive we are and how successful we’ll be, which is why it’s so important to manage your personal brand consistently.

The first step in managing your personal brand is determining how others view it.  To do this, we can use an NLP technique known as “Perceptual Positions”.

Essentially, perceptual positions allows you to review a past interaction or plan for a future exchange by examining the events that occurred from three different viewpoints – your own, your partner’s and a detached third-party.  Let’s go through an example to see how this process can be applied to real-life situations in order to more fully understand the power of perceptual positions.

Suppose you work as a salesperson and recently had a meeting with a potentially high-level client to discuss the advantages your product or services bring to the table.  Up until this point, you haven’t managed your personal brand at all, so you have no idea how your actions and personality were perceived by this new client.

To start, review the meeting in your mind, paying particular attention to your behavior.  Try to remember the things you said, as well as the tone you said them in?  Were you authoritative or timid?  Did you clearly state your points or did you stutter and stammer your way through your sales pitch?

In addition, create a detailed image in your mind’s eye of your body language and physical posture.  How did you sit in the meeting?  Were your shoulders rolled back in a confident posture, or were you slouched over in your chair?  Did you maintain eye contact, fidget with your fingers or engage in any other behaviors that would give your client clues to your personal brand?

At this point in the process, try not to apply judgments to the elements you uncover.  Don’t berate yourself if your words or behaviors weren’t in line with what you’d like your personal brand to be.  Instead, simply try to become more aware of how you’ve behaved in the past and how that’s strayed from the image you’d like to convey.

The next step in the process is to go through the meeting again in your mind, but this time from the perspective of your client.  Envision yourself looking through his eyes throughout the entire interaction – from the time “you” walk in the door until the meeting closes with a handshake.

Now, from this new perspective, how do you regard the person sitting across the table from you?  Has he effectively persuaded you to purchase his product or service?  If yes, which specific behaviors made you feel you could trust him?  And if not, which elements led you to avoid closing the sale?  As the client in this situation, do you feel that the salesperson took your needs and considerations into account?

Finally, go through the scenario a third time, this time imagining yourself as an impartial third-party observing the scene.  As you have no connection to either the salesperson or the client, you can observe their interactions in order to understand more about the personal brand each party is conveying.

Once you’ve completed the exercise, take a moment to evaluate your behaviors and interactions as part of your overall brand.  For example, were you:

  • Enthusiastic or soft-spoken?
  • Straightforward and direct, or metaphorical in your language?
  • Submissive or aggressive in your body language?
  • Fidgety in your mannerisms or still?
  • Dressed in a way that’s appropriate to your business level?

Each of these elements – and many, many more – play a role in developing your personal brand and determining how persuasive it is.  If any of the elements you uncovered in your perceptual positions exercise run counter to what you’d like your personal brand to be, you can consciously try to improve specific characteristics of your appearance, behavior or language in future interactions.

Generally, you’ll find that it’s easier to start by applying perceptual positions to interactions that have occurred in the past.  However, as you get more advanced with this technique, you’ll be able to project these three viewpoints onto future situations as well, enabling you to model the behaviors you’d like other people to see as part of your personal brand.

Image: Stefano principato


7 Power Words to Help You Get Inside Your Prospects’ Heads

In many cases, winning a sales contract often comes down to one simple fact – are you and the benefits of your product more memorable than all the other people pitching your prospect?

Think for a second about how it must feel to work as a purchasing manager.  The second you so much as think about buying a new product, you’re immediately hit with several different sales messages, all from people who are as eager to close the deal as the next guy.  Heck, you don’t even have to be looking to buy something for the number of incoming cold calls to make you want to put your phone straight to voicemail and call it a day!

After being subjected to pitch after pitch, day after day, there are plenty of buyers out there who will simply make a decision to be done with the entire process – whether or not the option they’ve selected is truly in the best interests of their companies.  So if you want to increase your odds of being the solution these buyers turn to (no matter how engaged they are), you’ve got to make your pitch as memorable as possible.

One way to do this is with the use of “power words”.  These words appeal to different areas of our brains than most communication, causing pitches using power words to be “stickier” in the minds of prospects.  The following are a few power words for you to consider, as well as how you can use them in your sales pitches:

Power Word #1 – “Achieve”

People are motivated by very different things, but one of the strongest pulls is our desire to achieve.  It’s why we chase after sports trophies, good grades and high sales commissions – and it’s what makes this word so valuable in sales communications.  Showing your prospect how your product or service will help him to achieve his goals (not just what features it provides) will give you a leg up over the competition.

“If you’re anything like my other clients, I don’t doubt you’ll achieve a 100% return on your investment in as little as three months.”

Power Word #2 – “Choice”

In my last post, I mentioned how important choice is.  When we have access to different choices, we feel powerful – when we don’t, we feel threatened and insignificant.  So if you want to be more persuasive and make your prospect feel empowered by your product or service, consider phrasing your sales pitch in the form of a choice being offered.

“You have a choice – you can go with my solution, which guarantees a 50% improvement in sales, or you can go with my competitors who won’t do a thing to protect your investment.”

Power Word #3 – “Complete”

Ever bought a new toy or video game, only to get home and realize you don’t have the right batteries on hand?  Missing pieces can be frustrating, which is why most people are drawn to complete solutions. You can take advantage of this natural tendency by incorporating language that positions your product or service as a complete offering compared to your competitors’ solutions.

“The beauty of my product is that it’s a complete solution.  You won’t need to make any additional investments to achieve the benefits we discussed.”

Power Word #4 – “Critical”

For some reason, the word “critical” makes me think of astronauts and other life-or-death pursuits.  It’s an engaging, powerful word – when something is truly critical, it’s more than just important.  Plenty of peoples’ brains respond in the same way, making the use of this power word a great way to grab your prospect’s attention and hold it until your pitch can be completed.

“With the coming changes in your industry, it will be critical that you improve your systems if you want to stay on top.”

Power Word #5 – “Secure”

Security is another powerful motivating force – especially in this down economy.  With corporate budgets as tightly controlled as ever, the risk of misusing funds is a very real concern for many people.  When pitching high dollar products and services, emphasizing the security of your offering can be a great way to help hesitant prospects move closer to a deal.

“The money back guarantee we offer helps to keep your investment secure, so you never have to worry about losing money or taking a big risk.”

Power Word #6 – “Simple”

Remember that busy purchasing manager we were discussing earlier?  If he had to choose between two products – one of which that’s pitched based on its proven results and the other that’s sold on its simplicity – which do you think he’ll choose?  Keep in mind, busy people like simplicity, which is what makes this word so powerful in sales communications.

“Getting started with our product is simple – before you know it, you’ll be up and running!”

Power Word #7 – “Startling”

The word “startling” works in sales pitches for the same reason the National Enquirer continues to sell magazines week after week.  As humans, we’re fascinated by things that are different, so by calling attention to startling facts and figures about your industry or product lines, you’ll bury your pitch even deeper in your prospect’s mind.

“It’s startling, how many people will fall behind in your industry in the next few years.  That’s why we recommend launching now to prevent any unnecessary delays.”

Are there any words you’ve found to be particularly useful in your own sales pitches?  If so, share your recommendations in the comments section below!

Image: thinkpanama

3 Ways to Incorporate Hypnotism Into Your Sales Process

In our last post, we took a closer look at whether hypnotism could be considered a valid NLP persuasion technique and found that yes; there are plenty of applications for this process in a sales setting.  The key to understanding why revolves around identifying the difference between traditional hypnosis – which attempts to command the subconscious after luring subjects into a more receptive state (and which isn’t effective on subjects with strong analytical minds) – and more subtle approaches.

Specifically, the techniques that are most useful from an NLP standpoint are those that are tied to the theory of Ericksonian hypnosis.  Instead of barging into the mind and attempting to command the subconscious, point-blank, Ericksonian hypnosis succeeds by implanting stories and suggestions that convince the subject to reach the conclusions the hypnotist intended.

Technique #1 – Isomorphic Metaphors

As we discussed in the last article on this subject, isomorphic metaphors are stories that are told with the hope that the subject will put himself into the fable and apply the lessons learned to himself.  The classic example used to teach this principle in an NLP setting is the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”, which is told to children to persuade them not to lie.

As this example has no bearing on the sales process, we need to come up with other examples of isomorphic metaphors that can be used to illustrate a point.  One way to do this is with the story of a client who should have used your product or service in the first place.  Since most prospective customers will ask you about your current clients or projects, consider saying something like the following:

“I’m working with a client now, who had hired [Competitor Name] before he came to me.  It’s a shame – he’s behind schedule and over budget right now, and he could have prevented all of these costly delays if he had just come to me in the first place.”

Through the use of a story-like metaphor, you’re essentially implanting the idea into your client’s mind that he should hire you now in order to avoid the delays and extra expenses involved in hiring your competitor.

Technique #2 – Embedded Commands

The second Ericksonian hypnosis technique we discussed in our last article was the idea of “embedded commands” – statements that are innocently hidden in larger sentences, but which have the effect of nagging at the subconscious until they can be fulfilled.

This process translates incredibly well to selling, but it can take some practice before you feel comfortable using embedded commands successfully in person.  To get the hang of it, practice the following phrases at home before attempting to use them in a live selling setting:

“You should work with me in order to reduce your costs by 20% or more.”  (embedded command – “work with me”)

“You can relax now that I’m here to help solve the problems you’re facing.” (embedded command – “relax”)

“Read each word of this presentation, and you’ll see how I can help your business grow.” (embedded command – “read each word”)

Ideally, embedded commands should be short (think no more than 2-4 phrases) and should be spoken in a confident manner.  If you warble while delivering your embedded commands, the effect won’t be nearly as pronounced – which is why it’s so important to practice these techniques ahead of time.

Technique #3 – Phrase Repetition

In order for hypnosis techniques to be effective, your prospect must be in the right frame of mind – which, unfortunately, few people are when entering a sales pitch!

Think about how you respond when you’re forced to sit through someone else’s sales presentation…  You automatically become defensive and resistant – searching for any way possible to reject the person’s pitch.  Since this type of mindset isn’t useful for our sales purposes, it’s essential that we get our prospects to relax before they’ll be willing or able to consider our proposals.

One way to do this is through a technique known as phrase repetition.  By repeating the same fragments of speech several times, we implicitly give the prospect’s mind permission to wander – after all, if we’re already repeating things, the conscious mind can likely take a break without missing anything important.  Once the prospect has allowed his mind to wander, we’re better able to address the subconscious and engage prospects on a less rational, more intuitive basis.

Consider the following example:

“We provide development solutions written by developers, for developers.”

Not only does the phrase repetition here drive home the benefits of this particular product, its meter and use of repetitive words also helps to distract the conscious mind and induce a semi-hypnotic state.

Obviously, it’s important to use caution when integrating hypnosis techniques into the sales process as tactics that stray too far into the realm of “mind control” are highly unethical.  However, by employing these techniques sparingly and in appropriate situations only, you can substantially improve your chances of making a memorable sales pitch and closing the deal.

Image: Joe Dee 2010

Hypnotism: BS or Valuable NLP Technique?

Although the phrase “hypnosis” often triggers images of stage magicians, waving pocket watches back in forth in order to con audience members into barking like dogs or clucking like chickens, there’s no arguing with the fact that the concept is taken seriously by plenty of sales people and business leaders.  So to truly understand whether or not hypnotism has value as a persuasion technique, we need to first push past these mental stereotypes to uncover the true definition of “hypnosis” and how it really works.

“Traditional hypnosis”, as it’s referred to in NLP circles, involves the process of making suggestions to the subconscious mind.  Typically, the process begins by helping targets achieve the right state of mind in order to be receptive to these commands, which may be done through relaxation techniques and focusing exercises (hence, the commonly used pocket watch stereotype referenced earlier).  Once this trance-like state has been achieved, subjects may become more uninhibited or suggestible, causing them to be more receptive to new thoughts or requests.

However, if this all sounds “new agey”, be aware that there’s actually quite a bit of scientific research to back up the physiological changes that occur when subjects enter a hypnotic state (whether through the encouragement of others or through highly-engrossing activities like reading or meditating).  Researchers have been studying the process of hypnosis for years, although only recently have technological advances allowed these scientists to understand what occurs within the brain during hypnosis.

According to these hypnosis researchers:

“In some studies, EEGs from subjects under hypnosis showed a boost in the lower frequency waves associated with dreaming and sleep, and a drop in the higher frequency waves associated with full wakefulness.  Researchers have also studied patterns in the brain’s cerebral cortex that occur during hypnosis.  In these studies, hypnotic subjects showed reduced activity in the left hemisphere of the cerebral cortex, while activity in the right hemisphere often increased.”

Based on the results of these researchers, whose data indicate changes in the areas of the brain associated with wakefulness, logical reasoning and inhibition, we can conclude that hypnosis is a very real phenomenon.  But does this mean that the practice can be successfully used as an NLP technique designed to increase sales or promote other positive changes?

Obviously, you aren’t going to walk in to a potential client’s office, whip out a pocket watch and start swinging it until he’s signed on the dotted line.  Not only would that be incredibly difficult to pull off, it’d be unethical to coerce a prospect into doing business while under hypnosis.

Instead, where hypnosis has value as an NLP technique is through a process known as “Ericksonian hypnosis.”  The goal of Ericksonian hypnosis (named for its developer, Milton Erickson) isn’t to access the subconscious mind and manipulate it directly – a process that rarely works on those with highly critical, analytic minds.  Instead, Ericksonian hypnosis attempts to embed stories and metaphors into the unconscious in order to implant ideas while bypassing logic and reason filters that would otherwise prevent traditional hypnosis from occurring.

Within the field of Ericksonian hypnosis, there are two particular techniques that can be useful from an NLP perspective – isomorphic metaphors and embedded commands.

Isomorphic metaphors are created by telling prospects a story that enables them to connect with the main character and identify with the lessons this character learns.  Children, for example, are told the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” with the implicit understanding that a similar fate will befall them as did the poor boy in the story if they make the same mistakes.  Because this story is relayed as an isomorphic metaphor, it’s able to penetrate the subconscious and ultimately be more effective than simply telling children not to lie.

Embedded commands are another powerful NLP technique that allows you to address the subconscious directly and implant the desire to perform a specific action.  For example, if you told a sales prospect, “I know you’ll want to buy right away once I share these benefits with you,” his subconscious may pick up on the phrase, “buy right away”, implanting an unconscious desire to fulfill this request as soon as possible.

Although both of these techniques use elements of hypnosis to achieve their ends, they work on a far more sophisticated level than what most people envision when they hear the phrase, “hypnosis.”  It is these techniques – not the “blunt force” battering of the subconscious mind with commands, as in traditional hypnosis – that have the best potential for use in the sales world.

In our next article, we’ll take a closer look at how specific elements of Ericksonian hypnosis and NLP (including both isomorphic metaphors and embedded commands) can be used to influence the sales process, leading to happier clients and more sales overall.

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