A Look At Neuro-Linguistic Programming

By Dan Seidman

Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis

Salespeople want to make more money.  The trick to making more money is making more sales.  And the trick to making more sales is, according to Dan Seidman, learning to speak the buyer’s language.  Once salespeople learn to interpret buyers’ verbal cues, they can choose the appropriate words to influence the buyers’ decisions.   Seidman’s book, The Secret Language of Influence teaches salespeople how to listen, gain psychological insight, and then influence others.

The author states that there are two basic types of buyers:  “people either move toward ideas or away from them.”  The type of buyer who moves toward ideas is open to new ideas and opportunities and responds with encouragement.  Buyers who move away from ideas play “the devil’s advocate.”  They quickly point out concerns and potential problems.  The book goes on to discuss effective sales approaches to each type of buyer.  Buyers who move toward ideas respond well to descriptions of “features and benefits” the salesperson can provide.  The more personalized and specific the benefits are to the individual buyer as well as the buyer’s company, the better the chance of a sale.  Buyers who move away from ideas require a different approach.  Since their mentality is oriented toward “solving problems rather than attaining goals,” salespeople should focus on the “problems” their product or service can solve, rather than the benefits. 

At this point, the author introduces information about how people receive and transmit information, using it to demonstrate the difference between big-picture buyers and detail-buyers.  The difference resides in what is called chunking.  People who chunk up see the big picture.  People who chunk down perceive detail.  Big picture buyers want to know what impact the sales person’s product will have on the company.  Detail buyers want to see the separate steps to the solution. 

Subsequent to ascertaining which type of buyer the seller is dealing with comes an important step:  landing the sale.  The author suggests using the buyer’s decision making process “to create conviction.”  Creating conviction involves three steps:  match the buyer’s “dialect;” match their “certainty” pattern; and match their “criteria” for making the decision. 

The author proceeds to discuss the proper and effective use of language, providing seven “language tips” including:  minmizers, ‘but,’ ‘might,’ presuppositions, euphemisms, ‘why,’ and mind-reading.  In the summary of using language effectively, Seidman reminds readers that the seven tips are controlled by “the strongest muscle in our bodies – our tongue.”  Sellers are advised to practice their language skills, refining them into effective tools.

From effective language, the book segues logically to evoking emotions.  Sellers are advised to “create not simply a logical but a gut response” from buyers.  Seidman supplies a number of sample questions designed to evoke emotions in each stage of the selling process.  The author advises sellers to remember that gestures, tone of voice, and facial expressions “must support the emotion you are emphasizing.”  In addition, two primary points about evoking emotions are related and re-emphasized:  first, since buying decisions are based on emotions, word choices are important; second, sellers need to “find their voice” by making certain to use their own vocabulary and personality. 

The author states that there are only four ways for a sales call to end:  the buyer says yes; the buyer says no; the buyer sets a next appointment for further discussion; the buyer wants to “think it over.”  The fourth type of ending, where the buyer wants to “think it over” may be avoided if the sales rep has a sound and effective opening strategy. 

Seidman concludes The Secret Language of Influence by ranking the sales strategies he has delineated throughout the book in order of importance.  Handling objections holds first place, followed by effective use of language, and recognizing the buyer’s dialect.  Seidman then moves on to make a blunt statement:  that if sales reps are not distinctly different and better sellers after reading The Secret Language of Influence, then the book has failed.