“Talking at” people or influencing them?

“Old school” influencing in action

A chilled-out coffee

Though quite full the large upstairs room in the cafe had a quite chilled out atmosphere with people chatting, reading, web browsing, or contemplating life.

The usual racket associated with making cappuccinos and espressos was confined to the downstairs room.

The conversations were fairly muted; no voices were interfering with the comfort or concentration of others. I was with myself and enjoying my cappuccino and croissant; day-dreaming and idly gazing at people passing in the street below.

The Salesman has arrived

All this changed when Mr Salesman arrived with Mr Punter. I could hear him coming up the stairs well before I saw him but he, fortunately, chose a table a good 20 feet (about 7.5 metres) away from me.

Not far enough as it happened. I tried without much success to ignore his loud and penetrating voice as he proceeded to ‘sell’ the deal to Mr Punter. It was some sort of property deal and he mentioned £750,000 pounds a few times.

People sitting behind, to the right, and in front of them were all enjoying or, attempting to enjoy, their visit to the cafe. But non-stop delivery was noticeably distracting many of them. Mr Punter had to endure a relentless listing of facts, percentages, square footage, ROI, plus lots of non-too-subtle hints that he was the best person “to take advantage of this great opportunity”.

Rapport can change

Strangely, despite his style, Salesman did have a degree of rapport with Punter. At first. Perhaps Punter believed that he would make money from the deal. But it was interesting how, in the 15 minutes or so that I was paying attention to them, this began to change.

Initially Punter attempted to match the quite loud and carrying voice of Salesman. But gradually he began to lower his voice, especially when discussing obviously sensitive matters such as money. Yet this had the effect of encouraging Salesman to speak even louder.

He seemed to have little awareness of his impact on anyone. The sales patter, or battery, continued without faltering.  And to be fair to him, Salesman seemed to have done his homework thoroughly. And, who knows, he may even have clinched the deal for all I know (I gave up and left after about 15 minutes of this).

How to dissuade irrelevant chatter

There were a few occasions when Punter did get to speak. But Salesman wasn’t to be deflected. And his body language in these moments was fascinating.

His eye contact with Punter was minimal, there was a continuous “mmm, mmm” while Punter was speaking, he fidgeted and glanced through his pile of papers. And the moment Punter paused or faltered Salesman was back into the affray – but on a different topic – eloquently conveying that what Punter was saying was of little relevance.

Looking through the eyes of NLP

I like NLP because of its highly structured way of recognising what makes people tick. So, once I realised that my day-dreaming couldn’t continue as long as Salesman was doing his number, I decided to put my NLP hat on and be fascinated and entertained by his performance – which was inept and quite short-sighted.

It was also quite the opposite to our Pegasus NLP approach in which you::

  • See influencing as a way of engaging with someone rather than doing things to them
  • Use lots of questions to identify what are the person’s needs or values
  • Explore with them how your idea could enable them to fulfil their needs
  • Are walking side by side rather than having one person leading and the other meekly following.

We’re all ‘salespeople’

In Pegasus NLP we also see selling and influencing as being essentially the same process – and something that each of us does, all of the time. In other words we are all sales-people – because we are all influencers…

Parents influence/sell – to get children to go to bed on time, do their homework, or behave in sociable ways. Their motivation: they want their children to develop skills for a happy and successful future

Managers influence/sell – so their direct reports follow procedures, meet targets, and puill together. Motivation; so they are perceived as effective managers and so the team is successful and secure in their job

Teachers influence/sell – to inspire pupils to find a subject interesting. Motivation: so that the students will study it well and be successful in exams

Salespeople influence/sell – to sell their products to people who need then. Motivation: satisfied customers tell others. Motivation to sell successfully and to develop long-term relationships with customers.

Friends: we all seek to influence friends and family, though not always for unselfish reasons! Your friends want to do something this weekend. You want to do something else. So you now have to influence/sell to get them to see how they will benefit from your idea! See, you’re always selling…

But we’re selling ‘old school’ style

Yes, we’re all selling – at home, with friends, and in the workplace.  And we’ve been doing this since we were children.  But few schools teach effective influencing skills. So how did we learn? By imitating the adults in our lives.  

And so it went on – back through the generations.  Back through hundreds of years.  And so, as Mr Salesman demonstrated, inept methods get passed on. ‘Old school’ really is… old!

How to do ‘Old School Selling’

Here you simply talk people into buying. You perceive potential customers are mugs, punters, cannon fodder for your relentless listing or statements and or ‘explain to me why you won’t buy’ questions

  • You hit them with facts, facts, and then more facts.
  • You keep talking at them till you addle their brains.
  • If they manage to raise objections you quickly demolish these with well-honed tricks.

… and eventually most of them give in.

Not once in the session did Mr Salesman ask a single question to assess Mr Punter’s needs. In the ‘old school’ tradition he knew how to handle the ‘punters’. Keep talking and listing benefits until they give in. Don’t let them speak or ask questions because might break the spell being evoked by the sales pitch.

Keep this up for long enough and a good percentage will cave in and sign on the dotted line. Okay, recent legislation may have enabled them to later back out but it’s a numbers game: you win some, you lose some.

And alternative approach

Let’s take a quick look at an alternative and more respectful approach to influencing and telling – the one we use:

Attitude

  1. Aim to build a relationship that will endure. (Getting your own way but damaging the relationship is short-term thinking.)
  2. Recognise what you want. To have your way or sell your product or idea or service and develop the relationship
  3. Recognise that the best way of having your own way is to enable others to see how it will benefit them

Method

  1. Use a conversational style to discover what the other person really needs – in NLP thinking this means identifying their values
  2. Use questions to guide them in considering how what you have to offer will fulfil their own values – or not
  3. If they decide to go with your offer help them to lock down their decision by getting them to consider any possible down-sides of accepting your offer.
  4. If they decide to not go with your idea compliment them on their decision making and move on. This way you develop the relationship, make it likely they will refer others to you, and leave the door open to future deals.

As many on our courses point out – once they’ve developed their own way of applying this “it’s not rocket science!”  No, it isn’t.  It’s common sense – but it’s not very common ‘common sense’ – if you see what I mean…

(This is the March 2013 edition of the Pegasus NLP Newsletter)

By Reg Connolly, Director of Training, Pegasus NLP

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