Omnichannel commerce | Customer service
NLP: How It Can Benefit Your Customers and Your Business
July 17, 2018
If you work in sales, customer service, or management—in fact, if you work with other people in any capacity—you should learn at least the basics of neurolinguistic programming (NLP). By wielding NLP's tools and tactics, you can boost your sales, improve customers' opinion of you and your business, and provide more value to your team.
NLP in theory
Neuro refers to the mind, linguistics to the study of language. Neurolinguistic programming "is a marriage of both," says Ramzy Ayachi, the chief learning officer at performance-coaching company Peak Performance Associates. "It's how the brain thinks, the patterns that we all have as humans regardless of whatever the environment is, and the importance of words and how you can help other people create different meaning from what it is that they're seeing." To grossly oversimplify, it's not only why some people view a glass as half-empty and others see the same glass as half-full but also why some might say, "I think the glass is half-empty," while others would say, "I believe the glass is half-empty."
"As humans, we feel like everyone else is experiencing the same version of our reality," Ayachi says, "when in fact we're just experiencing what it is that our senses are telling us, and who's to say that that is actually the reality?" Using NLP, you can subtly change how your customers—and anyone else you communicate with—interpret their reality. You can encourage them to see the glass as half-full.
"When you use techniques that are NLP-centric, you're actually able to guide the conversation or guide the desired outcome in the direction that is mutually beneficial for both people," Ayachi says. "You can actually guide an outcome so that it's win-win. It's not a 0-1 game, it's a 1-1 game. When you do that you're adding a lot more value to your customers, to your clients, to your prospects."
NLP in practice
One of the easiest NLP techniques to implement is matching and mirroring the body movements of the people you're communicating with. You may already be practicing this on the sales floor or with your staff: folding your hands when the shopper does so, nodding when an employee does. There is a subtle—and according to Ayachi, important—distinction between matching and mirroring, however.
"Matching means that you're doing some form of it, maybe not the same exact thing. Mirroring means that when they move their right hand, you're moving the hand that's directly opposite and mirroring exactly what they're doing as if you're looking in the mirror," he explains. With the latter, "you're actually subconsciously communicating with your client that you care about them. That, 'Hey, I get you. Hey, I'm part of your tribe, I understand you,' and they're processing that on a deeper level where they're now more accepting to anything that's following along."
Matching the other person vocally—the pace of speech, the tone of voice, the volume—is equally important, especially if you are responding to customers on the phone. If a person ringing up to ask about the features of a certain item is speaking slowly, your natural inclination would probably be to respond quickly to get him off the phone so that you could handle another task. Moderating your pace to match his, though, could make him more inclined to actually buy the product from you then and there, rather than hang up and search for it online for a cheaper price.
From there you want to match or mirror the other person's emotion—to a degree, of course. If you're communicating with an angry customer, you don't want to respond angrily. "If someone has a lot of objections or someone begins to complain, you can also match what they're saying and say, 'Yeah, you know what? I would be mad too that this heater has not been repaired, and perhaps we can figure out a way to wrap this into our contract when we submit our offer,'" Ayachi says. "I'm matching their emotional state, their frustration. Then I'm leading them. You want to flow through and carry them to the next outcome that you want."
Even seemingly inconsequential movements by the people you're speaking with can clue you in to the optimal way to lead them to that outcome. For instance, people who look upward when you ask them a question tend to be more visually oriented, so you would say things such as "I can see how this could be helpful" and "Let's look at it this way." People who look left and right while responding to a question tend to be more auditory in focus, so you might respond with "This sounds helpful" or "I hear what you're saying."
Subtlety is key to the effectiveness of NLP. The people you're communicating with should not consciously perceive the techniques. Attaining the correct level of subtlety, like so much else in life, takes practice. Ayachi advises practising every day. But you don't have to set aside a formal practice time. "As long as there's human interaction on a daily basis, you can practise it as frequently as that," Ayachi says. "The more you practics it, the more it gets wired into your nervous system, and that really is the basis of how this stuff sticks."