Posts Tagged ‘Sales’

To Trust Perchance to Buy

Posted on: July 29th, 2013 by Tom Pattillo No Comments


Maybe what Willy Loman needed was lessons from Dr. Mesmer.
The best persuaders build trust by mirroring the thoughts, tone of voice, speech tempo, and mood of the customer — literally, the techniques of the clinical hypnotist.


The real-estate agent, who normally speaks quickly and loudly, is responding in a slow, soft, rhythmic voice to her slow-speaking, quiet customer. The agent opened the sales interview with a series of bland and flatly accurate remarks about the cool weather and the lack of rain. Now she is explaining her hesitation in showing her customer a particular house: “I know you want to see that house, but I don’t know whether I should show it to you. It is expensive, and “–an imperceptible pause–“just looking at it will make you want to buy it.” A bit later she repeats something that, she says, a previous customer told her about a house he’d bought: “The house has been worth every penny. My wife and I just enjoy it so much” –another pause– “we can’t understand why we took so long to buy it.”

The agent, an extremely successful saleswoman, is instinctively using weapons from the arsenal of the skilled clinical hypnotist, whose initial aim is to create in a subject a state of intensified attention and receptiveness, leading to increased suggestibility. All successful persuaders produce such an effect, probably without understanding the exact nature of the techniques that accomplish it. Our real-estate woman is lulling her customer into a mood of trust and rapport by taking on his verbal and emotional coloring, and her techniques are almost identical to those that therapists like Herbert Spiegel use with patients who come to them to be hypnotized out of, say, their fear of cats.

The conclusion that a successful sales presentation is an intuitive form of indirect hypnosis is the most provocative finding of a psycholinguistic analysis that I performed in 1981. My initial study focused on eight life insurance salesmen, four of whom were identified as “top producers” by the presidents of their companies, and four as only average. The two groups were closely matched on such characteristics as age and experience. Taking the role of the customer, I spoke with the eight men, recorded their comments, and analyzed those comments for the 30 techniques of persuasion that Richard Bandler and John Grinder had identified in the work of the master hypnotist Milton Erickson. I next examined the work of 14 top sellers of real estate, luxury automobiles, stocks, commodities, and trust deeds. Since 1981, I have tested my finding with more than 50 people, who sell, among other products, jets, computers, and oil and gas leases. My basic finding was confirmed: Superior sellers use the techniques of the clinical hypnotist; mediocre ones do not.

The best sales people first establish a mood of trust and rapport by means of “hypnotic pacing” –statements and gestures that play back a customer’s observations, experience, or behavior. Pacing is a kind of mirror-like matching, a way of suggesting: “I am like you. We are in sync. You can trust me.”

The simplest form of pacing is “descriptive pacing,” in which the seller formulates accurate, if banal, descriptions of the customer’s experience. “It’s been awfully hot these last few days, hasn’t it?” “You said you were going to graduate in June.” These statements serve the purpose of establishing agreement and developing an unconscious affinity between seller and customer. In clinical hypnosis, the hypnotist might make comparable pacing statements: “You are here today to see me for hypnosis.” “You told me over the phone about a problem that concerns you.” Sales agents with only average success tend to jump immediately into their memorized sales pitches or to hit the customer with a barrage of questions. Neglecting to pace the customer, the mediocre sales agent creates no common ground on which to build trust.

A second type of hypnotic pacing statement is the “objection pacing” comments. A customer objects or resists, and the sales agent agrees, matching his or her remarks to the remarks of the customer. A superior insurance agent might agree that “insurance is not the best investment out there,” just as a clinical hypnotist might tell a difficult subject, “You are resisting going into trance. That’s good. I encourage that.” The customer, pushing against a wall, finds that the wall has disappeared. The agent, having confirmed the customer’s objection, then leads the customer to a position that negates or undermines the objection. The insurance salesman who agreed that “insurance is not the best investment out there” went on to tell his customer, “but it does have a few uses.” He then described all the benefits of life insurance. Mediocre sales people generally respond to resistance head-on, with arguments that presumably answer the customer’s objection. This response often leads the customer to dig in his heels all the harder.

The most powerful forms of pacing have more to do with how something is said than with what is said. The good salesman or woman has a chameleon-like ability to pace the language and thought of any customer. With hypnotic effect, the agent matches the voice tone, rhythm, volume, and speech rate of the customer is slightly depressed, the agent shares that feeling and acknowledges that he has been feeling “a little down” lately. In essence, the top sales producer becomes a sophisticated biofeedback mechanism, sharing and reflecting the customer’s reality–even to the point of breathing in and out with the customer.

I have found only one area in which the top sales people do not regularly pace their customer’s behavior and attitudes–the area of beliefs and values. For example, if a customer shows up on a car lot and explains that she is a Republican, a moderately successful salesman is likely to say that he is too, even if he isn’t. The best sales people, even if they are Republicans, are unlikely to say so, perhaps because they understand that “talk is cheap” and recognize intuitively that there are deeper, more binding ways of “getting in sync” with the customer.

Only after they created a bond of trust and rapport do the top sales people begin to add the suggestions and indirect commands that they hope will lead the customer to buy. One such soft-sell technique is using their patently true pacing statements as bridges to introduce influencing statements that lead to a desired response or action. For example: “You are looking at this car and you can remember the joy of owning a new reliable car,” or “You are 27 years old, and we figure that your need for life insurance is $50,000.” These pacing and leading statements resemble the way a hypnotist leads a client into hypnosis: “You are sitting in this chair, and you are listening to my voice”–the unarguable pacing statements–“and your eyelids are getting heavy, and they are beginning to close…”

There does not have to be any logical connection between the pacing statement and the leading statement. They can be totally unrelated, yet when they are connected linguistically, they form a “sales logic” that can be powerfully effective, even with such presumably analytic and thoughtful customers as doctors and college professors.

The power of these leading statements comes from the fact that they capitalize on the affirmative mental state built by the undeniably true pacing statements, with which the customer is now familiar. Customers who have agreed with sales people expect, unconsciously, further agreement, just as customers who have disagreed expect further disagreement. The “traditional” truth of these pacing statements rubs off on the leading statements, and, without knowing it, the customer begins to take more and more of what the sales agent says as both factual and personally significant. Using hypnotic language, the agent activates the customer’s desire for the product.

Average sellers combine pacing and leading statements less frequently and with less skill that do their superior colleagues. They also speak in shorter, choppier sentences, and thus fail to create the emotional web of statements in which the truthful and the possible seem to merge.

One of the most subtle soft-sell techniques is to embed a command into a seemingly innocuous statement. “A smart investor knows how to make a quick decision, Robert.” “I’m going to show you a product that will help you, Jim, save money.”

Sales people insure that their embedded commands come across by changing the tone, rhythm, and volume of their speech. Typically, as they pronounce the commands, they intuitively slow their speech, look the customer directly in the eyes, and say each word forcefully. A clinical hypnotist does the same thing deliberately. “If you will listen to the sound of my voice, you will be able to relax.”

The placement of an individual’s name in a sentence seems like a trivial matter, yet the position of a name can make a significant difference in how strongly the sentence influences the listener. Placed before or after the command portion of a sentence, it gives the command an extra power.

By changing their speech rate, volume, and tone, the best sales agents are able to give certain phrases the effect of commands. “If you can imagine yourself owning this beautiful car, and imagine how happy it will make you, you will want to, Mr. Benson, buy this car.” The two phrases beginning with ‘imagine’ become commands for the customer to do just that. Owning the car is lined to the leading statement of how happy it will make the customer. Finally, the statement carries the embedded command: “Mr. Benson, buy this car.”

A final soft-sell technique of the best sales people is the ability to tell anecdotes, parables, and stories, and to frame their comments in metaphors. For thousands of years, human beings have been influencing, guiding, and inspiring one another with stories and metaphors, so it should be no surprise that sales people routinely use them to influence customers. What is surprising is the frequency and skill with which they do so.

Some sales agents I have studied do almost nothing but tell stories. They tell them to get the customer’s attention, to build trust and rapport, and even to deliver product information. A piece of information that in itself might be boring takes on a human dimension and stays in the customer’s memory when placed in the context of a story. “I sold a receiver like this a week ago to a surfer from Torrance and what he liked best about it was its FM sensitivity of 1.7 microvolts.”

Metaphors and stories are used to handle customer’s resistance and to “close” on them without endangering rapport. A top insurance agent was attempting to close a deal for a policy with a young man who was considering signing with a smaller company. As part of his clinching argument, the salesman wove the following metaphor into his pitch: “It’s like taking your family on a long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, and you want to get from here to England, and you have the choice of either going on this tugboat or on the Queen Mary. Which one would you feel safe on?” Had the salesman tried to make his point with a litany of facts and figures, he might never have focused his customer’s attention; the discussion could have descended into a dispute about numbers. Instead, his story spoke directly to the customer’s concern about his family’s safety and implied that it was now in the customer’s power to decide between two choices that were clearly unequal.

Note, too, that the salesman used conjunctions to link the metaphor in one unbroken chain and give it a hypnotic cadence. Mediocre sales people who know such a story would probably tell it as several separate sentences. In addition, they probably would give no special emphasis to the phrase “feel safe” even if they had heard better sales people do so. The skill in telling it is more important than the material itself.

The same can be said about all the skills that constitute the intuitively hypnotic arsenal of the best sales agents. But obviously, these skills are not exclusive to sellers. They are common to others–politicians, lawyers, even preachers. No less than sales people, these persuaders try to influence their audiences. No less than sales people, they attempt to implant in their audiences a resolve to do something. And, like sales people, all of them use, to some extent, variations of the techniques of Mesmer, Cagliostro, and Rasputin.

Donald J. Moine received his PhD in psychology from the University of Oregon for his study of successful sales people. He lives in Redondo Beach, California.

Give it all away! 40 years: Sales & Marketing, Soft Skills Training, Training Trainers

Posted on: August 11th, 2012 by Tom Pattillo No Comments

Give it all away:


I put a True False Questionnaire on my website.

You can download, open, read, and complete the exercise.

You may send your answers 1 – 50 (True or False) to: , and I will send you the answers (but not my rationale for each answer).

Once a week I will upload explanations five (5) questions.

Questions & AnswersAttached is a True False Exercise.

Catalyst Consulting and Tom Pattillo (me) used this method to “teach” the concepts of each course we were teaching.

The first topic is Business Development (Sales and Marketing). 50 questions – have fun!AU1112 Business Dev TF Form