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NLP, sales and the fine art of leveraging social media

One of the things I teach on my NLP courses is how to discover people’s strategies, that is, the little ‘programmes’ we run in our head to tell us how we feel. In terms of the selling cycle, we have strategies to tell us when it’s time to do some research (our “motivation” strategy), when it’s time to buy (our “buying” strategy) and – the important bit here – when we’ve made a good purchase (our “reassurance” strategy). That last one is the strategy we run to form an OPINION.

Recently I’ve been thinking about how the world of selling has been turned around by social media.

Marketers have developed a number of models to describe the process that buyers go through internally before they make a purchase, and one of the most commonly cited is the ‘AIDA’ model:

·         We build AWARENESS of our product or service

·         We do something to spark the prospect’s INTEREST

·         As they find out more, they start to DESIRE our product or service

·         Finally they take ACTION by buying

It’s the same process whether we’re selling a lawnmower, offering legal advice, or asking someone to hire us. Social media have added a new layer to this, because we can now tap into what happens AFTER the sale:

·         Purchasers USE our product/service

·         They form an OPINION about it

·         They TALK to their social circle

·         This builds AWARENESS in other people, and away we go again…

In the old days, that TALKing step was after the event and primarily oral – buyers would tell a few close friends, and the rule of thumb was that a happy customer might tell a handful of people, whereas an unhappy one would tell everyone who would listen. Why? Because talking one-to-one takes energy, and human nature being what it is, we’re much more willing to spread the bad news (to help stop our friends from making the same mistake, obviously!) than the good.

Social media turn this on its head by making communication easier and almost instant. We can tweet or blog from our mobile phones, we can share pictures of our smiling face as we put our purchase to use – or our scowl. This feeds directly to our ‘friends’ (which in the online world may be a real friend, or just someone who has heard about us and trusts our opinion) to build not just AWARENESS, but instant INTEREST and even DESIRE (“I want one of those!).

A large part of the work I do is based around NLP, or Neuro Linguistic Programming, a set of tools designed to improve how we communicate with ourselves and with others, with the express purpose of improving our results. In business, NLP is often treated as a selling tool – in other words, we use it to get the customer to the point of purchase. So where does NLP fit into this new world of selling?

One of the things I teach on my NLP courses is how to discover people’s strategies, that is, the little ‘programmes’ we run in our head to tell us how we feel. In terms of the selling cycle, we have strategies to tell us when it’s time to do some research (our “motivation” strategy), when it’s time to buy (our “buying” strategy) and – the important bit here – when we’ve made a good purchase (our “reassurance” strategy). That last one is the strategy we run to form an OPINION.

Think about a major purchase you’ve made that you were happy with. How did you decide you were happy? Let’s take my car. When I bought it, I was already feeling good as I drove it off the forecourt. On the first day I had it, I saw that I was getting loads of admiring looks from pedestrians as I went past – up went my reassurance. Finally, some of my friends told me about reviews they’d seen of the car, and how they thought it was a good car. That combination – my internal feeling, seeing other people’s admiration, and hearing other people tell me that I’d made the right choice – was my reassurance strategy (in NLP we would describe it as KVA: Kinaesthetic [feelings] + Visual + Auditory). If I think about other good purchases I’ve made I can see the same process in action. For you, it may be different: maybe you don’t need to talk to other people, or maybe your visual step is just looking at your purchase yourself and admiring it, or maybe the steps are in a different order.

If we can elicit the reassurance strategy of our customer, we can accelerate their progress towards blogging about us. In sales consulting, I advise my clients to elicit their prospects’ strategies (motivation, buying and reassurance) right up front, and to share them with any staff who have customer contact.

Let’s look at some specific ways to find out someone’s reassurance strategy:

1.       Selling financial services: have you ever invested in a product like this before? Were you happy with it? How did you know you’d made the right choice?

2.       Job interview: what was the best hiring decision you ever made? How did you know they were the best person you’d hired?

3.       Meeting with a prospective accountancy client (assuming they’re switching from someone else): Are you happy with your advisers in any other areas of your business? How did you know they were the right advisers for you? (N.B. We DON’T want to ask about their current accountants. Why? Because that will tell us how they decide when things are wrong – and we don’t want to be associated with that!)

Going back to my car, imagine the car salesman had done his groundwork, elicited my strategies, and then said to me after I paid “so how does it feel, knowing you’ve bought a car that turns heads? Something that will get people talking as you drive past? It feels good, doesn’t it.” Maybe, just maybe, I’d have been blogging about it from the forecourt.

Now, underlying all of this is an assumption that what you’re offering is good. Working with strategies is purely an accelerator, a way of cutting through the days, weeks or even months of deliberation and consideration that some prospects want to go through. Yes, you can use it to get someone to buy a lemon, and they may even feel good about it for a day or two. However, they’ll soon work out the truth, and you’ll never sell to them again. And of course they’ll tell all their friends. That’s the inconvenient truth a lot of NLP sales trainers often leave out.

Have a magical day!

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