Back in the mid-1990s I was working as a training manager for a large pharmaceutical company desperately, trying to build programmes that would offer our sales representative that “edge” when they were in front of the customers. How could we get them more time to explain the benefits of our products and create opportunities for call back?
That begged the question,
What makes great salesmen ”great”?
What do they do differently to everyone else that gives them the competitive edge?
After several hours in Foyle’s Bookshop, (Amazon was still in its infancy) I came across a book called “Frogs into Princes” by two authors who were going to change my life forever – Richard Bandler and John Grinder. It was more the title that intrigued me rather than the content, so I bought it. I took it back to my office and started to read the book. Several hours later, I had the answer to my original question Neuro Linguistic Programming, better known as NLP.
I immediately booked myself on one of their course, in California, and then set off to persuade my line manager that this was a justifiable expense! In fact, it was a great investment for the company.
The concept of NLP dated back to the 1970s when a group of psychologists set out to examine in detail the same question I had asked myself in a different way, “What makes successful people successful?” The team-included actions are: Richard Bandler – a psychologist; John Grinder – linguist; and Gregory Bateson – an anthropologist. They examined styles of language, how words and actions are linked together to form certain programmes, or sequences of behaviour. They also looked at how styles of language influenced people.
From this early work, they created a new concept of understanding thought processes, behaviours and language patterns. They named the process Neuro Linguistic Programming or NLP. Initially, the model was only embraced by the healthcare industry. Over the next twenty years, NLP trickled into business as an alternative to traditional communication tools. Now, almost half a century later, it is one of the key models used in interpreting human experience by understanding how people think, feel and react.
Within the business environment, NLP is seen as a vital skill to improve the effectiveness and impact of communication, not only with clients, but also with colleagues and friends alike.
What are the key concepts of NLP? They are broken down into four main components: building and maintaining rapport; creating well-formed outcomes; actively using all of your senses; and finally understanding the importance of flexibility.
Let’s look at this in more detail at the four key concepts of NLP. They are:
Building and maintaining rapport
- Building and maintaining rapport with yourself enables you to understand the actions, thoughts and feelings that you experience on a daily basis – it is OK to be yourself
- Building and maintaining rapport with others through conversation and interaction: We like to do business with people like ourselves, but most of the time we interact with individuals who are different. This sometimes causes conflict, or misunderstandings
- Understanding the importance of body language and voice and tone in the art of communication, the true internationally recognised language
- Being able to understand situations from the other person’s point of view – putting yourself in other people’s shoes
Creating well-formed outcomes
- Focusing on realistic outcomes that you want
- Reviewing the desired outcomes and the positive, and negative impact they could potentially have on your personal and business goals
Actively using all of your senses
- Being more aware of all of your senses, vision and sight, feelings and touch, hearing and sounds, taste and smell
Understanding the importance of flexibility
- Flexibility is crucial when approaching new and unfamiliar situations – it allows you to look at them with a new perspective
- Understand the differences between you and others by interpretation things differently – we are all different
NLP has become a crucial tool for successful business and communication. It has now been embraced internationally as a key skill and one of the most written about business and personal concepts: a must have development tool.
So, what happened with my sales reps, well, they all exceeded their targets, built strong lasting relationships with their clients, and climbed the promotion ladder quickly. Many of them are now directors of large international blue-chip companies.