STOP selling on your terms. START selling on theirs.

Stacey was talking about her ‘failure’ to land a client…

“I must be charging too much or else I said something to turn him away. I thought Jon was ready to sign the contract, but it’s been three days and he hasn’t contacted me yet.

“Wait a minute, Stacey. You can’t just assume that things have fallen through like that. There are lots of reasons why he might not have got back to you. Have you tried calling him?

“No.” Stacey’s voice was glum. “This is what happens all the time. I think prospects are excited to work with me, but then they disappear.”

Stacey was making a common assumption that was killing her results… and her enthusiasm. Maybe you have caught yourself thinking the same thing:

She assumed that her prospects were as preoccupied with this one problem and its solution as she was.

What is Goal Setting?

The truth is that whatever problem you solve for clients is just one aspect of their business. They are busy fulfilling their responsibilities and solving a range of problems so even if the problem you solve is urgent, it’s not the only thing they are thinking about.

How to Handle This Reality and Make Everyone Happy…

  1. Follow up consistently. If necessary use more than one mode of communication. Your desire not to be a pest may be holding both you and your prospect back from achieving your desired outcomes. Presumably you have already had a conversation during which your prospect demonstrated their need of a solution and you explained your expertise in that area. Therefore, you already have a clear invitation to be involved. Don’t back away until they tell you to do so. Silence does not equal rejection.
  2. Ask questions and discover exactly what your prospect needs to make a decision. The chances are that their decision making strategy is different from your own and it’s your job to discover what it is and tailor your communication to meet their style.

These two simple techniques can transform your business results because suddenly you discover that the problem was never your solution or your price, it was ‘just’ a communication problem.

The Importance of Communication in Business… Not Just in Sales

I coach a lot of management and project teams, as well as sales teams because effective internal and external communication lies at the heart of business success… and is responsible for many failures as well.

Here are some of the key elements required for successful communication:

  1. Understanding your own preferred communication styles and strategies;
  2. Identify others’ preferred communication styles and strategies;
    Effectively use a variety of communication styles and speak to different strategies;
    Ask questions so you discover what people are really thinking rather than assume you know that;

When I asked Stacey how she responded when people seemed to ‘disappear’ and whether she followed them up and asked questions like ‘What do you still need to help you make a decision?’ Stacey’s expression said everything I needed to know.

She was judging her prospects by herself. Since she made decisions quickly after one discussion and hated saying ‘no’ she assumed that silence meant, “I’m definitely not interested but I don’t want to hurt your feelings.”

Things might not have changed, but she was facing a real shortfall so she decided to call Jon and ask him if he was still interested in her proposal.

“You were right. He wasn’t trying to shut me off!” was Stacey’s text to me that afternoon.

Communication is just as important in teams… and it’s even more important to know what it takes to get your team members on board since you’ll probably be working on many new ideas and projects over time. 

Maybe you only need to hear an idea once before you evaluate it and make a decision, but Sally needs to hear it at least three times… and Jim will need to be reassured constantly that it’s the right move. Once you understand the dynamics you’re dealing with you can build your communication around them and you’ll find it easier to get the support and resources you need.

Communication Makes Good Things Happen

You won’t win every deal, and you won’t get support for every idea, but if you know how to identify other people’s communication styles and strategies, ask good questions that enable others to express their opinions and needs, and have a variety of tools to help you communicate effectively you’ll soon discover that more exciting things happen around you than ever before.


The other day I was saddened to hear a parent say to their Scout leader, “I don’t want my child involved in selling items to raise money.  My child is no sales person, he’s a good boy.”

I was even more startled to hear the Scout leader respond, “It’s OK.  This year we aren’t selling chocolates, we’re just asking for donations.”

The parent was happy, but I was filled with a deep uneasiness.  I understand the reluctance to have our children knock on neighbours doors and offer to do chores in return for pay, and I don’t necessarily think we want to be pushing chocolate on people, but do we really want our children to grow up thinking selling is ‘bad’, and sales people are some kind of pariah?  I don’t think so!  And I really hate the idea that it’s better to ask for a donation than to sell something that has value.

We Are All Sales People - and Always Have Been

The reality is that we are all in sales.  We can call it ‘negotiation’, we can call it ‘sharing ideas’, or a million other euphemisms but when push comes to shove every one of us will spend a lot of our lives selling.  We sell when we apply for a job, when we communicate and idea or suggest a project at work, when we go on holidays, persuade our kids to do their homework, decide which restaurant to eat at, and a million other times each day.

The real questions are, how well do we do that selling and how effectively do we attract support and co-operation from others?  In my opinion, the better your skills and ideas, the greater your responsibility to gain the skills needed to sell them.  It’s doing your colleagues, your employer, and your clients an injustice when you can’t communicate your powerful solutions effectively so that others can appreciate them.

Selling Effective Solutions

If you have an effective solution to someone’s real problem, then you should be embarrassed if you withhold the solution.  Maybe you don’t think their problem is important.  Perhaps you think they should keep suffering with that problem.  Or perhaps you are just more concerned that they won’t realise how easily and effectively your produce or service can remove their problem.

Whatever is going through your brain when you decide this person isn’t worth helping, I’d like to challenge you to change it.  Maybe your solution costs more than they are willing to pay – but that is their decision to make, not yours.

In my Confident Closing Workshops [Link here] I invariably have students who are worried about the price of their product or service.  When we discuss this as a group and draw out the value any given product or service brings to its owners the consensus is usually that it is worth more, not less, than the price it is being sold for.  Did you get that?  I don’t recall ever having other people say, “That is way too much for anyone to pay!”

How much is your product or service worth?  That depends on the size and severity of the problem it solves.  Whether it’s solving logistics problems for a large company, helping small business owners become more profitable, or helping obese people lose weight to avoid insulin-dependence, the price people will pay for your solution depends on how painful their problem is.

Price and value are not fixed – they are relative.  Your job as a sales person is to stack the value of the solution you are selling so high that your prospect says, (even as he sits down in shock when he hears the figure you set), “Is that all?”

If you are selling a real solution to a genuine problem then you are helping make your prospects’ lives better, not taking money from them.

Do You Still Hate Selling?

Maybe you’re not convinced yet.  Try this exercise.

Make a list of all the problems your product or service solves.

List the time and money prospects spend on other solutions that are less effective.

How does your solution stack up?  If you can’t find enough value in it, then dig a bit deeper.  If you still can’t find the value in it then maybe it’s time to sell something else.  But if you’ve come up with a substantial list in support of your product’s benefits (which I hope you have), then it’s time to hold your head high, get out there, and sell it for all you’re worth because of the value it will bring to users.

Meta Description:  Selling is part of our everyday life whether we like it or not.  The best way to deal with that reality is to  become comfortable with your need to sell and develop skills that allow you to sell more effectively.

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Do you sometimes feel under-valued?  Do you sometimes feel that people would buy your product or service if they only realised what it could do for them?  Many people do.  I used to feel that way all the time (sometimes I still do, but I know the problem lies with me), and I frequently talk to friends and clients who feel that way.

The easiest way to find out whether other people are hearing and understanding what you say is to listen to their response.  At networking meetings, people will often say to me, “Most people don’t value my work for what it is worth.”  The reality is that they have not managed to communicate the value of their work to others.  It’s a pretty natural response when we don’t get the interest and buy-in we’re expecting, but the truth is that there is something you can do about it – and that something is to take responsibility for the response you get.

The Meaning Of The Communication Is The Response You Get

I’d like to illustrate this with a true story about Sally, a client of mine who was having trouble relating to her co-workers.  One day she walked into my office and said, “I’m so over my boss, he is impossibly inconsiderate!”  After a series of questions to uncover what the heart of the issue was for Sally, I learned that she had been in a meeting with her boss and had stated, “It’s a little bit draughty in here, isn’t it?” and then got very hurt and angry when her boss didn’t offer her a glass of water.

Somehow, when Sally had said, “It’s a little bit draughty in here, isn’t it?” she had expected her boss to understand that she was thirsty and needed a drink.

Now before you say to yourself, “Well, clearly Sally has a problem!”  I’d like you ask yourself if you’ve ever made an indirect request hoping that your friend, partner, or colleague would understand that you are asking for help.  You know what’s really interesting?  This is how we communicate every day. You hear people saying, “I told her, she has to know – she has to know that I’m upset with her!”

“What did you say?” you’ll ask, and they respond, “Oh she just knows, I’m sure of it.”

“Don’t be!”

The real meaning of the communication is the response you get.  If her boss doesn’t get Sally a glass of water then she can’t have made it clear that she wanted a glass of water.  If your significant other doesn’t change their behaviour, you probably didn’t tell them clearly what the problem was and what response you were looking for. 

If it happens once, the problem might be the other person – if it’s happening often then it’s probably time to take a good look at how clearly you communicate.

How Does This Apply to Sales?

In a sales context, that translates to, “If someone doesn’t want to pay your fee then YOU didn’t make it clear enough how valuable your services are to them.”

Now whose fault is it if the client doesn’t perceive the value of your service?  Is it the client’s fault or is it your fault?

Many people don’t like to take that sort of responsibility on themselves.  If you are taking charge of your own life and living at cause rather than at effect … if you’re empowered to influence others, then you should be willing to realise that you haven’t communicated in the most effective way that matches the needs of the person you’re talking to.

If you feel that prospects who are a great fit for your services aren’t taking you seriously then look at the value proposition you are sharing with them, the words you are choosing, and the mindset that backs up everything you say.

Meta Description:  Do you ever complain that people don’t understand or appreciate your product or service as much as they should?  NLP teaches that the meaning of your communication is the response you get and you can change the response by changing your flexibility.

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Have you ever wondered why some people seem to get on really well with almost everyone, while others are constantly complaining about the way other people treat them?  The answer probably likes in the flexibility of their communication system.

I used to have a very fixed idea about how people who liked me would communicate – it included smiles, positive words, and general encouragement (all good things, by the way).  The problem with my inflexibility in this area was that if someone was pre-occupied and didn’t really notice me one day I’d think I must have offended them which made me feel bad, and try to make things right.

As I studied and practiced Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) I realised that the problem wasn’t that I had an overpowering desire to be liked – the real problem was that I had such limited flexibility in my communications that I couldn’t really distinguish between people who were pre-occupied and people who didn’t like me.

We all have some people around us who we genuinely dislike and disagree with, but we also have a much a much wider group of people with whom we just ‘don’t really feel comfortable’ – and this is mostly a question of flexibility in communication.

Glass, Perspex, and Rejection

Which is stronger: – glass or perspex?  Most people in my Confident Closing workshops will say glass – although the engineering / practical types will ask questions about thickness and treatments.  Theoretically it’s true – glass is the stronger substance, but it’s not as resilient as perspex.  Resilience is a key characteristic in communication and relationships.

Because glass is brittle, if you put enough weight and pressure on it – it’s going to break.  Whereas the perspex has got some flexibility and so it’s actually going to be able to withstand more pressure.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a business owner, or just want better social relationships you need to become more like the perspex than glass if you want to survive and thrive.  You can guarantee that challenges will come your way at one point or another.  If you’re flexible, you’re able to deal with the situation more congruently, more resourcefully.

Communicating So That Others Hear You

When you focus your communication on the other person, you’ll quickly realise the truth of the Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) principle that says, “The person or the system with the most flexibility will be the one that controls the system.”  If you want to control the outcome of your conversations and sales meetings then you have to able and willing to respond appropriately in any given situation.  This means you have to be flexible in your use of communication tools – not tied to a script or even an outcome, but focused on the other person.

When you focus on your prospect, or your client and really listen to their communications – the words they use, their gestures, and tone of voice – you’ll pick up the cues you need to close more deals.  In some cases you’ll realise that your product or service isn’t appropriate for them, or that they’re just humouring you and that’s fine too, because the quicker you pick that up, the faster you can get out of there, and the less time you’ll waste.

What Do I Mean When I Talk About “Flexibility in Communication”?

We all have a preferred style of communication based on our filters [Link to post].  It doesn’t mean that this is the only way we communicate, it just means it’s our preferred style – and that style includes our choice of words, the speed at which we speak, and the gestures and tones we use.  The more we can use matching and mirroring to reflect the style preferred by the person we’re talking to, the more likely we both are to come away from our interaction feeling understood.

Flexibility involves understanding our own preferred communication style, and become observant when we are around others so that we can become aware of their preferred style of communication.  The more we do this, the more we will find that others like and understand us, and we like and understand them.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) focuses heavily on recognising communication patterns, and it’s one of the things we teach in our Confident Closing Workshop at Life Puzzle.

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How can you take advantage of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) to set off your sales in an upward trajectory?

In a sales meeting, you have to listen really well to your client. Not the distracted kind of listening that you do as you think of the right things to say next. You must give your full attention to the client. You must be attuned to him through matching and mirroring — words, tonality and physiology.

And you must find out what his frame of reference is. In NLP, a frame of reference is defined as how a person judges the results of his actions. This could also mean his standards. You can ask a client how they know they are doing a good job and you can immediately identify whether he has an internal or external frame of reference.

When the client answers, “I instinctively know I am doing a good job, I don’t need anybody to tell me so”, then you have someone who has an internal frame of reference. These people make good entrepreneurs. They don’t need a lot of validation from outside to go on with their work.

But when he says, “I seek other people’s opinion about my work”, then he has an external frame of reference. This kind of people is perfect for service-oriented businesses like salons. They would seek client’s opinion for them to find out if they did their work well.

A person with an internal frame of reference with an external check looks inside then outside. A person with an external frame of reference looks outside then inside.

Frames of reference have been used in the past for personality profiling and you can use this too in closing sales. Be sure to follow the 5-step selling process discussed in a previous article – 5 Steps Sales Process Works.

For clients with external frame of reference, you can use testimonials from satisfied clients/customers for your product or service. Tell them the great things other people have to say about your product or service. You can build your presentation around these testimonials. These will definitely catch their attention.

For clients with an internal frame of reference, you can emphasize the benefits your product can bring to them. You must do a good job of stacking up your product’s value. You must ask questions to find out if your solution suits his unique needs and problems.  When you have done this, it would be like feeding salt to the horses and they would thirst for your product.

Selling based on a client’s orientation would then be natural and would require less effort.

To find out how you can harness the power of NLP in closing sales, come and join our 7-Day NLP Training!

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By popular demand we have turned many of our multi-day workshops into multi-week online courses with a live day to kick them off. Learn more at


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