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Successful selling with NLP – review


Title: Successful selling with NLP - powerful ways to help you connect with your customers
Authors: Joseph O’Connor and Robin Prior
Publisher: Thorsons, An imprint of Harper Collins
ISBN: 0722529783
Format: Paperback
Price: £9.99

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The authors have significant combined experience of sales training, consulting and neurolinguistic programming (NLP). The foreword and preface to their book are written by ‘heavyweights’, a regional Direction of PLC with 25 years selling experience, and Feargal Quinn, founder of the Irish Supermarket Group Superquinn, and author of Crowning the Customer. This book makes no extravagant claims of the “use NLP and double your sales in a week” type. What it does do and does well is to assume no prior knowledge of NLP but to introduce key concepts and skills from the approach and to link them effectively to the process of selling. It also points out that by practicing what it suggests the reader can make a difference to their professional and personal life.

The authors’ stance on selling is an interesting and supportive one. They try to dispel many of the pejorative images of selling and the sales person and reinforce the idea of a successful sale as the end of the beginning and the lead into customer service and a continuing, successful relationship with the customer. O’Connor and Prior define the book’s audience as sales people, sales managers and sales trainers but also, and this is interesting, to professional advisers, accountants and consultants who have to sell their services but who may not consider themselves to be ‘sales people’.

The book is essentially very practical and Section 5, described as “the core of the book” contains a series of practical exercises. These are derived from the sales training events which the authors run across the UK.

The style is easy, ‘technical’ and specialist terms are well handled and introduced. The anecdotes, metaphors, similes and stories which abound across the six sections and 19 chapters are useful and often engaging. I have a personal difficulty with the approach used of using ‘he’ and ‘she’ in alternative sections of the book to get over the English languages’ lack of a neutral singular pronoun. I find it whimsical and irritating when it is so easy to write differently, but that’s a personal foible and shouldn’t put anyone off reading this book.

Part One – ‘How Selling is Changing’ is a good scene setter in the way it so succinctly explains the legacy of disaster which has accrued from one-way target driven hard selling, as for example indicated by the current problems in the insurance and mortgage industries.

The overview given of the electronic bazaar and how technology is changing buying patterns leads neatly into what the authors call ‘The New Bazaar’. This approach is defined as a customer-driven world where the power of the sales person to build good relationships as a background to business becomes paramount. This angle provides a good link into the value of NLP and its many influencing skills.

Part Two presents a 10 stage sales process, starting with why people buy and ending with ‘Closing the Customer Service’. The practical experience of the authors is very clear in this section as is their understanding of the role and demands of both sales person and customer. I particularly liked the chapter on ‘questioning’ which offered a useful mix of familiar and unfamiliar. Another chapter, Planning Sales work introduces NLPs theory of Time Lines (“through time” and “in time”) and convincingly offers it as a way of producing an effective sales plan. Taken as a whole this Section covers the skills needed by a sales person in the new sales arena. The NLP connection is clear and convincingly made throughout the 10 stage sales process.

Part Three - ‘Looking After Yourself’, is aimed at the reader as an individual and addresses such issues as life – work balance, congruence, goals, values and working styles. NLP differences such as Towards – away from, General – detail, Internal – external are introduced and explained in an interesting way making connections with the sales person – customer relationship. NLP is presented in a way which aids the reader in making choices and identifying what they want.

Part Four deals with ‘Sales Management’ and briefly addresses such areas as coaching, meeting, organizational development and learning. In my view, while it is interesting, this is probably the weakest section of the book.

Part Five, as I’ve already said, contains exercises relating to different aspects of the salespersons’ work. These seem practical and workable. The last is called the Professional Alignment exercise and takes the reader through the NLP logical levels.

Despite a continuing mild scepticism towards NLP, I found this book enjoyable (apart from the ‘he’, ‘she’ thing) and convincing. I wish I’d had it to read many years ago when I was a management trainee in retailing.

At £9.99 this is really good value for anyone in its intended audience and for anyone who is involved in ‘selling’ themselves or ideas.

Diane Bailey


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