Language of sales – the date rape drug of business

Recently, I ran across quite a few conversations about use of language and body movements/positions in order to achieve success in sales, including real estate, or dating, or life.

The basic concept behind these coaching methods is reprogramming of one’s brain (and all that goes with it) in order to fulfill some goal, whether getting a sale or that girl who is entirely out of one’s league.  The premises behind these vary slightly, but all seem to be predicated on the idea that there is such a thing as an ideal person, ideal sales professional, ideal date, et. al., and that one can successfully impose their own wishes and reality on another person at will.  Most tend to also be based on a belief that even talent and genius can be successfully emulated, if only one follows certain rules.

In a nutshell, by following such training, one can accomplish virtually anything in any situation, from dropping bad habits to winning a sale.

The methods one has to follow to achieve such success range from mirroring the tonality and speed of the prospect’s speech to matching their body posture to specific sets of words in a specific order to use in conversation in order to get to the desired outcome, i.e. a sale, a signature on a piece of paper, a date.  The techniques all go to how to sound curious and excited and interested in the person on the other side of the conversation, which will lower their defenses and allow you to do your magic and close the deal.

Rumor has it such tactics actually yield results.  Rumor has it anyone can learn to use these techniques and the prospect will be non-the-wiser, if the practitioner is any good.  Some money and a bit of time is all it takes to master these…

Mind Control with Derren Brown – NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) from chewisniewski on Vimeo. [note: Darren Brown has disavowed any affiliation with NLP on multiple occasions, but still, this happens to be one of the most often cited examples of its use]

This is how one of the coaches describes such a course for real estate professionals, and I quote: “NLP is a six-month intensive program that teaches you the words, phrases and patterns that people use to interpret reality. Using this new language, you will dissolve your client’s reality before their eyes and create a new one instantly.” [name of coach redacted]

So let’s assume for a moment that it is possible.  That you can indeed successfully modify the reality of any given situation to suit your needs, and control the outcome of any given conversation.  Now apply it to the business of helping someone buy or sell a home.  Would you do it?

I’m lucky to have been born too cynical to think that this stuff would work on me personally, so I don’t feel in danger of inadvertently allowing my subconscious to make any huge decision for me.  If I were selling my home, I would demand to see all the marketing that the agent has done for properties like mine or in my hood.  I’d ask a million questions which an agent would actually have to be able to answer intelligently, where the pretense of listening to me would be decidedly insufficient.  But I’m also integrally involved in the real estate space in my business and so my expectations and knowledge of the industry are different from a real estate virgin.  In my research, most consumers genuinely believe that real estate agents are interchangeable and that they provide similar service for similar compensation.

So what is such a consumer to do when subjected to some new-fangled bit of manipulation?  How are they supposed to even recognize that every question a person on the other side of the conversation asks them is designed to elicit a specific response or is simply a step in building momentum to the “big yes”, the signature on a piece of paper?

I’m struggling with reconciling any of this with the definition of that very fiduciary duty agents supposedly have to their principals. But more importantly, I think the very idea that in order to succeed in this business (or any business for that matter) a person needs to shed the very things that make them unique and human and magical.  That anyone must emulate or imitate or appear to be someone that they are not.  That people are more likely to hire someone who is (or sounds) like them, has similar speech patterns, body movements, et. al.

I’d like to hope that as a species we have evolved past the stage where individuality was frowned on and people were looked at as belonging to particular types or personalities.  I’d like to think that my friends in real and social life are entirely unlike me and that’s the very thing that makes them special to me.  The very things that makes me like them are their authenticity, their quirks, the strange things they do and like, their passions, their unique to them speech patterns…  In business relationships, I’d opt to hire someone who is simply very good at the thing that I need done, and who is not trying to be someone else.  I inherently distrust people who attempt to be liked by everybody or who try to get everyone’s business.  Not everyone will enjoy working with me, in fact, I am pretty certain that if I hired someone while manipulated by that nifty training, the experience would suck, theirs and mine, start to finish.

At the end of the day if we are good at whatever it is we do, and we are not trying to be everything to all people, I think we’ll get the clients that we actually deserve to get. If you are not getting enough business to keep going, maybe it’s time to consider getting better at the actual business of serving your clients, or maybe you were simply not meant to do the thing that you are doing.  And that, too, is ok.  But with all things being equal, wouldn’t it be better to win business because someone truly, genuinely wants you to be the one to help them?

And in my experience, an added bonus to actually giving a shit about the person on the other end of any conversation instead of calculating the next step or re-metering your speech patters is that you get to discover some amazing people, and some incredible stories that stick with you.  With the exception of sociopaths, we are all endowed with empathy.  We are all inherently capable of relating to another human being, and that’s where the magic happens.  That’s the language of human relationships, no tricks or pretenses required.  I hope we are all better than some shepherds will have us believe.  I hope we can recognize something as just plain wrong and choose not to cross that line.  Hell, at this point, I hope we can even see the line…

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5 Responses to Language of sales – the date rape drug of business
  1. Ilya Zobanov
    April 6, 2013 | 12:08 am

    Bravo! I was waiting for someone to write something weighty on this subject. I’m so tired of this B.S. that’s being pushed on us, agents, from all kinds of coaches. Some smart guys, they have great material, but when they start talking about NLP and self-affirmations I just get frustrated. It’s a dangerous path.

    • inna hardison
      April 15, 2013 | 6:35 pm

      Hey Ilya, and sorry for the belated. Off traveling all week and then some:-) So happy I’m not alone in this. It’s amazing how many people/coaches/brokers et. al. see absolutely zero wrong with any of this.

  2. Peter Fletcher
    April 2, 2013 | 4:26 pm

    When we focus on serving another the need for scripts and dialogues and sales techniques fall away. At that point true mastery is experienced and the seller is indistinguishable from the client.

    • inna hardison
      April 15, 2013 | 6:36 pm

      Peter – and that’s it, in a nutshell, or how it should be, but sadly it’s not what is taught in this vertical daily. I’d like to see that changed. Badly.

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