NLP Presuppositions for Sales People

NLP Presuppositions for Salespeople

If you are going to communicate with congruence and integrity, it is vital that the thoughts going on in the back of your mind do not conflict with the words that are coming out of your mouth. As you will discover later, the belief in what you are saying communicates far more information than the words themselves, so developing a strong set of supporting beliefs is a way to generate significant improvements in your selling ability even before we move onto the linguistic techniques.

When using NLP in a therapeutic setting, the necessity to change lies with the client as they are coming to you looking to stop smoking or to improve their self-esteem. However, in sales, the salesperson often needs to create this desire in their prospect. With this in mind, the beliefs of a salesperson need to be focused around having control of a situation and acting in a way that supports and motivates the prospect. Knowing this, the presuppositions of NLP become even more important for a salesperson to not just understand, but to embody.

The NLP presuppositions act as a guiding philosophy and mindset that helps form the foundation of NLP. Each of these beliefs has been created to help empower you as a salesperson, supporting you to deliver effective messages and decode the information given to you by your prospects.

These presuppositions, therefore, are neither true nor false, and in many cases could be argued either way. However, should you adopt the positive, empowering aspects of each of these statements into your own belief systems, you will find that this helps you become a more powerful influencer and communicator.

As you read through the NLP presuppositions, I want you to think about what each means to you. Some of the statements may seem a little abstract to begin with. However, take the time to uncover the meanings and, more importantly, how you might be able to apply these lessons in your sales situations. I have given you a couple of insights into how they might be interpreted, although I am sure you will also be able to add to these yourself.

NLP Presuppositions


Have you ever asked a child if they have the time and they turn around to you and simply say ‘Yes’? Now although this may seem like a trivial matter, how many times do you know of requests that have been communicated that have been actioned differently? As salespeople, it is our responsibility to control the sales process, and this includes the actions you want your prospect or customer to take. We often need to be more specific than we think. For example, take the word ‘regularly’ which indicates a particular frequency of occurrence. Now I like to think that I run ‘regularly’, maybe once or twice a week. Now I have a friend who also runs ‘regularly’, every 3rd of February, regular as clockwork.
Although we often use the same words, their meanings can be very different to each of us. If you find that you are not getting the response you want, look at how you are communicating your message. How can you be flexible and change your approach to get your desired outcome? Do not expect the customer to change for you. Instead, become a chameleon of communication, able to fit the needs of your client.


Albert Mehrabian’s widely quoted findings on communication state that only 7% of communication actually comes through the words we say. So many sales people spend time writing out scripts or opening statements that are designed to have impact, but then when it comes down to the delivery, they miss the mark. This is because the rest of the message is delivered through tonality (38%) and body language (55). It is not necessarily the facts which are being miscommunicated, rather the emotion and fortitude of belief which accompanies the message.
Congruence, the alignment of your message and how you say it, is a huge contributor to trust, and all sales people know the importance of trust in making a deal. Think about how you communicate, not just what. If you do not believe what you say, there will be incongruence. If you are nervous in a meeting, there will be incongruence. If you have not done your preparation and research, there will be incongruence, and your prospect will pick up on it, either consciously or unconsciously. Ensure you are fully aligned and congruent with your message for every sales call.


Even the best map does not have all of the information about a particular place. Rather, maps are useful summaries of a location that contain key elements such as places of interest, transport links and maybe where you can eat or shop. However, look up from any map and you will see details and information that no map could ever contain. This is the same when you are talking with a prospect. Because we filter the information we take in, process it internally and then have to recall it when asked a question, a lot of the accurate details can get lost in translation. When communicating, a good sales person will search for the information beyond the initial response if necessary.


You have two jobs to do as a sales person. You need to motivate your prospect to make a decision and you also need to educate them to make the right decision (meaning your product or service). Assuming you have done the motivation part, your prospect will then make the decision to go with the solution that best suits his or her needs. Part of your pitch needs to be educating the prospect about what a good solution looks like. How can they make the best decision for them or their business? What are the most important factors to consider when looking at finding a supplier or your service? Know your product’s unique strengths and then educate your prospect towards making a decision that takes these elements into account.


I remember a particular sales person who was never deterred by getting rejections over the phone, or getting knocked back by gatekeepers. His reaction was to put the phone down, curse in some way for a second, then pick the phone straight back up and make his next call. Now although this may appear to be a good sales trait, not taking rejection personally, his reaction to the person rejecting him forgets this presupposition. Instead of blaming the other person and getting momentarily angry with them, perhaps he should have explored the reasons behind the rejection a little more fully.
Where was the benefit in the gatekeeper rejecting him, not to him but to the gatekeeper? What did rejecting him mean there was more time to accomplish? Once you take this viewpoint, working with gatekeepers becomes less of a challenge. In fact, I challenge you to one day call a number of organisations and just speak to the gatekeepers. Don’t try and sell them anything, just try and understand what it is like to be in their position. Gatekeepers can take over 300 calls in a day, so no wonder they try and get rid of you as quickly as possible. Instead, think what you can do to make your call beneficial, and allow the gatekeeper to change their behaviour to supporting you instead.


If you only hear yes as a salesperson, you aren’t asking enough. Human tendency is to play a little safe and avoid experiencing rejection, or failure. Instead, we need to learn to embrace these opportunities as chances to grow. The feedback that comes through getting something wrong will help us develop our sales skills. It is our aim to present with a number of new ideas, and you will need to let go of your previous sales strategies in order to adopt them and see how they work for you. Like rebuilding a golf technique will take you back a few strokes before you improve, you may find that using some of the techniques we teach will feel a little unnatural to begin with. However, stick with them, learn from each experience, and before you know it, you will have developed new proficiencies in selling and communicating.


Sales people need to be able to communicate to both parts of the human system as decisions are made using both the mind and body. The body is the emotional side of thought, which is truly how we make our decisions. We are guided by our feelings, making statements such as ‘it just felt right’ or ‘I had a bad feeling about it’ when we are forced to make a choice. It’s not always something we can describe with any accuracy, more of a sense we get. However, we then try and justify our decisions logically, which uses our mind.
If we choose to do something, our explanations tend to follow the word ‘because’, such as ‘I bought the new television because we needed a new one and it was a great deal’. If we choose not to do something, we often use the word ‘besides’, such as ‘I didn’t buy any advertising this time, besides we are getting plenty of referral business right now’. Sales people that tend to rely solely on the logical sale will find themselves hearing maybe a lot as they don’t hit the motivation of the prospect. Sales people that only use emotional selling techniques will experience a lot of buyer’s remorse and returns once the excitement has worn off.


“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”
– Bruce Lee

Have you ever had a phone call from a telesales organisation that employs people to read from scripts in an attempt to sell to you? They prattle on for far too long and then ask you a question in an attempt to engage you in the conversation (I know this seems like a sweeping generalisation, and I admit it is, but it is also a warning to those of you that use the phone to sell!). The challenge to see if you have a sales person on the end of the phone rather than just a reader is to throw something into the conversation that doesn’t fit the script. Refuse to answer a question, throw in a random fact, tell them what the weather is like or ask them about their holiday; anything that will throw them off course. If they struggle, flap and go quiet, they aren’t a real sales person.
Sales people engage in conversation and that, as we all know, could go anywhere. It would be like playing tennis and getting upset when someone plays it to your backhand when you were expecting a forehand. You need to have the flexibility as a sales person to handle any element. Do your preparation so you know your product in detail. Research your prospect and prepare in advance the questions that you may be asked. Practice asking the same questions in different way in case your prospect doesn’t give you the answer you are looking for. Any time you find yourself in a situation that you cannot handle on the spot, ensure that you immediately go and seek out 5 different ways to handle that situation next time. Commit to developing the flexibility of behaviour and you will be able to handle any sales situation that arises.


I want you to challenge yourself as a sales person. Look at some of the greatest sales people on the planet, such a Joe Girard. Joe has been repeatedly recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the greatest sales person on Earth, and worked in used car sales, a notoriously tough industry. However, someone has to be the best, so why not Joe. If you survey sales people in most industries, you will find the Pareto principle in effect. 20% of the sales people will earn 80% of the commissions. Do those in the top 20% work harder and more hours than the rest? Not necessarily, in fact, probably not. Instead, they tend to do lots of little things a little bit better.
Your challenge is to develop yourself to become the best sales person you can be, maybe even the top in your industry. Focus on doing the things that are in your control, rather than sales figures that are often controlled by your prospects. Work on your communication skills, make the most sales calls, phone the prospects that others are afraid to. Put the effort in up front and great results will surely be the effect. Someone has to be the best sales person in your company or industry, so why shouldn’t it be you? Simply commit to learning the skills of those top sales people and then go one little step further.


I want to encourage you to attempt new sales strategies in order to improve the results you are getting. Some of these may feel easier than others, but all will have a positive impact on your ability to communicate with your prospects and clients. In order to improve the results you are currently getting, you must do something different. Albert Einstein once said “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”. In order to develop yourself as a salesperson, you need to raise your level of awareness (learn something) and then put this new knowledge into action (do something). When you try out these new techniques, I encourage you to be playful and curious with their application.


This quote from Stephen Covey should be every sales person’s mantra. I have been in countless sales meetings where the prospect asks one question early on, and then the sales person decides it is time to talk non-stop about their product or service down to every last little detail. When this monologue is finally concluded, the sales person is greeted by an astonished face of someone that has just absorbed far too much information in far too short a time. The result is rarely, if ever, in favour of the sales person. Instead, the goal should be not to talk about everything your product has to offer, rather just the bits that are relevant to your prospect. To do this, you need to understand the person in front of you; their challenges, their goals, their outcomes. Spend time uncovering this information in detail and by the time it comes to pitching your product, you will be far closer to hitting the mark.


Sir Isaac Newton probably wasn’t thinking about sales when he came up with his theory, but this concept is important for all sales people. The worst word for a sales person is ‘maybe’, which is only ever heard when the sales person has not applied enough force to get the prospect to take action. The force I am talking about here is that of Motivation. Sales people need to be expert motivators as well as influencers. You need to understand what makes someone tick, what gets them off their backside and take the action you want them to take. There are several concepts of motivation you need to know to see why both the carrot and the stick are useful at different times. Apply enough drive and motivation and your prospect will take action. Your job as a sales person is then to steer that motivation in the correct direction (your product ideally!).

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