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"The purpose of sales is to help people get what they want." (from the "One Minute Sales Person" by Spencer Johnson and Larry Wilson as quoted in "Introducing NLP" by Joseph O'Connor and John Seymour on page 157.)
Even though many sales people do use this principle in their work, I have shopped in enough stores to know that many do not. And there is no question that businesses lose clients because of misinformed sales people.
So, how does the sales person find out exactly what the customer really wants?
Let's say a client would like to buy a bar of "Mucci", an imported Italian soap--which your store does not carry. The reaction of some sales people would be to suggest other fine soaps. This is a kind of "hit or miss" method of dealing with the situation.
A more effective way would be to ask the client what they are going to use "Mucci" for. Or, what they like about "Mucci". This is called "chunking up" in NLP. Some possible responses might be (notice how different these are from each other):
1) to soothe an allergic skin condition
2) to put in a clothes drawer for the fragrance
3) as a gift for someone who likes Italian cosmetics
With this knowledge the sales person could then recommend alternative products which would more accurately satisfy the needs of the client. This is called "chunking down" in NLP.
For customer #1, a skin cream that is effective with the allergic condition. For customer #2, another soap with a pleasant fragrance. And, not necessarily Italian; it might be Australian, Brazilian, or Russian. For customer #3, "Bucci", a different Italian soap.
The formula is quite simple and straightforward. Step 1 is to go abstract. Politely ask "What do you need it for?" Or, "Why is this product/service important to you?" Or, What are you looking for in this product/service?"
Step 2 is to go into specifics and think of suggestions that would satisfy their expressed needs or desires.
By the way, you can use this formula when giving advice to someone. For example, if they ask you to help them find a good school.
Give it a try! Sounds easy, doesn't it?! I suggest that you practice this several times with a friend until you feel comfortable with it. Get feedback about how you look and sound and make the appropriate adjustments. Then, you can use it in real life.
Please send me your personal experiences relating to this article.