Thanks to our increasingly hectic lifestyles, nobody’s got time to waste anymore. Especially not on strangers trying to hawk one thing or another. Factor in the relentless competition and it’s literally the worst time to be a salesman. Heck, even salespeople hate receiving cold calls from other reps.
If you’re solely reliant on a canned pitch and sheer luck to hit your quotas, you’re looking at a lot of hungry nights and empty accounts my friend. So, how does a savvy salesman gain a competitive advantage over the rest? Call it magic, call it cheating. But knowing how difficult it is to convince prospects these days, it makes sense to use all the tools at your disposal to outdo the competition.
One of the most effective ways to make prospects open to suggestion is by way of covert hypnosis. And before you get all skeptical, we’re not talking about the overly exaggerated ‘you will follow all my commands’ swinging pendulum kind of hypnotherapy. Covert hypnosis is a bit stealthier and backed by science. But why and how exactly does it work? This segment looks at all the different hypnosis techniques that could turn a below average sales rep into a psychological assassin.
What is Covert Hypnosis?
Also known as sleight of mouth, covert hypnosis can be described as an attempt to establish communication with another person’s unconscious mind (subconscious). The main difference between this and other types of hypnotherapy is that the subject remains unaware or uninformed of the hypnosis – hence the keyword covert. It’s a very popular practice among proponents of neuro-linguistic programming.
Here, the main goal is to overcome fears and change someone’s behavior at a subconscious level in such a way that they believe they made choices all on their own. In other words, it’s real life inception – only without both DiCaprio and the huge Hollywood budget. When covert hypnosis is done correctly, the target doesn’t even sense anything out of the ordinary.
Unlike standard hypnotherapy that requires the subject’s full attention; covert hypnosis focuses on softening prospects through subtle means and techniques that revolve around interrupting a person’s regular thought pattern. Which brings us to our topic of the day – using pattern interrupt to make prospects more open to suggestion.
On a typical day, the average person can have up to 50,000 or more thoughts. But what’s more intriguing is, over 90% of these thoughts are literally the same thing every day. Here’s what we mean. Everyone tends to follow the same routine every day – so it makes total sense that your general thought pattern is the same from morning to night. Here’s where pattern interrupt comes in.
As the name suggest, pattern interrupt is geared towards disrupting these thought and behavioral patterns in a number of ways with the aim of opening up a prospect to suggestion. A common example of pattern interrupt is the awkward half handshake half fist pump. If one person goes for a handshake and the other a fist pump, both of them interrupt each other’s regular behavioral patterns. As a response, both people conform and change their greetings leading to an even more awkward back and forth open and clench. That’s a classic case of interruption by redirection with other techniques being confusion, blocking, distraction, and system overload.
Interrupt by Blocking
This is one of the boldest and most direct ways to interrupting thought and behavior patterns. Blocking means literally preventing your prospect from completing a typical action while still remaining covert about it.
Common blocking techniques include interrupting someone mid sentence or talking over them before they can finish a thought. Not responding appropriately also has the same effect and is especially useful when talking over the phone. If you’re meeting a prospect in person, you can also apply powerful techniques that interrupt their cognitive strategies and accessing cues.
Here’s what we mean. People tend to have similar eye accessing cues depending on what they’re thinking. For instance, most people look left when constructing images or lying and right when having an internal dialogue and remembering images. By calibrating your prospect with a few questions and identifying their eye accessing cues, you can then block these cues with hand motions to get a desirable and truthful response.
Interrupt by Redirection
Rather than stopping a pattern dead in its tracks by blocking it, redirection offers a more reliable way to divert mental and behavioral patterns. This can be as simple as a slight misdirection or full on total distraction.
Here’s an example that most people in sales already use. Say you’re in the middle of a product demonstration and your prospect asks the question – “How much does it cost?” Immediately, you want to start answering as quickly as possible but then redirect the question with one of your own. This goes something like, “Well, our product ranges anywhere from $80 to… (stop and redirect with)… You gotta have a good reason for asking the price so early in the demo, care to share why?
Another example, “How do I know you’ll deliver on time?” The savvy salesman response should be – “Given the size of our fleet and delivery staff, we usually… (stop and redirect with)… Hold on, what does on time mean to you?” As you can see, the main aim of redirect is to gather additional information that will help you tailor your presentation on the fly.
Interrupt by System Overload
Just like computers, the human mind can also be overloaded when a certain representation channel processes way more data than it can handle. Overloads actually happen almost every day in our lives. A good example is when a place is so noisy you can barely hear yourself think.
Another relatable example is when you feel so good you don’t know what to do. That’s right, things like sex overloads the pleasure channels throwing all inhibitions out the window. Now, we’re not telling you to have sex with your prospects. However, you can overload their other sensory inputs such as the visual, olfactory, and auditory senses. This can be achieved by simple acts such as holding colorful, vibrant demos, dressing sharp, or even just wearing good cologne.
Interrupt by Confusion
The most popular confusion techniques can be credited to the hypnotic works of Milton H. Erickson. In a large number of these, Milton emphasized on the use of verbal ambiguity to confuse people and make them more suggestible.
If your prospect’s attention starts wandering off for instance, you could stop mid sentence and touch the person in a few places such as the shoulders and arms. This is enough to take anyone aback and wonder what’s going on. The technique doesn’t end there. Once your prospect asks for an explanation, ask them a question like, “Which time were you touched more times than the previous time before I touched you ?”
Needless to say, this is an ambiguous question that will confuse your prospect and put their thinking process on hold for a moment. Seize this chance to get them back on track and open them up to suggestion.
Some people are natural salesmen who seem to know exactly what to say, how to say it and when to say it. These super sales reps are able to guide a prospect from the beginning all the way until the sale is made. For a small percentage of top tier sales persons, their skills are completely natural and almost automatic.
But for the rest of us, it’s all about training and learning new skills. Fortunately, covert hypnosis is one such skill that can be learned and mastered. The tips above should help you get a jump start to your crystal ball of sales and acquire the skills you need to overcome prospects fears and change their habits to your advantage. Remember that while these techniques won’t work 100% of the time or even for everyone, they’ll certainly help you better understand your prospects thought process, gather essential information and use it to your advantage.