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The Language of Sales

© Richard White

Words are the tools of the trade for sales people. It’s not the words that count but how we use them. Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) provides a wealth of strategies that show us how to use words to effectively communicate, persuade, and influence. It’s fair to say that NLP has more than its fair share of jargon. A lot of NLP techniques were originally discovered by studying a number of top therapists. The aim was to teach the skills to other therapists and so there is an element of therapy related jargon.

It is perfectly possible for sales people to learn and apply many of the strategies without the jargon. It does, however, require a bit of effort from the trainer and it is fair to say that many NLP trainers that work with companies still use the jargon.

It seems that top communicators in any discipline share similar language patterns. Indeed, I have since discovered that many of the advanced language patterns can be found in top sales people who have never even heard of NLP!

There are many areas of NLP that involve language skills that can have a positive impact on sales effectiveness. The following are some practical applications:

Selling stories

This is my favourite application. I have never met a top sales person that does not use stories and metaphor. It is very effective for developing trusted relationships. It is also invaluable when selling complex products and services where the benefits are not immediately obvious. Stories also have applications such as lead generation, to make sales presentations persuasive, and to pre-empt objections. Stories are more like anecdotes rather than fairy stories!

Advanced questioning techniques

NLP provides a deeper understanding of questions and a number of very powerful questioning techniques. It also provides an understanding of how to structure questions to influence someone’s point of view. They can be useful in any area of sales but especially in qualifying, discovering needs, and overcoming objections.

Flexible Communication

Top sales people are excellent at adapting their own language to match the way in which that their clients and prospects prefer to communicate. They instinctively use the right kind of words to match how their prospects think.

NLP provides the ability for sales people to develop these skills and increase the range of people they can influence.

Advanced persuasion

NLP includes a number of strategies that are very subtle and can be used conversationally to put ideas across in a highly attractive way, but also to get prospect’s to see things differently. This has applications in all areas of sales and especially in overcoming objections and negotiating.

When sales people really ‘get’ NLP it’s like a child in a sweet shop. Any one of the strategies can have a big impact once mastered. For some people it is a case of learning a new skill and for others it’s a case of further developing an existing skill and understanding how else they can apply it.

Rather than learning all the NLP techniques together, another approach is to master one or two at a time. It is easy to understand a technique intellectually but the real power comes when it becomes engrained so you do not have to even think about it.

There are a lot of areas where NLP can help a sales person to significantly increase sales effectiveness through improving their language skills. NLP at the basic level can be taught without the jargon but even with the jargon the potential for greatly improved results makes it worth the effort.


Richard White is managing director of the Accidental Salesman, he provides free expert advice for business owners and fellow accidental sales people to achieve sales success. For more information visit


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