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NLP AND SALES , PART 1 : COMMUNICATION - an interesting paradox

June 1985, the author of this piece graduates from College. He proudly shows his Certificate titled : "Specialist in marine electronics"! The main subject during the whole curriculum was communications. Three years of training resulted in an almost perfect mastery of an art and craft called radio telegraphy. This was an absolute requirement for the job of Radio Officer, a role that needed to be filled on every ocean going vessel. Regulatory Compliance. Reason : the ship needed to be capable of communicating with the shore and with other vessels under all circumstances, even the most extreme. The communication tool was technology, the transfer of information happened from person to person, in accordance with well described procedures and formulas. The cost of communication was charged per word, so each communicator had a vested interest in making sure that a message was clear and concise at the same time. All overhead and rubbish was to be avoided. And it was. A few messages  were exchanged every day , a few tens in really busy circumstances. One thing was sure : every single message contained important information and got the attention it deserved. 

December 2019, the same author scans his own mailbox...125 unread many of them are really relevant for my business? Next to the inbox there are multiple open communication channels and loads of so-called "valuable information" are poured into his head. The cost of a word is absolutely nothing, and thus the cost of a sentence, the cost of a page, the cost of a whole book of information....still nothing.

Procedures and formulas for communication have disappeared and words have become less than a commodity, not worthy a lot of care and attention. 

Here comes the paradox of the revolution in technology : messaged words have become so "cheap", in all senses of the term, that a lot more effort is being put in broadcasting and replicating them as much as possible, through as many channels as possible (preferably in an automated way), hoping that some of them will find fertile ground and get proper attention.

All these words, with no value, have now been classified as "data", the new gold...This data is  being used to "profile" customers and prospects. "Know Your Customer". This profile is being sold as accurate and free from emotional noise; far better than the largely emotional knowledge built up by a human about another human... really?

We now come to the essence of human-to-human communications. It is summarized in the first Basic Assumption of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) : "The meaning of one's communication is the reaction it triggers, independent from the intention".

If there's one domain where this statement is important, it obviously is the one of sales. If a seller transmits a message to a buyer, the only way to check whether the content is understood and appreciated according to the seller's intentions, is to gather the reaction from the buyer, instantly, verbal and non-verbal. This feedback then allows the seller to finetune or reword the message, if needed.

No need to say that non-verbal communication often is more relevant than the verbal , since it reflects a crucial element in a sales or negotiation process: emotion. Let emotion be that one thing that, despite the beliefs of some hard core AI freaks, cannot be captured and understood by emotion is just not digital and never will be digital.

It is my true conviction that soon rather than late, the pendulum that swung from totally human to almost totally digital, will return towards human and find a balance in the middle. Machine can serve man in a lot of ways, but humans will continue to deal with humans, regardless of the "progress" made with fake humans called "bots".

It counts for any sort of transaction with a significant impact on one's life, be it a loan, a payment, an investment or a sale.

Companies and individuals who take the value of communication seriously and invest in the communication itself as well as in the way it gets transmitted, are bound for sustainable relationships and business. The others may possibly surf on one or another short lasting hype but ultimately and quickly disappear after.

Not the quantity of messages matters, it is the quality of those messages. And that quality precisely can only be measured through the reaction on them.


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Willem Lambrechts

Willem Lambrechts

Managing Director


Member since

11 Feb 2013



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