Tag Archives: NLP

Should You address your customer as Sir/Madam?

“Sir, do you have any requirement of centrifuges?” Said Biswas during  one of the role-plays in our Value-Selling Programs. My partner, Ramiah Daniels and I have been  questioning this habit of sales and service people addressing customers as Sir/Madam (rather than by the latter’s name) for quite a while. The common justifications provided by the participants are:

  1. Customer feels respected.
  2. Easy to build rapport during client interaction.
  3. Customer has to be treated like God.

Can we question  the veracity of the above statements?

As indicated in the figure, the behaviour displayed that is visible is like the tip of the iceberg. What might be the attitude, belief or paradigm underneath ( and thus invisible) such words?

  1. Legacy of the colonial mindset: On similar lines, It was customary to address the judge as My Lord by the lawyers, the practise which has been slowly dispensed with.
  2. Shift in Power structure: As a salesperson when you address the other person as Sir/Madam, you are handing the control to the other person by putting him/her on a pedestal.
  3. NLP Perspective: The basic premise of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, NLP is your body physiology ( neural system -N  which include your posture, breathing rate and the way – shallow, normal, or deep, eye contact, the skin resistance etc.) is determined by thoughts/belief system and by  the words ( Linguistic – L ) you use. The NEURAL affects the LINGUISTIC and vice versa. Both simultaneously run a specific behaviour pattern which becomes your dominant behaviour which is the programming (P). The eye contact is evasive; the voice tone being less confident, displays the obsequious and the servile approach of the salesperson. Is it fair enough to assume that by  addressing someone as Sir/Madam by default, the salesperson has already lost half the battle?
  4. Less Effort: When you address someone as Sir/madam; the salesperson  does not have to take any effort in asking as well as remembering the full name of the customer.
  5. Low Self Esteem: The salesperson feels he/she is the prime beneficiary in a business  transaction by collecting the order, which in turn helps him in reaching the sales targets leading to a low self-esteem.

If the customer were to be  God, does he behave the same way while negotiating hard on the price and the payment terms?

Is there a better way of addressing the customer  by his name? The conventional norm is either prefix Mister with the Surname, or address by the first name. For example, while meeting a prospect say, Ramiah Daniels, you may say, “would you prefer to be addressed as Mr. Daniels, or Ramiah?” I doubt  the customer says, ”you better address me as Sir.”

There are several advantages when you address the customer by name:

  1. Confident Behaviour: Your body language, eye contact evokes confidence. Your handshake is firm.
  2. Respect from the Customer: The customer reciprocates with  similar respect to the salesperson.
  3. Improved Customer Engagement: You may be able to connect with the customer when you listen to his full name carefully. Almost a decade back, I was having a meeting with one Mr. Reginald Borges who was the GM at APW president then.  When enquired about his relationship with Dr. Ernest Borges he said, “ Happens to  be my distant uncle.” Incidentally Dr. Ernest Borges was a renowned  cancer surgeon at the Tata Memorial Hospital in whose memory a road ( at the beginning of a 2-km stretch in Parel) has been named.
  4. Higher Self-Esteem: Remember, in any business transaction, the customer also enjoys the benefits of the products over a long duration which can help a salesperson raise his  self-esteem.

Is there  anything wrong in addressing someone as Sir? Not at all- if you are meeting someone reverential, exceptionally talented or to whom you have great admiration and respect, please follow your natural instincts.

Barring the above exceptions, is it possible to inculcate  the Ritz Carlton philosophy while interacting with regular customers:  ‘Ladies and Gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen?’

P.S.To explore more such learning insights visit: Value-Selling for Premium Products and Solutions commencing on 11th January 2022

Behavioral Dynamics of Personal Selling

To understand the salespeople’s attitudes and beliefs towards salesmanship; a questionnaire used to be administered during the Sales Training program commencement. One of the questions said, ‘In a sales call who should talk more? Customer or the Salesperson?’ Majority of them voted for the latter. In a sample size of 285 participants, around 78% participants responded that they feel that they speak for 80% or more during a sales call.

The interesting part was the above statement was perceived by the group as a positive correlation to sales success.  When probed deeper about the reasons for dominating the conversations the answers given by the group were:

  1. To Engage with the customer
  2. To educate the customer.
  3. As I know more about my products, I have to talk more.
  4. To beat the competition.
  5. To close the order fast.
  6. As the time given by customer is very short, I have to speak as much as possible.

After taking the groups through a psychological process called Cognitive Dissonance, which is a gap between the beliefs and the reality,  the participants were shown that the above are apparent reasons and the real reasons why salespeople tend to dominate conversation is out of fear ( of rejection ) and the desperation to sell!

Let us try to understand the above language from a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) perspective. The language verbalized by the salespeople is not the reality but is the map of an  individual. The map is not the territory. The map is arrived at by three universal modelling processes which are Generalization, Deletion and Distortion. If there is a close approximation between the map and the territory then the salesperson is able to perform successfully in his given role.However with a great divergence, the perceptions will be flawed and he may not be able to achieve his quotas.

The above modelling processes have their validity and relevance in day -today life. However they may also create the problems depending on the context.

  1. Generalization: Generalization is the process by which elements or pieces of person’s model of the world become detached from their original experience and come to represent the entire category of which the experience is an example.* ( Leslie Cameron, Bandler 1985, p224) When a person has learnt a process, say of driving a car, he moves from unconscious incompetence to conscious competence. While coming out of the garage, he knows to put the reverse gear, turn the car, change the gear and put on the accelerator without looking down. In a way he need not have to learn the activities every time he drives the car. In a similar manner from a sales perspective, when an executive goes for a sales call, majority of the activities are common like introduction of the self and the company, ice breaking, understanding the client needs etc.

However the dysfunctional aspects of generalization happen when he goes through some setbacks when the self -talk revolves around the following statements: Today, you can sell only on price. Clients don’t respect my time. They buy only from competition.

  1. Deletion: Deletion is the process by which people selectively pay attention to certain aspects of their experience and exclude others. This allows them to focus the awareness and attend to one portion of their experience over others. This process makes coping possible and protects them from being overwhelmed by external stimuli *( Leslie Cameron – Richard Bandler 1985, p225)

Some of the examples of deletion are the ability to focus on a book in the drawing room when TV is blaring and children playing. Another example is when you are in a party with a group of people and you are talking to an important client over phone. The negative examples of deletion is self-talk by a Salesperson: John does not respect quality products.

  1. Distortion: Distortion is the process which allows people to make shifts in how they experience sensory data. Without this process, they could not plan for the future or dream into reality.

Positive Examples: fantasy allows a salesperson winning the Best Sales Performance Award which motivates him to push harder; abstract and surrealist paintings by Picassos and Dalis are other examples of distortion. The dysfunctional examples of distortion are:  A successful salesman in the past who is reprimanded for his abysmal performance in the last three quarters says, “I am perfect.”When he has lost order due to poor follow-up he says , “ that’s because the design department didn’t give me the specifications in time.”

From the above it can be observed that modelling processes discussed above are not good or bad per se. Generalization helps us from reinventing the wheel on a day-today basis, deletion helps to focus on important issues and distortion helps us to be creative.

Let us look at the number of categories where the salespeople can get into a self-defeating mode and the ways the seniors, mentors can help them come out of it.

Sr. No. Deviation Example (as verbalized by a Salesperson) Challenge (as perceived by the Sales Manager)
1. Simple Deletion I am tense About whom. what?
2. Comparative Deletion Competition offers better product and at a lesser price.  Better in what way? Price how much lesser?
3 Lack of referential index Their salesmen are trained. Who are they?
4 Cause and Effect I have lost orders because Dinesh from Pre-sales did not give the support. Have all the orders been lost because of Dinesh?

What about those orders which you have won?

Any body apart from Dinesh you can contact?

5 Presupposition I talk more because I know my products are better than my competitor. Does the customer buy because of your product or has he a problem to solve?
6 Mind Reading My manager does not like me.

Customer is biased towards competition

How do you know that?
7 Nominalization (Event to be converted into a process for more possibilities) I am a poor negotiator. Is it possible to improve your ability to negotiate?
8 Modal Operator of Necessity I have to achieve my quota this quarter. Can you choose to achieve your quota? (Less anxiety)
9 Modal Operator of Possibility I can’t share the LOST ORDER statement with my manager. What happens if you share? (worst-case scenario)

Instead of can’t what happens if you won’t?

10 Complex Equivalent Customer hates me… he yells at me. Are you sure his yelling means he is hating you?

It may be noted this is an indicative list to identify the mental roadblocks faced by the young salespeople. The sales manager or the HR manager is advised not to use the challenges in an indiscriminate manner; lest the damage may be caused to the young executive. An adequate amount of credibility and trust which needs to be created by the manager which will enable the executive to make the necessary behavioural changes in reaching the designated goals.

Rajan Parulekar , Paradigm Trainers Private Limited,  rajan@paradigm-info.com , 98450 14098