Opening the Toolbox – NLP in Business

NLP or Neuro-Linguistic Programming has been fundamental to my success. I was trained and certified to teach NLP at the highest level by the founder of NLP, Richard Bandler. Now I use these skills as an executive coach and sales-training expert in San Diego. Here’s my story, and how NLP can help you achieve your business goals.


Relationships: The Only Moat That Counts

In today’s business environment, it’s important to take any competitive advantage you can get. Cutting costs, streamlining production, adopting technology to optimize efficiency. We all know these work. But there’s a problem. These strategies are easy to copy. To use the business term, there’s no moat.  

But there is one thing your competition can never copy: your relationship with your customer. This means the biggest advantage you can get is to know how to build effective relationships.

And chances are, you’re already doing this. We meet people we seem to ‘click’ with instantly. We have friends we don’t speak to for months and one call later we’re chatting like we only spoke yesterday!

But what about the tough relationships? The ones where we don’t seem to connect. The ones that start off shaky. For these, we have to be more conscious. We have to actively listen, communicate our ideas precisely, and empathize to understand the other’s needs.

This is where NLP comes in. NLP gives practitioners the tools they need to build effective relationships that last.


What is NLP?

NLP is based on the premise that our cognitive, emotional, and behavioral faculties (i.e. habits) can be programmed by external stimuli. Usually, this programming happens unconsciously.

Out of our habitual tendencies, we might ignore our partner, scowl at our neighbor, or smile at the barista. In our day-to-day we may not notice the subtle outcomes, but these actions have impacts. Sometimes these impacts are serious, and often they’re immediate.

And the truth is most of us are already very good at intuiting what reactions we’d likely receive. We know that ignoring our partner or scowling at the neighbor will bring up feelings of ill-will. We know that smiling at the person serving you coffee will brighten their morning. In fact, we all use our intuition every day.

And this intuitive faculty is a large part of what NLP is. By consciously training our brains (and bodies) to respond in desired ways, we can create positive communication habits that serve our goals and our relationships.


How I Learned NLP

I first learned about NLP during a six-day course while working at Intel. It felt very natural to me, like something I’ve always done. My boss even told me I didn’t need the course. He said, this is already you!

At the same time, I was getting my MBA, and beginning to think about what topic I would write on for my 25,000-word dissertation. I had no ideas, but I knew I needed to pick something that interested me. Otherwise, 25,000 words just wouldn’t be sustainable.

Somehow, fate aligned. I walked into my first lecture to learn it was on NLP. I loved how applicable the communication skills were to sales. I was hooked.

I left the lecture hall and announced to my colleagues my dissertation would be on NLP and sales. This led me on a journey, studying NLP across the hemispheres. This included:

  • Training in San Diego, which certified me as an NLP Master Practitioner.
  • Studying hypnosis in Scotland with Richard Bandler himself.
  • Studying under Richard Bandler again (this time in London) to be certified as an NLP Trainer. This qualified me to teach and
    certify NLP at the highest level.

Since then, I’ve used the tools I learned in every aspect of my life. It’s been fundamental to my success. I feel it was naturally a part of me, but once I learned how to manage and control it, how to harness the skills more purposefully, it meant that as a sales leader, sales expert, coach, and mentor, I use the skills all the time.


Rapport and Why You Need It

I often say NLP is like anything else. Done well, it’s an invaluable asset. Done poorly, the results are less than desired.

But when top business schools start incorporating NLP into their Master’s Degree Coaching and Behavioral program, it’s easy to see NLP has a place in any toolbox.

And, just like any tool, knowing when and how to use it is key.

One such tool is rapport. Rapport precedes any relationship, which makes it very important. Building rapport gives you: Trust, Understanding, Appreciation, and Commonality, which are the seeds of any relationship. Rapport is about presenting yourself in a way that subconsciously appeals to others.

Rapport is NOT about manipulation. It’s about motivation. The difference here is authenticity.


Rapport and How to Build It

One thing we often hear about is mirroring and matching. It’s important not to mistake this for mimicking. Start slowly, and begin by mirroring only one thing at a time. If they’re smiling, you smile. If they’re looking at you, look at them. If they look relaxed, you look relaxed.

But again, BE AUTHENTIC. If it seems like your copying them, they’ll pick up on this and rapport will be very hard to build.

Along with body language, it’s also important to echo the type of vocabulary the use. For example, they may say:

  •     I like the look of this, or
  •     This sounds like a good idea, or
  •     This feels like the right thing to do.

These three phrases mean the same thing, but each uses a different emphasis, and this gives you a clue.

The first phrase is visual, the second auditory, and the third kinesthetic. If you begin using similar language (i.e. visual, auditory, or kinesthetic), it helps to build rapport.

But language and body language isn’t where it ends. Because NLP works on many levels, including biological, one of the quickest and most effective ways to build rapport is to match the person’s breathing. This is why keynote speakers come onstage to music.

Music has a rhythm. That rhythm gets people to breathe at the same tempo. When the speaker comes on and speaks in the same tempo, the speaker and audience are all breathing as one, and rapport is born.


A Place in the Toolbox

NLP is a valuable asset to hold in the toolbox. It isn’t about taking a course or becoming a coach, it’s about having the tools and techniques you need to be more effective at everything you do.

For me, it all boils down to sales. And sales is about communicating with people over email, the phone, and face-to-face; So whatever you can do to increase the effectiveness of your relationships, will increase the effectiveness of your bottom line.

And the beauty of NLP is you don’t have to become a master practitioner to get the benefits. Begin bringing awareness to your communication habits (and those of others) today, and you can start building relationships that serve you and your goals.  

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NLP is a communication tool to help you build more effective business relationships



Chris Stock

Chris Stock is one of the world’s leading sales experts. He is founder of the Business Institute for Growth based in San Diego. BIG supports entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises grow their business, through growth expertise, know-how and strategic vision.

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