In this three-column series on using rapport-building techniques to improve financial health, we discussed the principles of neurolinguistic programming, including the primary representational systems—visual, auditory and kinesthetic—we use to interpret our environment and to communicate with each other. We also reviewed the way that eye movements, body language, voice quality and choice of language signal these preferred systems. Mirroring another person’s communication style creates comfort, and people do business with people they like. With a little practice, anyone can learn to do what the born salesperson does without thinking.


In this final column of the series, we “unpack” the strategy a person uses for a specific behavior and replay it to create rapport. Whenever we learn to do something, such as driving a car or sending a text message, we develop a series of specific steps and repeat the strategy each time we engage in that same behavior. Let’s use the example of unpacking a customer’s buying strategy.


We start by asking questions to guide the customer through a replay of a past buying situation. You might ask, “Can you tell me about the last time you worked with an electrical contractor and were completely satisfied with the result?” While your customer hunts for the memory, he will be doing a “transderivational search” through his mind to locate the experience. When he has found the memory, he will go “into state” and signal it physically; you might see his body shifting, the expression in his eyes changing, or alterations in breathing, for example. He may say something like, “It was the project five years ago … .”


Now, you ask, “What was the very first thing that made you want to work with that company? Was it something you saw? Something they said? Or something you felt or sensed?” Let’s say your customer answers by saying, “I remember seeing examples of their work, and it looked perfect.” You now have the first step in the buying strategy. He needs a visual criterion.


You continue with, “After you saw the work, what was the next thing you remember that made you want to choose that company? Was it something else you saw, something they said or a feeling you had about the company?” The customer responds, “I felt I could trust them.” Now you have the second step in the strategy: a kinesthetic, or feeling, criterion.


You continue the questioning and find that the third response is another visual criterion. You now have a three-step buying strategy of visual-kinesthetic-visual, or V-K-V. Technically, strategies can have many more steps, but three are sufficient for creating the playback. Psychologists have learned that one of the most powerful tools for creating change in people is storytelling, and you will tell a story using your customer’s strategy. You use the same context (V-K-V) but change the content.


You begin by showing him photos of a project you have performed and pointing out how it looked (the visual). Then, you empathize with how important it is for you to have your clients’ trust and relate a testimonial that captures the feeling (kinesthetic) that a customer had after working with your company. Finally, you create a picture for your customer so that he imagines the completed project after he hires you (visual). You have now played back the V-K-V strategy. Like knowing the combination to a secret vault, you have created the rapport that opens the opportunity for the sale.


At first, this method might seem complicated. Practice with friends, new acquaintances, your children, or among your colleagues at a meeting or social event. Simply ask about a time when the person had a positive experience—at a job, in a relationship, on vacation—and work on identifying three steps and replaying the visual, auditory or kinesthetic portions of the strategy using a new context (creating a new story of your own). With practice, you will find that you can blather on about almost anything. The details of your story are less important than the use of specific words that relate to the senses of sight (visual), hearing (auditory) or touch/feeling/emotion (kinesthetic) and the order in which the steps of the strategy are replayed.


As you practice, analyze your own strategies, and you will become aware of the criteria you use for your own behaviors. If you pay attention and use these techniques frequently, you will notice changes in your relationships over time. Incorporate rapport building into your training program, and the relationships between your employees, customers and suppliers will improve. Making money will follow naturally when you create rapport in your business relationships, and your family and friends will appreciate how comfortable you make them feel.


For more information, read “Instant Rapport” by Michael Brooks, or look for workshops and other resources related to neurolinguistic programming.