Do you smell popcorn?




How to invoke a pattern interrupt

Ok, there you are. You have completed your presentation and now you are ready to go for the close. You ask for the business and the client gives you a couple of standard objections. No problem, being the professional that you are, you reframe the objections and everything is going great. Your experience tells you that you have more than a good chance of closing this sale. The prospects love your offering.

And then it happens!

One client looks at the other and says "You know honey; I wish we would have seen this a year ago. Things were much better then. We just put that new deck in the back yard and it cost more than we thought."

Before you can interject though Bob chimes in; "That is true and I didn't even tell you about the transmission on the car. It's really acting up; we might have to replace it soon I don't know about this." 

Now your heart freezes! What should I do now? Before you can formulate a strategy Mary adds "Well, you know the kids are all starting the sports season again and we are going to be busy, maybe we wouldn't be able to use this." 

Now the momentum has clearly shifted. You can see the excitement the clients had for your offering begin to drain from their faces. The worst part is the feeling of helplessness that you have. It is like watching a train wreck and there is nothing you can do but sit and watch the carnage. 

At the Institute for Professional Influence, we identify this as "THE NEGATIVE TURN." switch flipped off 800 clr

Clearly, most sales professionals have experienced this pattern. Things are going well and then a subject comes up that triggers a negative spiral. The clients almost seem depressed and most, if not all, of the desire that you created vanishes. Eventually the clients ask for some time to talk alone. When you return, they politely say "Sorry, it's just not a good time right now." 

We have received many questions about what to do when a prospect begins to take "The negative turn." Many of our readers have wisely observed that generic sales training doesn't address this situation. PROFESSIONAL INFLUENCE recognizes this phenomion. Today you will discover a simple and easy way to handle the "negative turn" your clients sometimes take. 

CAN YOU RECALL? stickmanargument

Think back to a time when you got into a heated discussion with your spouse. Who are we kidding here? Let's call it what it was, an argument! Going back to that time now, you might recall the deep emotional state that you were in. You were passionate about making the other person hear what you had to say. They too had a firm resolve to prove you wrong. Things begin to escalate, the level of emotions was as high as they had ever been and then... 

The phone rings! 


Your conversation is interrupted. One of you picks up the phone and proceeds to handle the details of the phone call. After hanging up you look at the other person and say "What were we arguing about?" 

What was once an intense state has now been reduced to something of little importance? You might not even remember why you were mad. Even if you could remember, the intensity has decreased to almost nothing. 

We have all had similar experiences. In NLP this is referred to as a "pattern interrupt." Once something happens to interrupt the momentum of your emotional state, it then becomes harder to return to that state. 

The buying process will cause the prospect to experience several emotional states. This is a normal part of the process. As you go through the presentation the client will feel guarded and skeptical. Then they will experience curiosity and excitement as to your offering. Anytime we consider the idea of giving up some of our money, we will inevitably feel a sense of loss. It doesn't matter that you have built value, that sense of loss can lead to sadness and if left alone will create a negative momentum that will reverse all of the good work you had done up to that point. 


So what do you do? 

First, be aware that the "negative turn" exists. By doing so, you are in the top 1/10th of 1% of all sales people. Once identified then simply interrupt the pattern. One of the first pattern interrupts you will ever learn (at our NLP trainings) is also one of the most effective. Notice below how we interrupt the client's pattern and reverse the "negative turn." 

Professional Influencer: "Now that we have eliminated all of your concerns, let's get started with the paperwork." 

Mary: "You know honey; I wish we would have seen this a year ago. Things were much better then. We just put that new deck in the back yard and it cost more than we thought." 

Bob: "That is true and I didn't even tell you about the transmission on the car. It's really acting up; we might have to replace it soon. I don't know about this." 

Professional Influencer: (looking up and sniffing oddly at the air above him) "DO YOU SMELL POPCORN?"popcorn

Bob and Mary now begin sniffing at the air around them. 

Mary: "I don't think so." 

Bob: "I think I smell something." 

Professional Influencer: "Sometimes those guys in the back microwave popcorn and when they do it just permeates this room in no time." 

Professional Influencer: "Oh well, getting back to new model that you both like so much, the efficiency of this model is one of the things that I thought you were both the most excited about. Is that the biggest reason you are moving forward today?" 

Bob: "Yes, just like I said before efficiency is important and your new model certainly meets our criteria." 

Professional Influencer: "That makes sense. I got the feeling that you were most excited about that aspect. Let me get you started so that you two can begin enjoying it today."


Mick, does this really work? 

Absolutely, Positively without question! 

It is one of the most underutilized closing tools there is. The overwhelming majority of closers do not even know of its existence yet it remains one of the most powerful elements of persuasion. 

One of the best persuaders I have ever seen at closing the sale used to have a unique method of interrupting the client's pattern. He used to pretend that a bee had flown into the room. 

"How did a bee get in here?" 

He would get up and start swatting at the air. After creating a scene he would apologize and explain that he was allergic to bees. When other sales professionals would ask him why he would go through such great lengths to interrupt the client's pattern, he always responded the same way. "The bee strategy has worked 100% of the time for me. I am going to ride this all the way to the bank!" 

The Bee interrupt might be a bit obnoxious but he made a good point. 

For most of us, simply sniffing at the air and asking the client if they smell popcorn will be a sufficient pattern interrupt. 

As with every other technique that we teach in PROFESSIONAL INFLUENCE, there are more applications to this style of communication than just asking for the sale. PROFESSIONAL INFLUENCE is about influence and persuasion in all of its forms. 



The next time someone you know is deeply emotional about something, sniff at the air four or five times then ask them if they smell popcorn. It will be tough at first to keep a straight face but do so and notice the amazing results you get. 

Or perhaps, maybe the next time you are fighting with your spouse. Just saying!

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