It was a fine line....I will tell you what that line was in a moment.
Many years ago, in the mid 80's, I started to study NLP when NLP was very new. In fact Bandler and Grinder only created it in 1977! Little did I know that I would get my NLP qualification from Bandler 20 years later!
I was a salesman so NLP was something that I believed I needed in my armoury, and I was right. Interpersonal skills led to persuasion techniques and that was that. I was dangerous.
I was, by that time, a timeshare salesman. Many people you meet say they are great salespeople but, with no modesty required, I was the best. I still am. I am not being big headed, I am merely stating a fact.
I had a voice in my head telling me over and over again: I am the best at what I do.
Every time I looked in the mirror a voice in my head said: I can do it!
A Sunday newspaper, the News of the World, sent some journalists to the Costa del Sol in Spain, where I was working, to interview timeshare salespeople because so many holidaymakers were saying they had been tricked and cajoled into buying a dream which turned into a nightmare by fly by night, wide boy, liars...otherwise known as OPC's.
When the journalists arrived on the Costa these fly by night, wide boy, liars were on the streets with their scratch cards telling people they had won a prize and had to go to a 2 hour presentation to get it. Heaven help the OPC's if they strayed 'off patch' and started to stop tourists in an area deemed to belong to a rival company as that would mean 'the Clumpers' being sent out and all manner of mayhem with baseball bats and pick axe handles would ensue. Anyone poaching on another company's patch would be in hospital that evening. The money was big so the retribution was too.
I managed to avoid the Journalists. They wanted to interview me about my techniques as all the sales people pointed at me as the one who was very successful. Truth was that I was successful because I didn't sell it, I made people buy it. Others made such a desperate sales pitch that they decided to lie and claim all manner of things to get the person to sign the deal. They were giving the business a bad name and I wanted no part of it. I didn't want the connection and I didn't want my picture taken. Apart from a slightly blurry pic of me in Marbella wearing a white shell suit, leaning against a silver Lotus Esprit while on my mobile phone, which was a grey housebrick sized monstrosity (think Gordon Gekko Wall St 'money never sleeps Bud Fox' style) I escaped the press attention. It was a test drive car anyway (more later on that).
At the presentation they would be told all of the benefits of timeshare ownership and given the chance to buy a couple of weeks in the sun by a very slick salesman. I was that salesman. I didn't appear very slick. I didn't appear manipulative. I didn't 'ooze charm from every pore and oil my way across the floor' either. I was confident, capable, assured, knowledgeable, friendly. I made them feel at ease and then made them feel that this was the right thing to do. It never took long for them to start to think, 'I like this guy, he is just like me'. In fact, I made them buy from me rather than me sell to them.
I had worked for 8 different timeshare operations because I came as a team. I had 5 people who worked the streets with the scratchcards. These were my OPC’s (Off Premises Canvassers) or "Outside People Catchers" as I liked to call them and brought the potential clients to my Qualifier who asked all the right questions to ensure that I wasn't wasting my time by talking with them. From the initial grab on the street, in to the Marketing suite and then back to their hotel would take a little over 3 hours maximum. At the end of it they would have signed a contract worth between £3000 and £8000 (remember-this is the mid 80's) and I would have earned £1500 minimum from the deal and I did that once or twice a day 5 days a week for three years.
I got really good at reading people. I knew exactly what I was going to say to whoever came in and it was based on how they reacted to me, what they did inside the marketing suite, how they interacted with each other and how they spoke.
I didn't tell them what they wanted to hear. I didn't lie and I didn't pressure them. I told them what I wanted them to hear...but in a manner that they wanted to hear it in. I used the same predicates, tone of voice, pace, pitch as they did and some, though not all, of their mannerisms.
After a few months I came back to the UK and continued at the Company Headquarters in London's
I continued to sell timeshare even though the villas and apartments were over a thousand miles away. It became apparent that people set time aside to watch the presentation and incorporated it into a day trip to London. Once they had received a mailshot telling them they had 'won a prize and that all they had to do was come to Leicester Square etc...etc' they were very relaxed. It was different to Spain where one of the OPC's would grab a family covered in suntan lotion and sand on their way from the beach to their hotel who wanted nothing more than a shower who, instead, sat listening to me for two hours. In Spain they could walk around the complex of apartments. They could stand on the balconies, they could touch the walls, they could test how soft the beds were. In London it really was a dream...an idea...a set of photographs in a book...but I still maintained my sales record.
Was my skill only for use in Time Share or Sales? I didn't know? I started to think about it after I made £6400 in one day and other sales people and Managers were asking me to teach them my 'tricks'.
I remembered being three months behind with the rent on my apartment when I had first arrived in Spain (before I started buying) and convincing the landlord to write it off.
I remembered opening an account at a major high street bank and getting a £25000 overdraft facility even though I had only opened the account with £20.
I remembered taking Lotus and Ferrari sports cars for 5 day test drives instead of the usual 40 mins max. One of them I drove back to the UK for a week and then took it back to Spain.
I remembered going to a major bank and negotiating a business account before I left for Spain that included a £10,000 bank loan. I remember the conversation in the Managers office very clearly:
Bank Manager: 'How will you make the monthly repayments in the first six months?'
Me: 'That will be no problem. There will be £10,000 in the account.
Bank Manager: 'But that's the money WE will put in.'
Bank Manager: 'So you are suggesting that we pay ourselves?'
Me: 'Can you think of a safer arrangement? You are hardly likely to default yourself.'
When he laughed and said 'Well I can't fault your logic but it is unorthodox' I knew I had the money....
It suddenly occurred to me that I was walking a very thin line. It would be so simple to step over the line and become a fraudster. If I had been inclined that way I would have been a very dangerous person.
I met a Fraudster once who had accumulated a large amount of money by conning people. He was so far behind me on the scale of persuasion and manipulation I could NOT believe how he had done it. Nerve most likely. He had decided, after meeting the love of his life, to 'go straight' and started work at HOE in Leicester Square selling timeshare. That was his idea of 'straight'. He couldn't hack it and left after a month. He was quite proud and open about his criminal past and it was a surprise to me that HOE had no reticence in recruiting criminals, even if they were 'Ex' ones.
A few years later I was diagnosed, after being analysed by a psychiatrist friend for fun, as some kind of unfathomable genius. I could mind-hack someone and intercept and decode the psychological DNA of their free will. The light switches of my brain were wired very differently and my neural meteorology was unpredictable.
But WHAT had I discovered through my training and my experiences? I had discovered where the brain's pressure points were, where people's blind spots are....
To be continued...