5 Ways the FBI Can Help You Sell More

Be More Aware and Be More Persuasive

Ever wonder how an FBI negotiator can start a conversation that ends with a desperate, armed criminal giving up peacefully? That’s got to be one of the most challenging sales jobs ever!

On today’s show discover:

  • … how you can use FBI negotiation strategies to make better connections with your customers;
  • … ways to communicate that help guide your customer to make the best decision
  • … and how to be more persuasive on the sales floor.

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I recently read an interesting article about an ex-FBI agent, Mark Goulston, who is taking his experiences as a negotiator and applying proven techniques he’s learned to business….they also translate really well to sales! I wanted to share them with you today…so let’s get right into it.   

Tip #1 Get them to talk.  

So the first thing you need to do as an FBI negotiator is to get them to talk. (sound familiar?….it should because that’s critically important in sales too!)

When your customer is talking they’re involved and more apt to self-discover their need for your product or service. When you’re doing all the talking….customers can tune-out or worse feel like they’re just being told what to do. (and most people don’t like being told what to do.)  

Tip # 2, Actively listen and pay attention to the adjectives and adverbs your customer uses.

woman talking to customersIn the article, Mark explains that when customer’s use adjectives or adverbs it indicates something their emotionally invested in. It’s important to them.

For example:

  • If someone says “I have a job” – the job may not be that important to them
  • on the other hand if someone said “I have a fantastic job” – it means more and indicates something you may want to “key in on” during your conversation.

A good follow up would be… “Tell me more about this fantastic job you have.”

So during your customer interactions pay close attention to the way your customer’s communicating and pick up on how they say what they say….

Here some examples:

  • one customer may say “I have pain and I get a terrible night’s sleep”
  • while another one says “I have excruciating pain and I’m not sleeping at night”

Both have similar issues but one considers the excruciating pain to be the biggest problem while the other considers the terrible night’s sleep to be their main concern.  

When you discover what’s really important and go back to it, it can cause your customer to open up to you at a deeper level. “The more they open up to you, the more invested they’ll be in hearing what you have to say.” Good for persuading a bank robber to do the right thing and good for persuading your customer to make the right choice.

Tip #3 Vary the types of questions you use.

Clearly we know how important open ended , tie-downs and even closed ended questions are in sales. But one type of question you may not be using regularly but should is a  “fill in the blank” style question. Mark suggests sprinkling these into your conversation as you vary the types of questions you ask. The reason?

“When you ask someone a question, you trigger an unconscious flashback to a time where they may have been put on the spot by a teacher, parent, or coach, and you create a syntactical ‘you versus me’ disconnect,” by occasionally utilizing a “fill in the blank” style approach you’re inviting your customer into the sentence with you and encouraging a more collaborative feeling.

“So, when you’re able to resolve this back pain, it will have the biggest impact on…. ”

Tip #4 is to work to trigger positive flashbacks rather than negative ones.

Everything you say and do can subconsciously remind your customer of situations in their past. Positive ones or not so positive ones. If your customer associates you, your question, or your request with something good, they’re more likely to comply.

Imagine the difference between a salesperson who subconsciously reminds customers about all the products they’ve tried that didn’t work vs. one who says things that remind customers of the success they’ve had.

Here’s a great example: “If it doesn’t work…just send it back” saying something like this will most likely trigger negative flashbacks. Instead saying something like “we’re so confident you’re going to love your results we give you a 30 day guarantee”… can trigger more positive past experiences.

Tip #5 Be a plusser not a topper….

Be a plusserIn sales, you want your customer to feel smart and important. A plusser actively listens to what their customer is saying and adds to it. A topper is someone who responds in such a way that they steer the conversation back to themselves or to top what the other person is saying.

A topper makes the customer feel less important where a plusser makes the customer feel more important. Here’s an example:

If a customer says “I’m really interested in losing about 30 pounds”

a topper might say “I did this program and lost 15 pounds which for me was good I didn’t need to lose that much”

a plusser might say “great, you’re interested in losing about 30 pounds, that’s a fantastic goal and something that is very realistic. You made a great decision to call in today.”


You may never have to convince a bank robber to give himself up but using these techniques to be more aware of your communication and persuasive in sales can have a positive impact on your career….and that’s something you can bank on.


  • Get them to talk.
  • Pay attention to the adjectives and adverbs they use
  • Vary the types of questions you use
  • Trigger positive flashbacks
  • Be a plusser not a topper

Today’s one two punch

Be More Aware and Be More Persuasive

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