Simple Strategies To Elicit Criteria

In the last newsletters nlp1.html  and nlp2.html we demonstrated why certain NLP techniques don't work in print and the one thing you MUST do to get these patterns to explode your conversion rates. In nlp3.html we introduced the concept of criteria which we will expand upon.

Milton Erickson the legendary hypnotherapist used to say, "You are as unique as your fingerprints."  As copywriters, we need to keep in mind our readers are unique and no two are alike.

Yet, we would be foolish to ignore significant patterns and anyone operating in a niche can easily discover the dominant criteria in their niche. 


Never ever assume you really know the criteria of your prospects unless you have extensively spent time with them.  This could be the most costly mistake you ever make.  This is one aspect of what John Carlton calls the "sales detective" work.

Hierarchy of criteria are important because very often one value we hold deeply is subordinate to another.  For example, for many people personal safety and security is a high value.  And if a robber asks these folks for their wallet, they'd hand it over in a second because personal safety and security is a higher value than their wallets.

Unlike the old Jack Benny routine when the robber comes up to Benny and says, "You're money or your life" and Jack is silent.  When the robber repeats his demand Jack Benny replies, "I'm still thinking about it."

For the passengers on United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 saving others took precedence over saving their own lives as they tried to take back the plane from hijackers.  Under certain circumstances, your values may differ.

The One Question You Need To Ask...

Here it is.  Pay attention:

What's Important To You About _____________________

Someone calls me up about a copy job. After the preliminaries I ask:

What's important to you about this sales letter?

And I'll wait to hear their answer.  There's a whole bunch of answers I could get.  Here's one typical scenario.

"I want this sales letter to make a lot of money."

To which I'll respond.  "Fantastic.  I'm sure it will.  Just so I understand you better.  What's important to you about this letter making a lot of money?"

I give him feedback on what he said and than I attempt to find a higher level criteria.

"My wife will stop nagging me and telling me I'm a failure."

I laughed as I responded, "Boy I sure know about that one.  So what's important to you about your wife not nagging you and telling you that you're a failure?"

He thought for a second and said, "Then I'd know I was a success."

I thought I might be done and his highest level of criteria was "being a success" but I decided to test my work.

"So what's important to you about being a success?"

His answer came in a moment, "Then I could feel really good about myself."


There's the top criteria.  If you want to sell this guy, you've got to push his hot button which is... feeling really good about yourself.

You might want to do it like this, "so as you begin to think about applying the principles of NLP in print to your copy, perhaps you'll think of using them in the next sales letter you write.  And I wonder if you can imagine the voice of excitement as your client calls to tell you about the response your letter received and you begin to feel really good about yourself."

In Response To Your Questions

Zachary Romero - a really great copywriter in his own right - asked, how many times should you use a person's criteria in your copy.

A simple answer, every time you want them to make a decision, use their criteria.  Always future pace using their criteria.

Because if you can make someone feel really good, you will reach through the letter and build incredible rapport.  Enough rapport in fact to really make a sale.

Duncan noted that when it came to sales if you hadn't gotten the criteria, your chances of making the sale was zilch.  So my response is always open up your discussion with the criteria question.

Darrel pointed out the power of criteria in real life situations and vowed to study this pattern further.

Tanna said, "I need more of this." Patience.  I'm trying to download decades of NLP in Print into these messages.

Dave reports, "This stuff is pure gold."

I think we'll have to put off changing criteria until next time.

But who picked up on the sneaky stuff I did in this email?

Let me know!  Boy you have to watch out for this guy Kilstein.  Next thing you know you'll be reaching for your...

Feedback welcomed.  Just click reply on the email I sent you!

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Harlan Kilstein