Sales Ploys That Backfire

I started my selling career in high school. I sold door-to-door for Fuller Brush and a local cable television company. In college, I sold Grolier encyclopedias. Each of these sales positions involved “cold calling.” It was basically a form of human spamming: I called on people I didn’t know, who had not indicated an interest in the product, at times that were inconvenient for them. It was brutal work.

A Man’s Hand on Brass Door Knocker - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/KenTannenbaum, Image #6975278

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/KenTannenbaum

Thankfully, my dad kept encouraging me: “Son, it’s a numbers game. Every time someone says ‘no,’ you are that much closer to a ‘yes.’ Just be faithful to make your calls, and you will be successful.” He was right.

Over time, I got pretty good at it. In fact, when I was a senior in college and newly married, I took a job as a telephone sales rep for a local publishing company. I made more money working part-time than my wife, Gail, was making full-time as a teacher. As a result, I have always held selling in high esteem.

My own experience has served me well through the years. After all, nearly every job involves some form of selling. Consequently, I am always sympathetic to honest sales people. I try to give them an opportunity to be heard.

But as the current recession has worn on, I have noticed that an increasing number of sales people are resorting to dishonesty to secure appointments with their prospects. This dishonors the profession. Cold calling is one thing. Deceit is another.

While my assistant screens out 99% of these, these deceitful ploys usually take one of eight forms:

  1. “I’m an old friend.” This is almost always from a person I have never met. Occasionally, it is someone I met briefly. Somewhere. However, based on this approach, they make it seem that we are or were close personal friends.
  2. “I am returning his call.” This is supposed to make it sound like I took the initiative, and they are simply being responsive. Being forgetful, I sometimes rack my brain, wondering if I, in fact, did call them.
  3. “I have an appointment.” This usually happens on the hour or half-hour, so the sales person can say, “Hi, I’m calling for my 9 o’clock phone appointment with Michael.” With as much as I have going on, it sometimes does cause us to check my calendar.
  4. “It is important that you return my call.” Several years ago, someone called from my local police department and left a message. They said that it was urgent, and that I should call them back immediately. Naturally, it scared me. When I called back, I discovered it was a salesperson raising money for a police-affiliated charity. I have received several versions of this over the last few years.
  5. “I need to speak with you about a confidential matter.” I suppose this appeals to people’s curiosity. You don’t really know if it’s real unless you call back. I can’t think of a single time it was legitimate. The only people who call me with confidential information are people I know.
  6. “This is the third message I have left you.” Mostly I get these messages via email. There is an underlying sense of entitlement that I find disturbing. I refuse to let emails and calls from people I don’t know create an obligation on my part. I especially refused to be shamed by someone who feels entitled.
  7. “[Our mutual friend] asked me to give you a call.” Occasionally, I have bit on this ploy out of respect for my friend. However, my real friends almost always give me a heads up before I hear from a sales person. If they don’t, I have learned to double-check.
  8. “You have won first place.” I am amazed at how many awards are created and given just for the sake of selling you the award or an advertisement. I actually received a message like this as I was writing this post! It is especially suspicious when you have never heard of the award or you have to pay to get it.

I always find it refreshing when someone is just straight-up honest. How about this?

Mr. Hyatt, I know you are busy. You don’t know me from Adam. I don’t expect you to take my call unsolicited. However, I am going to email you some information about an opportunity that might be right for your company. If it’s not, please just delete it and forgive the intrusion. If it is of interest, I would be grateful for 10 minutes of your time to discuss it further. I promise, I won’t take longer than that unless you decide this is something you want to pursue.”

Sales is an honorable profession, especially when it is built on a foundation of integrity. Great sales people—those who build an enduring reputation—don’t compromise their integrity just to get an appointment.

Question: What ploys have you experienced? Better yet, what approach would you recommend to honest sales people who are trying to make a living?
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  • http://www.linda-adams.com Linda

    Not realizing when you haven't made the sale and stopping. I've known two people who were marketers, and they were always on. Both wanted me to do something they needed. In #1, the guy had promised someone else something he shouldn't have promised; in #2, the marketer was trying to convince everyone his writing process was the only way to write a novel. Granted, they weren't cold calling to sell a product, but they were fully in sale mode to get what they needed.

    In #1, I outright said no because what he wanted was plain silly. IFor #2, I politely deferred that the process didn't work for me and that I had my own. It should have stopped there because I had said no. But neither one did. I was getting five minute marketing spiels on my voice mail to take one word off a website from #1. #2 marketed me for his process every chance he got. Both tried to make their sale multiple times, and once they realized the sale was happening, the tone changed. #1 panicked out of desperation; #2 started picking fights. We were able to end the first one by showing #1 how silly the whole thing was; the friendship broke up on the second one. Throughout that one, the person insisted he wasn't marketing, so he apparently missed all the signs that he wasn't selling.
    My recent post Slaying the Synopsis

  • http://gracefreakdan.wordpress.com Dan Rockwell

    Michael,

    One day long ago, I received a call from a "contest." It was a version of #8. I had to tell them how many home runs Hank Aaron hit. (I can't remember now) It turned out to be a sales call. I felt like a kid who just dropped an ice cream cone.

    Manipulators ruin it for everyone. Unfortunately, one bad apple does spoil the who barrel.

    I've gotten over bristling at legitimate sales calls but I'll never get over my "dropped the ice cream moment."

    I like the technique publisher's use. After sending a review copy they send a follow up email or, about a week later, they call. I appreciate the service.

    Regards,

    Leadership Freak
    Dan Rockwell

    My recent post A world of mini-me’s

    • http://www.facebook.com/jdhibbard Doug Hibbard

      Not that you're concerned about it now…but he hit 755 in his career.

      Doug

  • http://twitter.com/emuelle1 @emuelle1

    #8 is similar to the tactic I hear most: "You have been selected to receive a special offer!" Right, more likely I've been targeted to receive a sales pitch. This is like the time my family "won" a "free" cruise. It would only cost $750 per person as a registration fee. I told the telemarketer to get lost.

    I got a call one morning from a guy from our old church that never really talked to me. His wife ignores my wife, and their daughter hit our son a couple of times during Sunday School. He was "thinking" of me and wanted to invite me to a presentation. He got into a new business opportunity and blah, blah, blah. It's apparently some MLM based around telecommunications. He made a big deal out of some videoconferencing equipment they had. Big deal. I have a netbook with Google Video Chat installed if I really want to videoconference. He also talked about some great deals they had on cell phones. I told him I'm not likely to replace my iPhone anytime soon and I'm not convinced that any phone out there can deliver a comparable user experience. I thanked him for "thinking" of me and wished him the best.
    My recent post Why Are Job Descriptions So Poorly Written?

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  • http://www.ricksmith.me RickSmithAuthor

    I sold door-to-door in college for The Southwestern Company. Most formative job of my life.

    Rick
    My recent post Countdown to Launch…

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      They are a great company. I know so many leaders who got their training from The Southwestern Company. Thomas Nelson’s Varsity program was very similar.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/joannamuses joanna

    A common one with sales people here is "Now maam, we aren't trying to sell you anything…..we have a wonderful opportunity for you…….." followed by a sales pitch that involves something being sold.

    "You are one of 10 lucky winners out of everyone in the whole country" following this one we text messaged friends in the area and found 11 "lucky winners" in our area alone.

    "Thank you for your donation to us of $100 last year." Do you wish to donate again?" from a charity we had absolutely never donated to (and had no intention to). I think they were hoping that we wouldn't listen closely to the name and just assume it was one we already supported.
    My recent post Free Mark Driscoll audiobook

  • Geoff Webb

    I've experienced this increase lately as well. I've actually gotten:

    "Hi, is Pam there?"
    "No, we don't have any 'Pam' working here."
    "Oh, well I was calling to see if you'd be interested in…"

    I was off the phone so fast I don't even know what he was selling. Maybe this is #7 – only he made up my friend "Pam."

    My advice to anyone who sells (and we all sell something) is this: You have to care more about meeting the other person's need than selling whatever you've got. Sometimes this means walking away from a potential sale. Sometimes it means sending them to a competitor.

    In the end you'll build relationships and your integrity…and word will get around.
    My recent post Leading like Michelangelo

  • http://twitter.com/christianDVD @christianDVD

    I've experienced almost all of those in just one year as a decision maker about where we're going to advertise our site. As sales is becoming a bigger and bigger part of my job, I'm sincerely interested in hearing the comments.

    I do have to say that I'm curious how you would have responded if your boss at your college sales job had told you that you have to use one or more of these tactics. I'm afraid that many use these sorts of tactics because they're told by their sales manager that they have to.
    My recent post Letters To God, Coming Soon

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I would have resigned. I would not compromise my integrity for the sake of a job. If you don't draw the line on small things, you won't be ale to do it on big things.

      • http://twitter.com/christianDVD @christianDVD

        I wish I'd had that kind of character when I was 20.
        My recent post Letters To God, Coming Soon

      • http://twitter.com/abbylive @abbylive

        Great point!
        My recent post remain

        • http://twitter.com/abbylive @abbylive

          (That was, great point in reply to Michael!) :)
          My recent post remain

  • http://www.themotherlode.wordpress.com Theresa Lode

    The ones that REALLY are when they call my CELL PHONE (on my dime) and then it’s a recorded message telling me to “Stay on the line for an important message.”

    I found myself thinking twice about engaging a service of a non profit because I knew doing so would allow them free reign to call me to solicit funds since any transaction exempts them from the “Do Not Call” registry.

    Or who about the clerks in the Cool Springs Galleria that swoop down on you (when you’re walking by) hawking perfume and trinkets. Grrrr!

    Stepping down from my soap box now…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/success2you John Richardson

    I think we all can relate to this post, Michael. The big lie I've experienced lately is a cell phone call about my car's warranty expiring. I think they finally caught the perps that were doing that one, but it really makes you think twice about taking any cell phone call where you don't recognize the number.

    I have found in sales that building personal relationships with people is key. They have to trust you and your product. I always thought it would be easy to be a Toyota salesman. Hey… they have the most reliable cars in the world. That may just be the hardest job in the world now, after the numerous recalls.

    I also don't like to use the word "free" when talking about my product. In fact I usually don't like to talk about price at all. Selling on price is almost always a losing proposition. There is always someone willing to sell an item or widget cheaper.

    The best way I've found to secure repeat sales is to go out of your way to offer quality and service above and beyond what your competition does. Solve your customer's "problem" and you'll have a customer for life.

    The Fuller Brush Motto still holds true today… TO BE…AND TO GIVE
    OUR VERY BEST.
    My recent post What Do You Want In An iBook?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

    I have learned to not be gullible. Any time someone calls me to sell anything, I say I'm not interested and I hang up. I am not interested in just buying things–my house is overflowing with stuff now. I am not looking to win any contests and I don't want to get rich quick. So, I am a poor sales prospect.

    When I need to buy something, I go to the internet and start checking around. I pay attention to what other consumers are saying and read as much information about the product that I can find. Then I make my decision.

    I think one of the biggest problems today is not necessarily the sales pitch as it is poor quality of what is being sold. If I venture out into the world of sales with my book and related products, my goal is that what I offer has value and will help people.
    My recent post #30 BECOMING A SON OF GOD: THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (2)

  • http://Www.gofbw.com Joni Hannigan

    I couldn’t agree more on not compromising iif you are told to use questionable sales ploys. As a member of the board of trustees for a college, I will say however, I would hope someone would also be alerted to this sort of unsavory activity for the purpose of protecting the reputation of the school. The same applies for any company, business or ministry one cares about. Get involved! We all like to know how we are represented.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Joni, good point. We really have a duty to know how we are represented.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/TravisRobertson Travis Robertson

    Great post, Michael! Having done business development and sales for a number of years, I've used a very similar method as the one you recommend.

    Unfortunately, cold prospecting has received a bad reputation. However, it's a great way to inform people of a product or service who may not have heard about it previously.

    At the end of the day, I know that my job is to build and nurture relationships with my prospects, partners and clients. LIke any relationship, that requires honesty and integrity.

    Cheers!
    Travis Robertson

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MichaelSGray MichaelSGray

    I find that pyramid schemers are typically the most deceptive. I just laid into a good friend of mine last week for ambushing me with a sales presentation (complete with PowerPoint, pie-in-the-sky promises of incomes of more than $44,000 per month, and even Glen-the-supervisor sitting in on our conversation). I thought we were just going to have a chat about his new job, and I got sold. The supervisor even had the audacity to tell me that if I took some time to pray about it, God would show me that this is a great opportunity for me and my family. When did prophecy become a sales tactic?

    As it happens, I think your sample sales pitch is perfect. Who wouldn't give someone with an honest approach like that a few minutes of their time?

    My recent post Custom Wallpapers

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

      Back in the 1980's we got caught in a couple of pyramid schemes. That's when I decided I did not want to get rich quick. I could not justify making money at someone else's expense. When I make decisions and take actions, I try to remember to think about the effects of what I decide and do, especially the effects on other people. I want to add value to their lives, not take things away from them.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I remember someone once saying to me, “If you want to get rich, then you need to …” I responded, “But what if I don’t want to get rich? Honestly, I don’t have any interest in that.” It floored them. They didn’t know what to say.

      • http://michaelsgray.com Michael Gray

        Ha! Your response was not in his script, and it required him to actually engage you as a person — a much more challenging sales method.

        This makes me think of Seth Godin’s book. What would make me happier: working my rear off to get rich or> creating art that impacts the lives of others? The tide of motivation is changing…

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

        Some of my go-to verses are Proverbs 30:8 & 9:

        "Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion,

        That I not be full and deny You and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God."

        My life is not found in what I possess, but in God's absolute love expressed through Christ.
        My recent post #30 BECOMING A SON OF GOD: THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (2)

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/joannamuses joanna

      People who imply God's approval to their questionable schemes, acting as though what they are selling is somehow christian or godly make me particularly angry. I consider it close to blasphemy to use God's name to sell a product or scheme that in reality has not much to do with him, especially when it is a questionable or illegitimate scheme or product they are selling. I doubt God is impressed with a lot of the schemes that have the label Christian slapped on them.

      As for your case Michael, did you rebuke him for being a false prophet? He certainly deserved it!
      My recent post Free Mark Driscoll audiobook

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/MichaelSGray MichaelSGray

        Oh yes, Glen-the-supervisor got an earful from me about that. :)

  • http://www.thekelsogroup.com Kris Kelso

    We once had an "in-home" salesperson come to our house to offer some food product (legitimately referred by a friend). After the entire presentation, we said we'd like to think about it for a day or two. He told us that if we didn't sign up right then, the company would have to send an entirely different salesperson to us the next time. They did not allow the same salesperson to make a follow-up call or visit.

    That pretty much settled it for me. I decided that either the salesperson was trying to pressure me, or the company really did have that kind of ridiculous customer-unfriendly policy. Either way, I was not going to do business with them.

  • http://www.yuzzi.com Rick Yuzzi

    I've also been on both sides of the phone, and it's a tough business. The hardest part is getting through the gatekeeper to the decision maker, so I'm sure that's why some resort to deception or outright lying. When I was in sales, my tactic was to get to know the gatekeeper. It would take several calls, but my job was to convince him or her that I had a solution that could save the company money or solve a problem. Of course, if I didn't believe this was the case, I wouldn't be calling that company. After awhile, through persistent but not annoying calling, the gatekeeper would often convince their boss to give few minutes.
    My recent post Banks, Bailouts, Bonuses, and Barfing

  • http://www.kevindeshazo.me kevin

    This post literally made me laugh out loud. I am in sales and have heard many of my clients' horror stories regarding approaches 1-8. When you think about it, it really is amazing. As a salesperson, you are trying to gain the trust, and as a result the business, of the people you are calling on. If your first line to them is a lie, which 7 of the 8 approaches are, how can you expect to earn their trust and business? More than that, how can you feel good about yourself at the end of the day, knowing you made 100 calls and lied to approx 100 people that day in order to do a job? Honesty more often than not will get you the client (or at least give you a better chance at getting the client) and allows you to go home knowing you gave your best effort and didn't compromise integrity. Sales doesn't have to be a dirty profession. Unfortunately, many salespeople make it just that. Dirty.
    Great post.

  • http://forrest-long.blogspot.com Forrest Long

    That's an interesting list and I think many people have experienced most of them. I know I have. At home we have asked to have junk calls blocked but it's amazing how many still get through. And by email I get some every day- some addressing me by name, some with a catchy line that has nothing to do with the content of the email. It's all annoying but I guess it goes with our times. Anyway, I smiled as I read the list. Thanks.
    My recent post THE FEAR OF GOD

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I know, just on email, I get 100 or so emails a day that make it through two spam filters.

  • http://www.twitter.com/benwolf Ben Wolf

    Thanks for this great post! One I experienced this week was a company that called my house and said they were a roofing company that repairs storm damaged roofs. He said there had been an extreme number of cases in our zip code of hail damage and insurance is covering the costs of new roofs. Of course there was going to be an inspector “aka sales rep” in my neighborhood the next day and they wanted to offer me a free inspection. I kindly asked for their name, number, web address and quickly the guy on the phone started mumbling. Fortunately they have not called back.

  • http://www.afreshspace.com/blog Liz Jenkins

    My 8 year old & I have recently been discussing the word “gimmick” and I was having a hard time coming up with really good examples for her – and now I have some (#8)!
    I think, though, my biggest irritation is when you meet someone, perhaps through networking or mutual business acquaintances, and they invite you for coffee or lunch to chat further about your businesses. Generally, it’s a nice exchange of who you know and what you do – a kind of getting to know you that is fair on both sides and may lead to a referral or business in the future. What gets me is when you get there and they whip out a big presentation and bombard you with some “incredible” opportunity that they are “so excited about” and just must share every detail with you so you will sign up with them. This is misleading at best, and unethical at worst. Or maybe desperation is a better word. Just be up front, low key and for goodness sake, don’t ambush me!

    • Michael Gray

      I completely resonate with the tactic of people saying "I'm just so excited about this". It's like the sales industry cure-all for the whiplash they inflict with their ambush marketing. "I'm sorry that I completely wasted an hour of your time, but I'm just so excited abou this. Are you gonna get the check?"

      And as a third grade teacher, I am impressed that you and your child are discussing words like "gimmick". I call those "spicy words" when students use them in their writing. The fact that you take the time to talk with your kiddo about things like that tells me that she is probably a very bright and sucessful student. I wish more parents had even this much conversation with their kids. Keep up the good work!

  • http://twitter.com/sheryltut @sheryltut

    I love this post, especially since my career has been in sales and I currently make cold-calls into prospects for my clients (all B2B). The ONLY way to be successful in any type sales position is to be honest and credible. It's also important to treat the gatekeepers with respect. I keep the "golden rule" in mind and treat people the way I would want to be treated. That works well.
    My recent post Happy Chinese New Year

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Amen. It’s not that difficult. Honesty is the killer tactic!

  • http://building-his-body.blogspot.com/ Anne Lang Bundy

    I've done this well and done this badly.

    I obtained my publishing agent after querying only two. I expressed gratitude for all her free blog advice, from which I'd been a benefactor. I was up front about the fact that I didn't fit her requirements to the letter. I went on to say I'd carefully researched agents,and was querying only the two I felt were an exceptionally good fit. As it turns out, we are a very good fit.

    At a writers conference, I then attempted to win over an editor whose publisher I also thought to be an exceptionally good fit. I made the mistake of failing to adequately respect his space, being too pushy. At the next year's conference, I unsuccessfully attempted to apologize. He wouldn't speak to me, for which I can't blame him. I deeply regret flubbing that "sales call."

    If I'd add anything to your wise words, Mike, it would be to remember that you only get one shot at making a good first impression.
    My recent post The Discipline of Suffering

  • http://twitter.com/Jim_Gray @Jim_Gray

    I worked in sales until 2008. And now that I am working for a company that has a "soft"sell, it's more of my pace.
    My recent post The Client is Always Right

  • http://www.srath.prunw.com Dan Foster

    Mike – You nailed it! Thank you so much for this post. I did not know of your sales background. I appreciate your advice and you pointing out the inappropriate tactics being used by sales people today.
    My recent post The Power of a Personal Note

  • http://twitter.com/abbylive @abbylive

    I have experienced almost all of those ploys as well! Deceit will never sell me or convince me of anything. It turns me completely off. I appreciate those in sales who take the time to listen to what I have to say. I know it probably depends on your personality, but I also appreciate it when I don't feel any pressure to buy. I realize sales people feel like they have to put the pressure on, because they need a sale. But when there's no pressure, I feel a lot more comfortable and am a lot more open to considering the product, because I know I can ask questions or find out what I need to know, without feeling like I'm going to be put on the spot to make a decision right then and there.
    My recent post remain

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  • http://blog.knightsquest.org Buddy Knight

    Being in an independent para-church organization, the one I get the most (often involving some new and exciting MLM) is this:

    “You’ve got such a great ministry! I have a way for you to fund it so well you won’t have to fund-raise. I’m making tons of money and I’ll help you do the same!”

    My internal reaction is always: “If you believe so much in my ministry, and you’re making tons of money, then write a check or set up a recurring donation so I don’t have to take away from ministry to work “your opportunity” that is going to benefit you, too!”

    Maybe I should make that an EXTERNAL reaction, but that would be unkind to those who “know not what they do!”

    Thanks for the great post! I sold computers/tech in retail during seminary. Taught me a lot.

  • http://www.lindseynobles.com Lindsey Nobles

    It is crazy that people do this….My logic is this: If you have lied to me once, I suspect you will lie to me again. Hence, I am not going to buy what you are selling.
    My recent post Drafting Blueprints, Part 6

    • http://michaelsgray.com Michael Gray

      I love the word "hence". :)

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Yea, I don't get why they can’t see this. Maybe they just think everyone is doing it and you will overlook it once they get the appointment.

  • GWagner

    How true your post is! The other comment I would add is… I believe that is why your posts are so practical. I have followed a similar career path. There is no substitute for the marketing and sales training you get when you are on your own creating sales revenue to stay alive. Introducing yourself to people you do not know and build a trusting relationship where they are willing to give you their money. It challenges your integrity when need the sale and money…but how far will you go or what will you say in order to get the sale. I learned a long time ago…honesty has rewards that money can not buy. Like going to sleep at night knowing you did your best and created a friend and a happy customer. The rewards are long term. Keep remembering those early "executive in training days"

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1129203757 Jessica Traffas

    As someone who's been a gatekeeper for years, I had to laugh at your examples because I've heard them all. In fact, it's become something of a game to weed out the salespeople. If one of them actually called and was honest (LOVE the script you provided), I'd be so caught off guard I'd probably hear them out and I might even be tempted to transfer them.

    Here are my favorite replies to bad sales calls that I've heard over the years:

    "Oh, yeah, we used to have that before, but we never paid our bills. Can we get it again?"

    "I'm sorry, none of us here have cars/computers/etc."

    "Your job as a telemarketer must be so brutal. I can't imagine you enjoy getting yelled at every day. There must be something else you could do that you're passionate about…." (This one comes from Coach Steve Scanlon, who then proceeds to coach them into a new career. Gotta love that!)

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  • http://www.cherylblemine.wordpress.com Cheryl B. Lemine

    I had a positive sales experience the other day at my cell phone carrier's office.

    Other than the fact that I hate signing in and waiting to be called, I was blessed to pass the time by visiting with a friend I hadn't seen in years! But back to the story. What I appreciated is that the salesman came out from behind the counter – didn't invade my personal space – looked me in the eye and asked how he could help me. He then proceeded to LISTEN and from there I got the information I needed.

    It necessitates waiting a couple weeks but I don't mind because he handed me his card, said that since I had already waited in line, that I could come back to finalize my plan, walk up to the desk, ask for him and he'd treat it as an appointment.

    I felt my time was valued and that I left with helpful information and an answer to my question.

    I feel a little wiser about deceptive practices now. Thank you.
    My recent post Fun and FAITH: Showing, Telling, Both?

  • Jeff

    Good post. I just got laid off from a management job and have been considering a return to sales. I will be doing allot of "cold calling" I will be avoiding companies that encourage dishonest practices. I once worked for an auto dealership where a sales trainer actually said "I am not telling you to lie but tell the customer this…."

  • Rusty Boozer

    Thanks Michael for the post. I agree with you completely. I would go even further and say that sales is more about "Trust" than even honesty. I can honestly approach a lot of things but if I'm not conveying or foster a sense of trust, then you'll never respond.

    I would like to know, besides just being honest, what you believe are the best ways to get someone to respond. With email, phone and assistant walls built up to protect us . . .How do you get noticed?

  • Doug Raines

    "I'm an old friend, returning your call about our appointment at 10:30 this morning. It's important that you call right away about a confidential matter. This is the third message I've left you, our mutual friend told me to call. I wanted to let you know you have won first place in our contest."

    Salespeople need to learn the fine line between being aggressive and obnoxious. They also need to realize there is not a fine line between presenting your product or service in a positive light, and telling a lie.

    Telemarketing at home, and especially cell phones is an invasion of privacy. We all have more than enough exposure to advertising, I can't imagine anything I would buy from a cold call at home or on my cell phone.

    Calls to a published business phone number is another story. Cold calls can be disruptive, but occasionally I have found professional salespeople with a product or service I actually need. Unfortunately most try to con their way into a conversation. Does that ever work? If someone lies to me to get me on the phone, I would never consider buying anything from that person.

    It is frustrating when you have a product or service that will honestly be beneficial, but you can't get past the "gatekeeper". It drives me crazy when the "gatekeeper" asks what it's about, then tells you they are not interested. I've had that happen and later the person I was trying to reach calls me wanting information. They called from an ad in a business publication, never knowing I had tried to reach them earlier.

    Businesses miss good opportunities by being so closed to incoming sales calls, but over the years salespeople have abused the privilege. One good solution is for companies to invite communication from salespeople about their product or service, but require the information be submitted on a company website with brief details, contact information and a few selling points. Then periodically review the submissions and reply with a short rejection email, or request for additional information.

    The entire sales process has devolved. Businesses and salespeople would all be served better by professionalism and respect on both sides of the desk.

    Just my opinion.

  • Walker Morrow

    I’m a sales professional as well, and this post resonated with me. As many people would agree with you, selling is a numbers game. As your dad wisely pointed out to you early in your career, the more people you speak with – the more you will probably sell. So, getting an appointment with a prospective buyer is extremely important.

    Fortunately, I have a similar approach as you – be honest, sincere and add value to the person/company you are selling to. This is how I’ve approach my career in sales, and the results have been positive. Yes, it is a numbers game, and I look to conduct quality meetings – not quantity of meetings. I believe you can’t manipulate someone into a meeting or for that fact – into buying something.

  • Tom Harris

    Mike, I have experienced almost all of the above dishonest sales ploys throughout my career. Recently I got a call from my local police department saying it was very important that I call back. Natuarlly I was scared too–they were looking for a contribution.

    I totally agree with you, just be honest and tell me upfront what you want. This always works better with me.
    Thanks for writing this blog.

  • Jennifer

    Being in sales myself, I had compassion for a man who came to my door last week wanting to sell me packaged steaks. Knowing these are hard times for many, I bought from him but when he asked for recommendations for others in the neighborhood, I declined. Ten minutes later, I get a call from my neighbor. This sales person told her he was in the neighborhood delivering to me and had some extra. She called to confirm that this is true. I was considering making this salesperson my go to guy when I want to buy steaks… but not any more. He doesn't realize he lost a customer based on his deceit.

  • http://terrycordingley.blogspot.com Terry Cordingley

    Amen to the "sense of entitlement" part. It really bothers me that so many people have a sense of entitlement to something they have neither earned nor deserve.

    I work in sales, and when I contact a bookstore, book buyer, etc., I try to put myself in their place. I am offering them a product which will ultimately help their business and earn them additional revenue. If what I am offering them is not a good fit, I ask them what will help them and if it will be OK if I call them in the future if I have the type of product they need. They never say "no" and I think they appreciate the fact I am trying to meet their needs. Fill a need and you will always be successful in sales.
    My recent post Book Marketing is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

  • Gman

    Usually there are ones that say "You want your church to grow don't you?"

  • http://twitter.com/sarathym @sarathym

    I really enjoyed your post, Michael.

    I am in advertising, so we get called on by a multitude of companies pitching one media type or another. My husband is in sales and I think he is phenomenal; has definitely built a career rooted in integrity. But you're right, there are the more than occasional ploys that we could all do without. Two come to mind.

    1. Be honest and upfront with the amount of time you need to give your pitch. Don't tell me you need 20 minutes and then set-up an hour call. Not cool, not cool at all.

    2. Don't expect to close the deal minutes after presenting an opportunity. Even free deals have red tape that needs to be cut through.

    We are all in this build relationships, wouldn't it be great to start everything out on the right foot? And don't get me wrong, most people do — but this is a great post for those individuals who may need to rethink their salesmanship strategy.

    My recent post A Little Bit (just a bit) About Me

  • David

    It seems to boil down to whether a person is willing to maintain their integrity and character (assuming they ever had either to begin with).

  • http://twitter.com/lancecashion @lancecashion

    When a prospective customer is shopping for health insurance and they end up finding me, I build genuine report with them. After all, it is my obligation to provide a product that will save them from financial ruin if a catastrophic health event occurs. I must find out what is important to THEM, not me. I must get to know them. I have the ability to preach the importance of health insurance and provide enough technical information to make their head explode. I don't.

    When someone who is shopping for insurance reaches out to me… I go back to them. I ask the question; "Mr. Smith, why am I here?" Then, I shut my mouth and honor that person by allowing them to talk about their needs. Obviously, they wouldn't have found me if they weren't looking for information or assistance with insurance. "why am I here" is a great question and often times, it breaks the ice in such a was that we begin the conversation with laughter. I've said, "why am I here?" to s potential clients and they've made some pretty funny replies. If we get off the subject, I follow-up with "How can I serve you?". "You need help and Help has arrived".

    So many sales people want to tell you everything about their product. If I am buying a car and my Number 1 concern is mileage, don't start telling me about the surround sound stereo system. Ask me why mileage is important and begin assisting me in connecting with the product.

    When I reach out via email. I keep it short and sweet and honor their time, while providing them with enough info on me and my service where they can make an immediate decision to engage me. This is where a link to my bio / blog can come in. There is NO reason why a prospect should have to waste any time searching for info about me if they are interested. I do not call anyone on the phone unless I have a direct referral and have been informed that email is not the best option to reach them.

    Let them drive and you provide directions.

    imo
    My recent post Life Insurance Planning: Remember, No One Gets Out Alive

  • http://rockinapond.wordpress.com Mason Stanley

    This is a great post! I used to work at a oil change preventive maitance place. I believed in most of the products we were selling, and the ones I didn’t I wouldn’t sell. Integrity must be considered more valuable than commission. I’m not directly in sales anymore; however, I listen to a podcast called the “The Sales Guy” which is put out by quick and dirty tips dot com. Funny thing is the tips aren’t “dirty” the are based on the premise of integrity.

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  • http://twitter.com/JillanneJohnson @JillanneJohnson

    The worst I've ever had was last week. I felt bad for the poor guy because I know he's just trying to make ends meet but he wouldn't even tell me what he was calling for. He called Thursday three times in a row despite me telling him that we weren't interested. He called back Friday. Along the way, he asked for four employees who no longer are with our company and changed what he wanted several times. When I told him I could help him with his final request (we are a small company, everyone is cross trained) he told me I was rude and a liar and hung up on me. Unfortunately, his company was from Canada (per the location on our caller id) so they didn't have to have a number that I could call back.

    • http://twitter.com/JillanneJohnson @JillanneJohnson

      I asked for his boss on his second call back Friday and he, of course, refused to let me speak to him. I understand that he has a job and goals to meet. But I'd have to agree with everyone else who has posted. Honesty first. Second know your customer and what they need. But I do still feel bad for the guy. Unfortunately, as we have become a service society, more and more folks who aren't suited for sales are finding positions in these not so up and up telemarketing firms who make their money by the number of calls are logged for their customers.