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When does Sales become Manipulation?

When does Sales become Manipulation?

As a child, people educate you to hold your word, whatever it takes. Never promise anything that you can’t keep up to.

Even if this is a childs advice, it is still true and should be a clear statement in the business world – a “Lesson Learned” like trainers like to name it.

But how should that even be possible when you are working in sales? How can I strive for the best numbers when I should stick to my promise and always be completely honest?

Sales representatives are often trained to sell what they can at every cost, but did you ever consider how fast and extensive these costs can come back to you?


A tale of one’s youth

While I was in Sales a good friend and colleague of mine was always described as a passionate born to be salesman who “could even sell pure ice on the coldest mountain of Alaska.”
Strange metaphor, that’s for sure, but people were mostly smiling about this and connected this sentence with a dash of respect, even praise.

“I know that is nonsense, but in the figurative sense it probably means that this man must be extremely good at his job as a salesman…” Hm, might be.

I get it, sales has to reach their monthly or yearly goals and even more, if they want a great bonus on top. Most of the time, these are people who love selling anyway and wouldn’t want any other job.

The thing about this is, that these methods and measurements are not always profitable, sometimes even cost intensive. Because just as the saying implies, it makes no sense at all to sell ice in the greatest cold.
People will maybe buy it, but they will most certainly regret it after spending their money, because there is Ice all round them and they realise, that they actually didn’t even wanted or needed this.

So just to be clear: Selling everything to everyone is not always a desireable result. In fact, it will even come back after you in a particularly negative manner.

In the moment you start selling something to someone without seeing any added value, you start manipulating your counterpart and making him invest unnecessary money and time.

And that should absolutely not be your intention in sales and consulting, if you have a conscience and want to sleep peacefully at night.


Why is that?

When working as a sales person you are driven by your urge to make money for the company and also for yourself, if bonuses are part of it. You know what to sell and how to sell it best.

Most of these people are not paying attention to what comes after the sale. While closing one deal, they are already fully committed to the next upcoming sale. Added value is minor matter.

Different branches require different sales cycles and argumentations, but nonetheless the focus remains the same – more leads, more deals, more bonus, as fast as possible.

What is mostly forgotten is the process after the won deal and the people that then need to take over the deal – and the project referring to it.

Especially in digital projects the implementation, project management and customizing are complex, extensive and time consuming.
Well, those are the normal circumstances you know from you daily work as a developer, project manager or consultant. 

But what never disappoints me, are the fantastic worlds and dimensions sales and marketing think up for their targeting group.
We all love great stories and great moments and there is nothing wrong about creating a great experience for your clients. Nevertheless, this should always be handled with a certain view to feasibility, effort and capacity.


Not a problem, we can do this!

Everybody loves and requires a great customer experience and suitable customer journeys when getting in touch with a business. We also do, because without it, we all wouldn’t sell anything at all and couldn’t help no one.
Business wouldn’t be that much fun and a lot of businesses would have to shut down their gates due to this lack of customer relationship.

But please never forget, who needs to technically realize the customers wishes due to your spectacular promises when going through a sales pitch or a demo presentation.
Never forget how much longterm trouble you can cause by making false commitments and non-attainable promises.

Maybe the trouble won’t backfire on you immediately, but projects failure, bad reputation and the wasted money will be on you and your urge to sell without revising first.

Besides your customer being absolutely annoyed, your company-internal fanbase surely will lose some supporters. 

Never sell anyone anything he doesn’t need and never promise someone a solution you can’t deliver.

It is not that bad if you can’t directly answer every question. You just need to know who to ask and deliver a trustful, useful answer subsequently.


I just sell stuff, i am not manipulative?

I am sure, even if you didn’t even notice, you at least tried once to get people into buying stuff they don’t need. 

As CRM Experts, we also have the clear opinion that every company “needs” a CRM system, but that’s not the level of need that is meant here.
You should listen to your clients and their needs and wishes to improve, but it is equally important to know their business maturity level.

In some cases you will be talking about automated processes through a supportive software solution even if your customer has clear internal issues, that will surely let you project fail when not addressed correctly before beginning an system implementation.

Some things lie beyond and won’t reach the surface in a first demo presentation.
You need a deep dive to find that out and to decide, if a system is the right solution or if you better just go for a Sparring and Consulting Preproject.

Many times we experienced that businesses implemented systems in false hope of getting their problems fixed with it. It rarely worked, because challenges were just discussed in a superficial way instead of facing them in a clear and ungrateful manner.

It needs clear words, clear challenges, clear goals and after this you can consider a system as a supportive tool to confront these challenges and reach the set goals.

Never talk people into something because of immediate profit.
Think about a long-term cooperation and a realistic growth of your client, that’s always the best strategy for both sides anyway.


I know what I am talking about!

You sure do, but let me still give you some advice.

Be clear about the limits of your own knowledge and its ending. Act transparent and trustworthy, people will be thankful for it.

Use your experience in correct customer communication, but never talk people into something or start manipulating them. Neither with gestures, nor facial expressions or triggering expressions.
And yes, all of those are real and are used often by questionable persons.

I visited some of those questionable trainings in sales and communication. You should always question them and sort out the reprehensible parts for you and your conscience.


What signs do i need to look out for?

I will give you some examples on which cards often get drawn when sales people are talking to you.

Please always keep in mind, that these are not in itself always meant to be directly reprehensible.

Certain gestures or expressions often help to promote a more pleasant manner for all and a more productive atmosphere.
You do a lot of things automatically, because many gestures and words are parts of a common conversation and are part of the appropriate, polite way of intracting with each other.

Those signs can be used in a very questionable way when combinated or specifically trained. But please don’t directly think, that people are always up to no good when you recognize certain signs.

Nevermind, we do have to separate between body language and the mode of verbal expression. Just some short insights.

Body language:

  • Sitting to a person at a 90 degree angle directs the gaze to a third point and away from their counterpart.
    It is intended to express a sense of togetherness and create trust, and equally often improve the view of the seller. It’s like “having a friend sitting next to you to discuss something together.”
  • When mirroring, your contact person tries to adapt to your posture, gestures, facial expressions and also partly the mannerof speaking to you. They try to reach the same kind of communication like their counterpart.
    It is supposed to evoke a feeling of familiarity. It’s like “We are on the same wavelength, we are similar. I like those guys.”

Verbal Expressions:

  • Depending on the character and behavior of people, many sales people adapt their style of speaking fluently while in meeting and use focused buzzwords that trigger certain characters and evoke a good feeling.
    We talked about the DISC model in one of our post and about the different colors for different characters. This is one common model used to find the persons color and to assess their behavior.
    There are certain buzzwords for every color, so e.g. green people are into peace and security so they get often triggerd by words like “trustworthy, safe, personal, experienced, together.”
  • Many sales people also use continuous approval and affirmation to trigger a good understanding and supporting of the decision maker.Very often they are skillfully dismiss the opinions and statements of others present to focus only on the key decision makers. They then often say, almost exaggeratedly, “I see it exactly the same way, you’re absolutely right.” even if not true.


Always remember

Even if you miss some opportunities and lose some projects, be honest with your clients and go the fair way.

You will always find yourself unconsciously doing certain things that have a manipulative traits. Nevertheless, you should stay calm and not see everything too tricky. That’s just part of the game.
It should just never be abused to sell customers unnecessary, expensive things, just so that they are sold by you.

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