The month of October is a special time of year when everything creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky is celebrated with the highest level of enthusiasm. But in one area of your business, scary stuff is never fun — and that’s your sales tactics and strategies.
What Is A ‘Spooky’ Sales Tactic?
A “spooky” (aka aggressive) sales tactic is any sales technique that involves intimidating, pressuring, insulting, or otherwise making a lead uncomfortable in order to induce a sale. These tactics can include (but are not limited to) the following:
Insulting A Prospect
In this situation, the salesperson uses passive-aggressive or direct statements to make the prospect uncomfortable and potentially influence them to either involve a manager or agree to their terms just to end the interaction. Some examples include:
- “If you had more experience in this field, you would know this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’m sorry you’re too naive to take advantage of it.”
- “I’m just trying to help you understand because it seems like you’re not understanding.”
- “You must be an idiot if you don’t see what a great deal this is.”
Undermining A Prospect’s Authority
When undermining a prospect’s authority, the salesperson attempts to either get the prospect to speak to a second (often less knowledgeable) party or make them feel insecure about their decision. By making the prospect feel unsure of themselves, the salesperson takes the dominant position within the interaction. Some examples include:
- “Are you sure you’re the right person to be talking to? Can I speak to your boss, instead? I know they would understand the value of this product.”
- “Where’s [specific person]? When they were in this position, they were way more accommodating, and we were already close on this package. But of course, they had a lot more experience than you.”
Lying About The Competition
By lying about a prospect’s current provider or the local competition, the salesperson attempts to manipulate the prospect into seeing alternative options as risky investments. In this situation, the salesperson might tell a number of lies varying in severity. Some examples include:
- “You know, your current provider was subpoenaed for fraud last year. I sure wouldn’t want them to have my data.”
- “You don’t want to buy from [competition] — they will never show up to service your system. I can’t tell you how many of their clients beg to come to me when I offer them this deal.”
Lying About Your Product
Outright lying about a product is a more common sales tactic than you might think. In this instance, the salesperson exploits a prospect’s lack of knowledge to make them believe that what they would be receiving is of higher value than it actually is. Some examples include:
- “Our product is made of rare materials from the Mediterranean you can’t find anywhere else.”
- “There are only 20 necklaces like this in the world. It’s going to be worth a fortune someday.”
- “We’re actually planning to launch an AI helper later this year, so you’ll want to buy now before the price skyrockets.”
Lying About Your Company
A salesperson may lie about their organization’s standing, prestige, quality, bandwidth, or offerings to push a sale. These lies can range from benign to egregious. Some examples include:
- “We will prioritize your needs over all of our other clients. I guarantee it.”
- “We have connections with a lot of celebrities, so you might get to meet them next time you visit the office.”
- “If you sign up with us, you will have a 25% chance of winning an exclusive all-access vacation package.”
Putting Undue Pressure On A Prospect
When a sale stalls and a salesperson doesn’t feel as though they have a chance of closing, they might start to increase the pressure on the prospect to close. While applying some pressure is a normal part of the sales process, this level of pressure is aggressive and inappropriate. Some examples include:
- “We need to close this sale today, or you won’t be able to get on the VIP list.”
- “I already have a buyer who’s willing to offer 20% more than your offer, but I wanted to give you priority since you are my favorite client. So, you need to make an offer now or it’s going to them tonight.”
- “Look how much your kids love this house. They will be devastated if you don’t buy it.”
Guilting A Prospect
Similar to trying to get sympathy from a prospect, guilting a prospect tends to center around how the salesperson’s time or resources were wasted. Some examples include:
- “So, are we going to sign a contract, or was this just a waste of my time?”
- “I understand. I have to say, though, I’m disappointed. I thought you and I were making a real connection, and I was excited to work with you. I guess I was wrong.”
Failing To Disclose Certain Deal Parameters
Salespeople may purposefully skirt around or fail to disclose parameters of the sales contract that may be viewed as “deal breakers” by the prospect. This can be as simple as not mentioning key details during the negotiation practice or can sound like the following statements.
- “Don’t worry about the fine print. That’s all just a bunch of legal stuff for our lawyers.”
- “Oh, you want to know what we mean by the clause on Page 8? Don’t worry, that’s just to make sure the system stays up to date.”
Trying To Evoke Personal Sympathy
This strategy revolves around getting the prospect to feel personally responsible for any negative consequences the salesperson might experience as a result of not closing the sale. Consider the following examples.
- “I really want to put my daughter through college, but without this sale, I won’t be able to.”
- “I was really hoping to close this sale so I can finally get my brakes fixed. Oh well.”
Harassing A Prospect
In this case, the salesperson may have already received a clear “no” but continues to constantly contact the prospect anyway. Or perhaps the prospect has simply stopped responding to contact, yet they continue anyway. This strategy will follow the pattern of the following statements.
- “Hey Betty, I noticed you haven’t responded to my 10 emails, 30 voicemails, or 16 letters, so I thought I would call again.”
- “Oh, hey Bill, are you heading to your car? I’ve been waiting for you. I just wanted to hand you these materials on the product we discussed. Yeah, you might be thinking ‘no’ right now, but let’s talk about these materials on Friday. See you then.”
Physically Intimidating A Prospect
The salesperson might use their body to try and make the prospect feel uncomfortable to gain the dominant position in the interaction. This can include sitting or standing too close, positioning their body in the doorway and exits, or putting their feet on someone’s desk while speaking with them.
Exploiting A Prospect’s Lack Of Knowledge
Sometimes a salesperson will either explain concepts at too high of a level to intimidate a prospect from asking questions or will claim someone else in the organization has already agreed to the terms of the contract. Some examples include:
- “As a mechanical expert, you should appreciate this. The generation X9 is the only model with the flux capacitor, which runs on a unique water retention technology that is more efficient than any other version. It has a 99% force mobility range and is 68% more efficient than the leading brand.”
- “When I spoke to your spouse before, they were really excited about this product and were ready to buy. They just need your yes.”
The History Of These Sales Tactics
If you’ve ever seen the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross,” then you’re aware of the “salesperson stereotype” these tactics have created over the years. Many of these sales tactics and strategies were more common in a bygone era when selling was a more cutthroat industry. Thankfully, they have since become outdated and, in some cases, illegal.
With that being said, you may be thinking, “Yeah, those tactics are pretty bad, but surely salespeople aren’t out there still using them today, right?” But while these sales tactics and strategies have thankfully become less common, they are still used more often than you think. Just over the past 3 years, I have personally seen a number of these tactics used. Here are some of the most egregious offenses.
- One salesperson tried to accuse my manager of stealing credit for my work in an attempt to pit us against each other.
- One salesperson called me 17 times after I had told them “no” firmly. Later, a second representative from the same company started calling as well.
- After telling one salesperson “no,” they called the CEO on his personal phone in order to undermine me.
- One salesperson attempted to make me feel bad for saying no because the proceeds of their product went to charity.
- Several salespeople attempted to present me with a “free report” on why my current marketing partners were insufficient.
- Several salespeople either lied or were intentionally misleading about their pricing.
- I was told multiple times that my supervisor or predecessor had already verbally confirmed the contract, so I just needed to sign off. This turned out to be a lie.
- I was personally insulted by multiple salespeople, and one even hung up on me abruptly after being told “no.”
So, in short, no — these tactics are unfortunately not relics of the past.
Why Don’t These Tactics Work?
There is a long answer and a short answer to this question. The short answer is that people don’t like to be manipulated. The longer answer is that people are more sophisticated and can see straight through these tactics. On top of that, it’s plainly immoral to completely disregard another person’s comfort, well-being, and wants in order to get your way. This is especially true when you take into consideration that vulnerable groups like elderly people, people lacking financial resources or education, and young people are frequently the victims of high-pressure sales tactics.
So, how do you avoid perpetuating these immoral strategies within your business?
Train Your Sales Team Well.
One of the major reasons these sales tactics and strategies are still used today is because of a lack of training. New or inexperienced salespeople might feel the pressure to resort to these tactics because they haven’t been provided with proper alternatives. (INSERT LINK TO 8/31 Sales Blog When it is Published) This can lead to a variety of problems for an organization, including diminished public trust and poor public reputation. Nobody wants that.
Instead, spend time training your sales team properly. Remind them that being a salesperson is not about selling something to someone who doesn’t want what you have to offer. It’s about finding the right buyers and helping to solve their problems. It’s also essential that you explain your expectations for their conduct clearly and remind them of it often.
One great tool for teaching proper sales conduct is by using the acronym RESPECT.
Remember To Show RESPECT To Your Prospects:
- R: Remain cordial, kind, and respectful.
- E: Explain concepts on the prospect’s knowledge level.
- S: Save space in the conversation to make a human connection.
- P: Present how your product can alleviate their pain points.
- E: Expect that you might not close the sale right away.
- C: Contact the prospect again only if they have NOT given a definite “no.”
- T: Take your time and don’t rush the sale.
By following the above guidelines, your sales team will stay centered on their mission and put goals in perspective while moving prospects forward through the sales funnel.
So, when it comes to training your sales team, make sure you equip them with your expectations for their conduct and alternatives to these spooky sales tactics and strategies. Your organization will maintain a good sales reputation while helping people who are actually excited about working with you. What could be better than that?