ON sales calls, I’m usually the guy doing the selling. But recently, I took on a different role: I was the client being pitched. The stakes for the salesperson were high because they were trying to sell me a five-figure product.
Truth be told, I couldn’t wait for it to be over. The offer itself was fine, but the salesperson was dreadful. She tried to manipulate me into buying, which made me feel like I needed a shower. But even worse, it left me frustrated about the entire sales industry. I’ve interacted with too many salespeople who think trickery is the only way to land a sale.
It’s just not true
In fact, I have been on the receiving end of several sales pitches that weren’t remotely manipulative and successfully led to my saying yes—even if the offer was priced at five figures.
The difference? I actually believed that the salesperson wanted to help me to grow my business.
This isn’t just me and my own temperament as a buyer. It’s something I’ve proven in sales myself. I have personally conducted more than 500 sales calls in the past couple of years and received a yes from about half of those people. This taught me that effective sales has little to do with manipulation. Instead, it has everything to do with being of genuine service.
Let’s begin by considering the difference between manipulation and service. I’ll admit that as I thought about how to write this story, I felt a conundrum: Isn’t any sales tactic, even one that’s done in earnest, ultimately a form of manipulation that’s designed to boost the bottom line?
The answer is yes and no. Sure, a service-oriented sales approach is a way to make money. It could even be argued that all deliberate communication is manipulative in nature because any technique— such as asking certain questions or telling emotionally charged stories—is intended to move people toward a certain end.
However, the difference between acts of manipulation and acts of service comes down to the salesperson’s intent. Two salespeople might both want to sell the same things to their clients, and they might do this by telling the same stories or asking similar questions. But their intentions can be totally different.
The manipulative salesperson tells a story that will make their potential client feel an intense mixture of fear and hope. This heightened emotional state may make them both want to get rid of the fear and perpetuate the hope. They may then want to buy because they believe the offer in question will lessen the fear and raise hope. They’ve been manipulated.
The second salesperson, however, tells a similar story that teaches the potential client the significance of the offer. The story may feature a person who first worked without their product or service and then explain what improved when they began using it, and it could demonstrate what this potential client could expect if they engage in a similar process. The story helps the potential client experience greater clarity around the offer, and if they do buy, it is because they’ve been educated.
There is, admittedly, a fine line between manipulation and service since we could theoretically do very similar things on the surface but have fundamentally different intentions underneath. That’s why I’ve provided the tips below for having better sales conversations, and how to turn sales into acts of service.
Tip 1 Start with where.
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