Who is responsible for a purchase that never should have happened?
You—or the marketer/salesperson that convinced you it was the best thing for you to buy?
When I used to make an offer in the marketplace, and ask people to consider buying my product or service, my default goal used to be: get the sale (no matter what).
At times, I’ve momentarily slipped back into that mindset, so I’m familiar with how it lives in me.
From this place, I only attend to my financial goals being met, and forget to think about the buyer’s experience or if they’re truly getting what they need from our transaction.
When I’ve been all about getting the sale, I’m doing what I can to control the dynamic between me and the buyer. I may think, “if I can pull some levers that cause more people to buy—like the use of urgent commands or colors that can shock a person’s nervous system—that alone signifies success to me.”
Now, not all attempts to optimize a sales process are malicious. I’m speaking to the choices I’ve made (in the past), and ones you may be making, that intend to distract people from their better judgment.
When I’m trying to control others, I’m not trusting the potential buyer to make their own choice without my heavy-handed influence.
As a marketer or salesperson, being unable to trust others means thinking:
- If I don’t pull the levers, they may not agree my offer is valuable or necessary for them.
- If I don’t control the situation, they may not take action when I want them to.
Those thoughts can lead any normal person to seek out tactics they may not otherwise consider. Of course, we want to be clear about our value, but I’m speaking to a darker side that lives in all of us—a motivation that leads us to coerce others into action, without consideration for what is best for them. After all, when it’s our livelihood, we may go to great lengths to ensure we’re taken care of, even if our choices go against our sense of integrity.
These are vulnerable admissions to make, so we don’t normally go there. I believe that deeper down, under the surface of not getting the sale, is a painful well of rejection that we’d also rather not feel. First, rejection from the marketplace when sales are low or nonexistent, then rejection from a culture that doesn’t look kindly on business that does not rake in the sales (we don’t typically get inundated with stories that celebrate businesses with average or low sales—we are instead surrounded by those heralded for massive growth in short periods of time).
Here’s an example of the kind of thing we might consider doing to get the sale. We might use pricing psychology, such as dropping the first number of a price and raising the numbers that follow, like from $500 to $499. From a sales-only perspective, this is actually a very effective technique. If you want to prioritize sales—most people will tell you to do this because it does work. With that subtle price adjustment, we grease the wheels of potential income.
The downside of such an approach, however, is about what we’re doing and why it’s effective. What we’re doing is creating an illusion to trick people into thinking $499 is a much more affordable and better deal than $500 would be. Our minds believe this difference is so substantial, because it first registers the “4” as compared to the “5”. It’s only $1 different overall, but it feels like much more, causing the potential for greater sales based on the buyer being ever so slightly duped.
But why would we need to trick people into buying, even subtly? Is that how we like to be treated? With deception that works?
You may say, “no big deal, so many businesses do it.” That may be true—but do you feel good about doing it?
Or you may say, “it’s okay to do whatever it takes to get the sale because people will be so happy with what they buy.”
When you find out others are manipulating your perception, do you respond with additional trust or a loss of trust? For me, it’s typically the latter.
Is creating an experience of deception (even in the name of a higher good) something you want associated with your brand, even if people aren’t conscious of the deception?
Integrity is not about what others think of you—it’s about what you think of (and know about) yourself.
When I see prices like $7.99 instead of $8, I get this feeling like someone is trying to trick me. Now, I realize that what’s true for you may be different than what’s true to me. I tend to be more sensitive to what feels right rather than what promises short-term gain.
When we price for Soulful Brand products and services, we keep our numbers rounded so that people have the best chance of knowing exactly what they’re spending. Then we trust them to choose for themselves.
Helping others make an informed decision
What if instead of trying to make a sale more inevitable, we tried to make a sale more clear as a grounded choice for others?
With the mindset of “helping them make the best decision” I feel a lot less tension in me. I end up feeling more open to the possibility of “not getting the sale” and less controlling of others:
- Open to some people buying and some not
- Open to the timing itself not being right for some people
- Open to not being the right fit for others
In the way any of us sell, we’re creating an experience for people. In my sales conversations (online and in-person), my intention is to give people a sense of choice, well-being, and that they don’t need to rush into anything.
Not because those things are good for sales in the traditional sense, but because that’s how I want to be treated when I’m being made an offer. When I’m faced with “get the sale” experiences, I find myself instead thinking:
- Can we slow this down a bit?
- Why is that red button flashing at me?
- Am I really screwed if I don’t jump on this offer today?
- They seem so confident that this is right for me, but they don’t even know me!
- Why is my heart racing?
- Does this seller want me to buy based on impulse instead of from a grounded place?
- Am I even breathing?
That sort of experience, feeling someone is trying to control me out of their self-interest, is not one I wish to recreate for my potential clients. And to be honest, it’s taken a lot of practice to pull back from my default desire to control others.
Think of the metaphor of “breathing room”—it can be applied to a conversation as well as an enrollment page, enhancing the chances of a well-thought out decision rather than a rushed one. Harder to do, yet much more respectful.
Giving full choice to your potential buyers means letting go of “assured” tactics that are intended to force people into decisions that may not be right for them. When you give people full choice, you respect them as agents of their own well-being, and allow them to hold responsibility for their choice, which enhances their ability to get what they want from a purchase.
The buyer’s true motivation matters more than what the seller thinks should motivate them.
I learned this once as a remorseful buyer, plunking down $7,999 for a 5-day workshop.
I was enthralled by the promises being made to me by a very convincing speaker at an event. In that moment of choosing, I was tapped into an amazing vision for myself, but that vision was not born from within me, it was borrowed from the speaker’s confidence.
When the results promised did not come later, I’d say there were at least three reasons why:
- In the sales process, there was no moment where this speaker helped me to uncover a choice that came from within me—he had an agenda and the less I could source myself, the better for his wallet.
- My motivation was not sustainable after the workshop without this teacher there to loan me his confidence on a regular basis.
- I didn’t put everything I learned from the workshop into action as I was instructed to. Again, I felt unable to, given that I could not access motivation on my own.
That said, I was the one who believed that a 5-day workshop would provide me with a complete transformation and propel me into success—a belief that I no longer hold as realistic, regardless of the enthusiasm displayed by the seller.
In that situation, I chose to outsource my knowing to someone who seemed so sure about his claims. Conveniently, this allowed me to blame the speaker for my lack of success and complain about how he missed the mark in that 5-day experience.
But what about my part in this situation?
Had I listened to myself more deeply, perhaps I would’ve seen that the timing was not right for me. If I’d taken the time to consider and then commit more fully to the workshop, I might’ve been able to develop and then sustain my intention beyond the 5-day experience. But in that moment, it was “act now” or miss the boat.
I want people to believe in themselves when they choose to purchase a product or service from me. Especially because those choices are more sustainable than the impulse buys that can be manipulated through levers like urgency, fear, guilt, or mis-information.
Letting go of control and trusting others to purchase with their highest good in mind is a slower growth process. Those more gradual sales results are the kind that come from buyers (also known as “fellow human beings”) who feel an authentic desire for my product or service.
If I say “no” to proven techniques that feel manipulative to me, then true, I may sell less overall and less often. However, this long-game approach is what builds trust over time (both in myself and with others). I respect my audience and they trust me to provide sales conversations that prioritize their most clear decision-making. I believe that’s good for word of mouth, not to mention karma.
Even if it’s not my fault that our marketplace is overflowing with a desire to control others, I believe that as someone participating in this marketplace, it’s up to me to provide experiences where trust is restored and control tendencies are relaxed.
The more of us that provide these experiences, the more the new normal becomes a sacred kind of commerce where you and I are equals, and we honor each other’s purchasing freedom.
Am I practicing what I preach?
Study my Thought Blogging workshop page and see if you agree with the experience provided based on the following intentions:
- The page is designed to give people the info they need and a freedom of choice
- The look and feel of the page is not alarming, but more calm (trusting rather than provoking)
- The colors are subdued, which is soothing to the nervous system (no use of the color red to propel people into an urgent response)
- There’s an option to contact me with questions—if you ask me a question, you’ll see that I don’t pretend to know your best choice. Instead I may ask you to check in with yourself in a certain way (based on what you tell me about yourself) to help you make your own decision.
- And, there’s plenty of breathing room on the page…
This article also appeared on LinkedIn.com