Like many people, I don’t like to be “sold” on making a purchase. I like to think that I’m making up my own mind when I decide whether to buy something; I don’t like feeling like someone is trying to “talk me into it.”

What is it, exactly, about aggressive “hard sell” sales tactics that so totally rubs me the wrong way?

First of all, I think it’s about trust. When I’m subjected to a “hard sell” approach, I immediately put up my defenses. A salesperson who’s trying to do the “hard sell” on me makes me feel like he’s not really looking out for my interests; he’s looking out for his interests. The hard sell approach is not really about “How can I help you,” it’s about “How can I help you help me?” When people do the “hard sell” on me, I feel like they’re reaching into my pocket – it’s like form of mental pick-pocketing. I feel tense and under pressure.

I recently had to spend several minutes on the phone persuading a salesperson that I really wasn’t interested in what he had to sell. He kept trying to overcome my objections, but each time I only objected more strongly. I even told him, repeatedly: “Look, I know your time is valuable. I’m not the right person to talk to; I don’t want to waste your time that could be spent talking to someone else who wants to buy what you’re selling.”

“Overcoming objections” is a standard part of sales training going back many years. But I think, to some extent, if you have to work so hard to overcome people’s objections, maybe that sale wasn’t meant to be.

One of my friends used to work at a mobile phone store for a major mobile phone service company. They were trained, every day, to offer every customer an iPad. “Show the customer an iPad,” the sales managers said. “We need to sell more iPads!” But the thing is, not every customer wants an iPad. What if the customer just wants to buy a cheap, pre-paid cell phone? What if the customer doesn’t care about technology, or just wants a bare-bones phone package? Not every customer is right for every product, and taking a one-size-fits-all approach to your sales is ultimately going to lose you more customers than it gains.

People say there’s no such thing as “bad publicity,” but there is such a thing as a “bad sale.” At my friend’s cell phone store, most of the customers who got “talked into” buying an iPad ultimately brought them back and asked for a refund – costing the sales people their commissions and probably damaging the customer’s goodwill toward the company. If you have to pull out all the stops to persuade someone to do business with you, chances are that the customer is more likely to be unhappy with your product, or complain about your service, or be high-maintenance or otherwise unprofitable.

Being a salesperson is a tough job – the toughest job of all. So by all means, be energetic, be optimistic, and be proud of what you sell – but don’t waste your time (and other people’s time) trying to fit square pegs into round holes. “The customer is always right,” but not every customer is the right fit for your business. The best way to avoid the wrong customers is to avoid the wrong sales tactics in the first place.

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