With Halloween just around the corner, we wanted to feature an “evil” sales tactic: subtle sales manipulation.

The art of influencing people is probably one of the most important weapons in your sales arsenal. Being able to make others feel special and appreciated is a skill not all sales individuals can master.

Whether you call it “influence” or “‘manipulation’” , it’s an action purely aimed at personal gain. But if you want to increase your sales in order to make your company profitable, you sometimes have to visit the dark side.

sales manipulation

 

Playing the Victim and Servant

“Manipulators mask their self-serving agendas by implying or asserting a more noble, selfless cause. It’s incredibly common and can be difficult to recognize”. – Subconscious Security

Borrow a little from this manipulation tactic when trying to sell a product or service. Imply that you are merely a middle-man trying to satisfy the customer and that it fills you with joy to see others happy. Come across as if you exist to serve them and their needs.

This would work well if you aren’t the overconfident, aggressive type of sales individual. If you are introverted, make use of this tactic by being humble and selfless. Customers will appreciate your humility and up making the sale anyway.

 

 

Become the Go-To Resource for your Prospects

Manipulation is about doing what you have to in order to get what you want. It’s just as much about subtle trickery as it is about transparency and a positive attitude. Manipulate prospective customers by luring them into making sales with the content on your website. 

Become an online resource within your field. Instead of just expecting people to buy your product or make use of your service – give them something in return. This could be in the form of a well strategized content marketing plan.

Here you can give industry tips, advice, and share company wisdom while subtly advertising your products and services as well. Markus Sheridan explains this strategy in his article, Subtle Selling: The Key to Writing Great Content AND Making Money Online. 

As part of your content marketing strategy – tell them stories about how you work and what you have achieved. Give prospective customer something to relate to – but make them draw their own conclusions. These blog posts or articles don’t need to feature specific employees or even a real life event, it’s about telling a story.

 

Give the Illusion of Control

Instead of throwing product specifications and statistics in your prospective customer’s face, keep it simple. Share information that is relevant and prompt them into asking additional questions. This will make them feel like they are in control, even though you are steering the conversation.

As a sales representative your gut will tell you whether the customer is interested or not. Don’t bore or confuse them with unnecessary information before you are even sure they are interested.

Another reason you might want to keep it simple is so that you and your client stays on the same page. As a sales representative you’ve probably repeated the technical details and tricky information numerous times, but that doesn’t mean that your customer will be accustomed with the company’s jargon and brand lingo.

 

Keep an Eye on the Competition

Just like a sports team would prepare for a game by studying their opponents, so to must your sales team learn how their competitors perform. This doesn’t mean you have to bad-mouth another company – that just shows insecurity.

Instead, use whatever weaknesses you’ve learnt about your ‘enemy’ and incorporate it in your sales pitch without even mentioning their name. If you know that your company offers a 20% discount for first time buyers and your competition only offers 10%, you could say something along the lines of: “We know some companies give as little as 10% discount, but we pride ourselves in rewarding our first time buyers with a 20% discount”.

“At the beginning of a sale, your customer may be looking at a number of different vendors. You can build your stature and diminish that of your top competitor by positioning them as yesterday’s news”. – Sales Training. 

Keep in mind not to give away the name of your competitor – this way you will actually be telling your customer which company you are ‘afraid’ of and that might lead to them thinking that company is better. There are subtle ways in implying certain competitors without directly referencing them. First National Bank, based in South Africa had such a clever marketing campaign where the audience could derive the competitor details without them having to spell it out.

 

Know When to Quit

Some days you won’t even be able to sell water in the desert – no matter how friendly and accommodating you sound or how many jokes you pull. Knowing when to quit should be an important part of your sales strategy.

You are the only connection they have with what your company stands for. If you totally mess up the communication it can damage future prospects. Instead, back out before they get agitated, rework your strategy and come back another time.

“Wishful thinking can propel you into a world of wasted effort. Once it becomes clear that a deal doesn’t make sense or will take too much effort to close, it’s not worth pursuing”. – CNBC

To quit doesn’t just pertain to a sales method gone wrong, but also knowing when you won’t achieve your goal. For instance – if you are talking to the boss’s assistant instead of the boss – trying to close a deal would be a waste of time.

 

Being a manipulator in the everyday sense of the word is definitely not desirable, but there are certain ways in which subtle prompting and persuasion can help hone a killer sales strategy. Make use of some of the abovementioned tactics and see your company prosper.

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Anneke Steenkamp

Freelance Writer at The Joy of Unemployment
Anneke Steenkamp is a Social Media Manager and Copywriting creative. When she's not typing away at client content she's perfecting her Facebook stalking skills and spending time with her pet dog, Zoey.