Friday, December 21, 2007

Sales Guru OR Master Manipulator?

I recently walked into a cigar shop. I did not walk in because I was interested in buying a cigar. I walked in because part of my job required me to venture into this cigar shop and discuss something with the owner.

The required conversation was quite brief and after exchanging pleasantries and dealing with business, I asked him about his products. It was a sort of generic, “What would you recommend for someone who has never smoked a cigar (me) but was just a little bit curious?” He walked me over to a bin of cigars and pulled two out. “This one is a pretty good place to start”, he explained.

He walked me back to the register while he told me a little bit about it. When we got to the register I asked him about cutting off the ends. I had seen people in movies cutting their cigars but had no idea what needed to be cut. He took out a cigar cutter removed the cigar from its packaging and showed me by cutting it right in front of me. Then he showed me how to light one by lighting the second one he grabbed. So now I have a cut cigar in a “fresh-lock” baggie sitting on the counter in front of me.


He is smoking a cigar and has a “I am really busy so if you’re not going to buy anything, get out” demeanor. Not rude, just busy. Then… he said nothing. There was a long awkward silence. Probably not really long, it just felt long. I knew he wanted me to buy it. I knew he couldn’t really sell it now that it was out of its wrapper. Finally I volunteered, “How much is it?” “Two Bucks”, came the instant reply. Again, silence.

Finally I pulled out my wallet.

I have thought about that encounter quite a bit. Is he a really good salesman because he got me to buy something I would otherwise have not bought?

Is he manipulative because he knew I would feel bad about not buying something he would have a hard time selling.

I know it is just two bucks and either way it doesn’t really matter, but I believe that how you see this scenario will say a great deal about you as a consumer, as a sales person, and will probably be a good indicator of what makes you uncomfortable about Mary Kay.

Sales is sales. The point of being a sales person is to convince people to buy the product you represent. If you are not convincing people, you are just an order taker. (Tom Hopkins) Anyone can take an order when someone is already convinced that they need what you have. It takes a salesperson to convince someone that they need what you have.

It seems like there are three types of people that sell things. Only one should be considered a “salesperson”.

Order taker – not a salesperson. (People already wanted the product)
Manipulator – not a salesperson (People never wanted the product – now they hide from you)
Convincer – salesperson (People didn’t want the product, but you won them over and they love you for it!)

Because not everyone will want what you have to offer, a good salesperson knows when a “no” is really “I’m not sure” and when it is “NO, NOT EVER”. There is no point wasting your time with a “NO, NOT EVER” but a “I’m not sure” is exactly where you want to spend your time. Overcoming objections is a huge part of sales.

What are your thoughts? What are good sales tactics? What are awful tactics?

What are things you know work, but are uncomfortable doing because you hate it when it is done to you?

Where do you rank yourself? 1 – 10

1 is the order taker. “I don’t sell to anyone unless they ask me” “I don’t offer ‘up sale’ items, or suggest anything that they have not asked for specifically”

5 is the happy middle. “I pride myself greatly on my product and won’t “give it a rest” until either you have tried the product, or made it clear to me that you are not interested at all.

10 is the manipulator. “I won’t leave you alone until you get a restraining order, and even then, I know you are just “playing hard to get”. I will send you catalogues through a friend of a friend.


  1. He used the very first sales tactic I learned in MK. He shut up. My director told me "the first person to open their mouth, loses." I see nothing wrong with this.

    Now, if you weren't interested in the cigar and he showed you anyway and cut off the tip . . . That's another story.

    I was not a salesperson. I didn't want to "convience people". If the product is good enough, and is what they want, you don't have to. I wanted them to try it, if they want it, great; if they don't, I didn't want them to have a bad feeling once they left.

  2. I fall between 1 and 5. I have a lot of customers who already love MK products, but their consultants moved away, disappeared, or quit. For these customers, my role is order taker.

    Since I don't sit around waiting for orders all day, I also fall into the 5 category. Even with these "MK orphans" I will try to introduce them to new products. For example, a few of these ladies use Classic Basic #2. I have asked them if they've ever tried Time Wise. In each case they had tried it and didn't like it as much as their familiar Classic Line. I have continued to service them with this product they already love, but show them limited edition items and other gift ideas or whatever.

    When it comes to new customers, I have had to be the "convincer" on occasion. Note: "convincer" does NOT equal "manipulator." The times I've had to convince and/or upsell has usually occurred at an appointment. They love the skin care. They love the foundation. They just want the foundation. My goal is to sell the skin care so I warn them they will not like the foundation as much if they use it without the moisturizer. I demonstrate this on the back of the hand. Then I wait for their reaction. Just about every time they do see my point and will get the set. I also remind them that this is probably the only time they will be buying everything at once. They will need refilled individually. My customers keep ordering it and don't hide from me so I think it's safe to assume they didn't feel manipulated and they actually like the products.

    It all comes down to communication and listening to the customer.

  3. *sigh* I love cigars. When I worked in Corporate this is one of the things I did not mind doing with clients, the cigar bars.

    Bummer though.... when I walked in the door the hubby wanted to hurl. Yep, cigar smoke makes him gag.

    How is that for role reversal! LOL

  4. It looks like this comment belongs here:

    There is a constant question about how important carrying inventory is to a successful MK consultant. Here is an article about those new-fangled super-vending machines you're starting to see in malls, etc. The one I've seen sell ProActive sets.

    What is interesting to me about this article is the following quote (from the vending machine CEO, so take it with a grain of salt), ""The appeal is similar to an online purchase but with immediate gratification"".

    Also note the article's comments about how some customers really don't want to interact with a salesperson. To me, this sounds a lot like the MK Personal Website.


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