Worst Sales Advice Ever: Stop Following These 4 'Tips'

There are some tried-and-true sales tactics that work, and there are others that you should stop using immediately—like the ones listed here.
Author, Profit First
November 11, 2013

As long as there has been trade, folks have been refining their sales techniques. You can take seminars, online courses and even undergo hypnosis to improve your salesmanship. And everyone has advice to share, a trick or two to improve your sales record. However, some of those tried-and-true tips may be worth ignoring. Let's deconstruct four popular bits of sales advice to see why they can hurt your sales.

1. Hold Eye Contact

Good salespeople realize the importance of creating a personal connection with prospective customers and projecting confidence and honesty. The problem is that focusing too much energy on maintaining steady eye contact can be perceived as a show of aggression. It can make customers uncomfortable and even turn into a contest in which both parties feel compelled to hold eye contact and think of the person who looks away as weak and able to be controlled.

If you think about it, the only instances in which prolonged eye contact is appropriate is if you’re trying to intimidate someone, or if you’re in a romantic relationship. Eye contact is intimate and should be used deliberately and judiciously. Don’t turn your sales pitch into a staring contest. Your best bet is to establish eye contact, break it and reestablish it over the course of the conversation. You’ll be creating the connection you want while minimizing the chances of your buyers feeling like you’re staring them down.

2. Quote A Range Of Prices

Again, this advice is well-intentioned. You want to appear reasonable and flexible, so you tell a prospective customer that the kind of project they’re looking for will run somewhere between $20K and $30K. Here’s why the range is a bad idea: The customer only hears the low end— they’re thinking $20K. You hear the high end—you’re thinking $30K. You might think that ending up right in the middle would make both parties happy, but in fact, both parties feel dissatisfied. The customer feels like she overpaid by $5K, and you feel shortchanged by $5K.

A far better strategy is to quote a specific price—one that has a little wiggle room built in if the customer wants or needs to negotiate. If you quote $26K and let the customer work you down to $25K, then you're satisfied and the customer can feel like they got a great deal.

3. Assume The Sale

“When you drive off the lot in this brand new Jaguar, you’ll be the envy of your neighborhood.” While a new Jag truly might inspire envy, consumers are wise to this trick. Simply acting as though the sale’s a foregone conclusion can backfire because it presumes that your customer is dumb, weak and easily manipulated. This sort of pressure can be an instant turnoff and can actually lose the sale.

Your better bet is to take the pressure down a notch or two and discuss the possible consequences of deciding to purchase. Customers like to feel as though they’re in control—in the driver’s seat, as it were—and they want to believe that the decision about whether or not to purchase a Jaguar is solely theirs to make.

4. Don't Give Them A Way Out

The best example of how appallingly ineffective this tactic can be is time share sales. Prospective clients are frequently shut in a room with a high pressure salesperson who will stop at nothing to get the signature before letting the client out of the room. Want to understand how ineffective these tactics are in the long run? There are attorneys who specialize in disputing time share sales. People feel so pressured to buy on the spot that they sign, and then dispute the sale, either with their credit card, and sometimes even in court.

As it turns out, your sale closure rate will actually increase if your sales pitches give customers an out—let them feel like they have the freedom to make a choice. There’s nothing wrong with extolling the virtues of your product, but crossing the line to intimidate consumers will backfire more often than not.

The foundation of sales is understanding what consumers want and how they make decisions about what to buy. Gimmicky tactics based on faulty consumer psychology will not only fail to yield desired results, but the use of those tactics may even hurt your sales. Treating consumers with respect may sound like old- fashioned common sense, but it’s actually the most effective sales tactic around.

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