4 Ways People Sell Products and Services That I Wish We'd Stop Using

Uncategorized Mar 31, 2021

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When I attended university for my undergraduate in marketing nearly twenty years ago, I was taught many sales tactics that I applied throughout my career.


But I’ve started to see some of these sales tactics morphe into stretching the truth to make more sales. This typically happens as the market becomes more sophisticated because what used to work on people no longer does.


So we try to figure out more sophisticated ways to get people to buy our stuff. It’s a hard pill to swallow for heart-centered and purpose-driven entrepreneurs and highly integral people because the set standards are diminishing with sales tactics that are less than ethical. 


Some people might not even know they are doing anything wrong because they learned the tactics from a coach or mentor or emulated what someone else was doing. 


If you have a good heart and want to help people, you might even believe that I can show them how much I care if I just get clients. So you stretch the truth slightly upfront to land clients.


That is why I want to share four sales tactics that I wish we’d stop using because they aren’t ethical. This blog isn’t meant to make you feel bad if you’re using some or all of these tactics; as I mentioned above, you might not even know you’re doing it. 


 1. Using False Exclusivity to Get More Applications

You’ve likely seen this in the form of an application process. A coach, consultant, or online expert asks you to apply for their program because they say they are selective about who gets accepted.


And while that might be true, I’ve gone through a lot of these processes where I know most people are accepted—based solely on them expressing interest and agreeing to commit to the program. That is false exclusivity at its finest. 




Because when the acceptance rate is close to 100 percent, it’s not exclusive. And I’m not talking about the percentage of conversions on sales calls. I’m talking about the acceptance rate. The rate at which people are accepted into the program is based solely on their desire to enroll. There is a big difference. 


Exclusivity, by definition, is excluding people based on a specific set of criteria. Not on, if you express interest and apply, we’ll let you into the program.


Applying for college is an excellent example of exclusivity. The colleges set a standard, usually based on grade point average, to start, and if you fall short of that, you aren’t even considered. If the college or program is competitive, other criteria play a factor: volunteering and community service hours, essay writing, recommendations, interviews, and admission test scores.


This allows the colleges to keep the acceptant standards high and protect the integrity of the programs they offer. 


False exclusivity has the opposite effect.


It actually drives down the standard level because anyone willing to pay and commit to the program is accepted even if they aren’t a good fit or add to the program’s standard and other clients’ level.


So the next time a coach, consultant, or expert asks you to apply for their program, ask them what the acceptance criteria are for it. Get clear on the program’s acceptance rate, and you’ll know right away whether false exclusivity is at play. 


If you want to use the application process for your program, make sure you have specific criteria that you follow and that you’re not using it as a way to convince your potential clients that exclusivity exists when it doesn’t. If you’re selective, your acceptance rate shouldn’t be close to 100 percent, and you should be turning more people away than you’re accepting.


2. Using False Scarcity to Create Urgency

“Hurray, there are only two spots left in my program.”

“Low stock.”

“Only three items available.”


These are all examples of scarcity sales tactics. The pressure (i.e., urgency) infused in marketing messages to sign up before the product or service sells out. 


And I get it. It’s tough to motivate people to take action, so there is nothing wrong with it if you’re telling the truth. People go wrong because they stretch the truth in the number of spots or items available to make more sales.


Typically you can see this if the message says, “Only four spots left.” 


Four spots left out of how many? 


Is it four spots left out of four spots, or is it four spots left out of ten?


During my launches, I communicate the number of spots available and as they fill up what is left. For example, I’m only accepting five people, and there are two spots left.


This demonstrates transparency because if someone signs up when I say, “Only two spots left,” they should enter a program with three people signed up already. This shows my audience that I’m not using false scarcity to get them into the program.


So, the next time someone sells scarcity, ask them out how many spots are available in total or how many items are being sold in total. If they can’t give you a total number, they are using false scarcity.


If you want to create urgency for what you are selling, put a deadline on it, or share transparently how many spots you started with and how spots are left. Not only is this operating in integrity, but you’ll also attract people who are buying from an empowered place versus people buying out of fear.


3. Shaming Others as a Way to Position You as the Better Choice

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this before, “You must create polarizing content to stand out.”


Here’s the thing, I agree with this statement to a degree. I believe to stand out, you must create content that stands for something. Often that is polarizing to other peoples’ beliefs and opinions because not everyone thinks the same thing.


People misinterpret this statement by using it as an opportunity to create content that calls out other people in their industry to generate polarization or position them as the better choice. 


In the coaching industry, I’ve seen this done in content and messaging that says, “Was your last coach shitty?” or “Girl, I get you, you invested in coaches or coaching programs that were fluff and didn’t help you get the results you want. I promise my program and experience are way different.”


The other great example is in the political space where both candidates tear each other apart to convince the masses that they are the better choice. In politics, we call these dirty politics; in sales, somehow, this is acceptable.


But the problem with this type of messaging is that shaming others or calling people out in a roundabout way attracts people who blame others for their poor decisions and choices. We are responsible for our choices, and they selected that coach or consultant and stayed in the program for its entirety. These are also the clients that will rely on you to get the results. And will blame you when they don’t get them.


4. Using the Fear of Missing Out (aka FOMO) to Create Demand

Clubhouse nailed this one. If you’re not familiar with Clubhouse, where have you been? 


I'm only joking! 


But in late 2020, it took social media by storm, and FOMO was at the center of its marketing.


Along with exclusivity, but Clubhouses’ exclusivity was real. Only iPhone users could use the app, and I don’t blame them. When rolling out a new platform like this, it’s best to test it first with a smaller audience. And iPhone users are less than 30% of the population, compared to more than 70% of Android users.


Here’s the thing, FOMO, to me, does not represent alignment. It creates a subconscious belief that you're missing something if you don't join or buy, which breeds misalignment. 


It also attracts that type of client, one who is deciding out of alignment. And, hey, maybe you don’t care, and that’s cool. But if you want to attract clients who aren’t operating out of fear when they purchase, don’t use FOMO as a tactic. 


Clients who purchase out of fear will stay in that state during the duration of your program or customer experience. And they look like this:

  • Desperate to get results quickly or have a timeline of when they need them.
  • Want you to give them all the answers and just tell them what to do.
  • Impatient to do the work.
  • Scared things won’t work out. 
  • This is their last-ditch effort, so they need it to work.
  • Blame you for not getting the results.
  • Ask for their money back.
  • Never satisfied with anything. 


So, FOMO sales tactics don’t set your customers or clients up for success. If you want to create demand for what you are selling, create content that helps your audience get into alignment to make an aligned purchasing decision.


I’d love to know in the comments if there are any sales tactics you think should be added to this list and why!  


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