Bad Sales Techniques You Still See Today

Bad Salespeople

Bad sales techniques never lead to long-term success.

We’ve all dealt with a pushy salesman.

Whether buying a car or being led into a sales meeting by a friend, it seems everyone has had a poor experience at some point.

An image that comes to mind is the Ned Ryerson character from the Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day. He gets a little too pushy with Murray’s character day after day until one day Phil just wheels back and hits him right in the nose.

That image gave people everywhere a reason to cheer. We’ve all been there.

The truth is that selling is important. We’re all selling all the time. It could be selling our kids on the idea of going to bed on time or selling our partners on a new business strategy. The trick is to use good selling techniques, not bad ones.

Every bad selling technique focuses on winning. Salespeople act as if they are competing against the customer. The result is a win for the salesperson, but a loss for the customer. Bad salespeople do whatever it takes to win even if it only results in short-term gain.

The most successful salespeople take a different approach where both parties are winners. They avoid the bad techniques of the past. 

The Bait and Switch

Retailers still use this approach that has been “perfected” over the last few decades.

Consumers see a promotion for a discount on one item. When they arrive in the store they are bombarded by a salesperson bent on selling them something else. They find the discounted item is not right for what they want, has just sold out, or is not as good as it appeared in the advert. The sales person then switches you to the more expensive item.

The bait and switch is all about getting initial attention with an offer too good to be true. Then, once the sales team has the customer on the hook, they switch the offer and make a sale on a more appealing item…more appealing to the company, not the consumer.

The bait and switch may work on the short-term, but it’s not a way to build lasting relationships.

You wouldn’t promise your spouse a romantic anniversary dinner only to take them to the local burger joint would you?

Yes! Yes! Yes!

This bad sales technique is all about a rapid series of questions.

The salesperson will get the potential buyer in a situation where they ask questions:

  • Do you want to save money?
  • Do you want to help the environment?
  • Do you want to help children?
  • Do you want to make your family happy?
  • Well then, you’ll want to buy this product won’t you?

It’s all about getting people to answer questions that have obvious “Yes!” answers and getting them to convince themselves they need or want a product.

The questions are often broad. They are often asked in a rapid fire manner giving the person little time to react until they are trapped into responding with a yes to the eventual product question.

Again, this technique is used to trap the person into buying the product. It is like they are backing the customer into a corner from where they have only two options. The first is to buy a product that they didn’t want. The second is to back away from the sale and lose face in the process. From the salesperson’s perspective, the intent is get the short-term sale even if the person will feel cheated when they have time to process the experience.

It’s hard to believe salespeople of the past thought this would work on the long run. Getting someone to answer general questions with “Yes!” and then jumping on the person with a surprise sale question. The frightening thing is that there are still people today who use (and train on) this technique.

“Gotcha!” never works in the long run.

Let Me Check…

Here is a bad sales technique used by quite a few salespeople even today.

You’re in a car dealership. You go in looking for help on making a decision on a new vehicle. You feel the salesperson you meet is conscious about your needs. They ask the right questions and provide detailed answers.

But when it comes down to talking about price the salesperson listens to what you want to pay. They then say something like “Let me check with my boss…”

This is technique is used for two reasons. First, it is used to make the customer think the salesperson is on their side. The salesperson then goes out back ( usually to refresh their coffee) for a few minutes and come back to the desk and say, “The boss won’t let me get down to that price.”

The salesperson then might come down a little on the price because they are “On your side.” They’ll use lines like, “I’ve managed to get the boss to drop a bit, but he can’t go that far.” This is about building a connection between the sales person and the buyer.

The second reason for using this technique is to increase the feeling of potential loss for the customer. If the customer believes that the boss may not come down on the price they will be more ready to accept the price the salesperson comes back with. This is ‘take-away’ selling at it’s best. Sales people know that we will want something that is going to be taken away from us – and will often pay more for it.

This technique might work to sell a single car, but if the customer finds out they should have gotten a better deal it will mean poor loyalty and word of mouth business for the car dealership.

It’s always best to think of those you sell to as prospects for long-term relationships instead of short-term customers that help you meet short-term quotas.

This is something you see in old movies. It’s the Good Cop, Bad Cop approach.

Objection Beaters

For decades, salespeople have been taught to deal with objections. Objections are nothing more than concerns and questions that people want cleared up on their way to purchasing. It’s a good to listen to people and figure out what their concerns are when they want to buy – it makes it easier for them to part with their money. Unfortunately, a lot of sales people ahev been taught to ‘beat’ objections. . When you run into objection beaters you know it. These are the folks that have studied books of objections and how to overcome them. Whenever a potential lead has an objection the person is there with an answer. They beat the objections down until the lead has no choice, but to surrender.

This technique, along with others in this post, come from the concept that selling is about winning. The salesperson treats the lead as an opponent and the only acceptable outcome is victory for the salesperson. They do whatever it takes to win even if that means getting some short-term gain for long-term bad customer relations.

The Silent Treatment

Silence is something people are generally uncomfortable with. Introverts can deal with it just fine, but many struggle with it. A situation of silence puts incredible pressure on these people and when a bad salesperson sees this happening they jump on an opportunity to pressure a lead into making a sale that maybe isn’t right for them.

An example of the silent treatment is a salesperson taking an order. They get the order number and then remain silent. The silence puts pressure on the customer to add an additional item to their order leading to a bigger sale.

It’s a classic case of getting in trouble as a kid. Your parent or teacher calls you into a room. They just sit there while you squirm in your chair. Eventually you snap and spill the beans on everything.

It’s Time to Can Confrontational Selling

All these bad sales technique examples are confrontational.

The entire concept of bad selling in the past was to focus on putting the customer in an uncomfortable position so they will make what is ultimately a poor decision. Even if the salesperson truly believes the product is the best for the customer they cross the line when they use confrontation.

This approach is not the best way to sell whether you’re selling products to consumers or selling your executive partners on a new business idea.

There is a much better approach that will lead to more success.

The Best Selling Is Done Through Leadership

Those that sell well today sell through leadership.

The executives and leaders I work with all have the common idea that everybody is in a sales role regardless of where they work. You are selling to someone all the time.

These leaders provide useful information that adds value to the lives of those they come into contact with. This approach shows expertise and character. The concept is to provide knowledge that will show the customer that they have the solution for them.

I’ve written about leadership before and each topic can be used for effective selling:

How to Tap Into Your Personality to Find Your Leadership Style

However basic or complex your personal values may be, they will become the core motivation for the leadership style you develop. The sooner you can know those values, the sooner you can become the type of leader that you most admire.

5 Traits of the Best Leaders and Managers

If your employees see you treating others poorly or being lax with deadlines they will assume it’s all right for them to do the same.

10 Ways to Become a Better Business Leader

Great speakers tell stories about themselves and about others. Stories allow the speaker to communicate key points to the audience and convince them to listen.

Leadership works the same way. Find the general theme in stories and you’ll inspire…

We can look on these bad sales techniques and laugh.

People really sold that way?


Not anymore. Today, it’s about building trust through leadership.

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