Why Sleazy Sales Tricks Don’t Work

Why Sleazy Sales Tricks Don’t Work

Way back in the dark days, when I was a corporate cubicle dweller there was a common trick used by salespeople.  One that I was taught as a rookie recruitment consultant, and it served me well – up to a point. I was trained to cold call potential clients and tell them that my company was conducting an industry survey into recruitment practices. It would only take 10 minutes of their time, and if they took part they would be provided with a free copy when the survey was published. Of course, it wasn’t what it seemed. The idea was that the answers to the survey would tell us whether the client was recruiting or likely to recruit in the near future, and how big his or her recruitment budget was. Then bingo! If they sounded like a dream client we would go for the kill and try to persuade them to agree to a meeting – and he would agree much more readily now that rapport has been developed over the 10 minutes of the survey questions. The aim of the call of course was nothing to do with the survey, it was to win business. In fact I remember the moment when, naïve and incredulous, I challenged my manager and discovered that there was no such survey! I couldn’t feel the same way about the ruse after that and stopped using it – it was my first and last period of success in using a “sleazy sales trick”.

Fast forward to today, and I teach heart-centred business owners how to sell in ways that are authentic and based on integrity, and I promise not to teach any of the sleazy techniques that give sales such a bad name. And I truly believe with all my heart that it is possible to be fully effective in sales without needing to resort to tricks or underhand techniques. In fact my business depends on it.

So I’ve felt deeply uncomfortable lately to notice the rise in this kind of sales technique being adopted by otherwise good-hearted business people, in particular coaches, healers and holistic practitioners.

Only this time around it goes something like this: Coach or therapist meets someone networking and on chatting to them discovers that they are in their target market. Instead of using honest approaches or being straightforward enough to say “from what you’ve just told me I really think that I could help you with that, might you be interested in having another conversation with me to find out more?” they instead ask their ‘target’ if they would be happy to help with some market research. It will take about 10 minutes, can we schedule an appointment? (Is this sounding familiar yet?) The ‘target’ (not even potential client as they have not even indicated an interest!) like most people wants to help, and so a few days later they end up on the phone to the coach in question answering a series of “market research” questions. Having taken them through the questions, if the coach feels that the target could potentially be a client they then change tack and the next thing they know the ‘target’ is subject to a sales conversation that they didn’t even volunteer to take part in! Ouch.

I feel so disappointed when I hear of other otherwise well-intentioned, heart-centred business owners adopting this type of underhand approach. Quite apart from anything else it is unlikely to work. Why not?

1. It’s Uncomfortable

Most coaches, healers & holistic practitioners are good-hearted people who don’t like to operate without integrity. Using a sneaky approach like this can only feel uncomfortable for most of them, and that uncomfortable energy will be picked up by the client and be unlikely to lead to the client agreeing to work with them.

2. It’s Arrogant

This approach sees the “holistic practitioner” meeting an otherwise innocent party and “deciding” for them that they are a potential client, and then trying to “lead them down a path” of becoming a client. This is downright arrogant. It’s not for YOU to decide who your clients are. It is for THEM to decide if they need you – your job is to make sure you communicate what you can do for them in the most compelling way possible so they understand exactly what you can do for them. And then IF they are interested, and IF you know you can help them, it is to guide them confidently to make the right decision about whether to work with you.

3. It’s Intrusive

In order for the “healer” to decide whether this person is a potential client they must ask some potentially intrusive and personal questions, questions that they wouldn’t normally feel comfortable leaping in with, but somehow wrapping it up as “market research” makes it feel OK…

4. It’s Potentially Harmful

I was recently at the receiving end of one of these research calls. In the interests of his “research” the practitioner (lets call him Darren for the sake of anonymity) asked me a number of very probing questions relating to my personal and emotional life. Now, I’m a big fan of personal development. I’ve invested in working on a lot of my “stuff”. I wouldn’t have the business I have today had I not. But there is also lot of “stuff” still to deal with – there always is, isn’t there? However, I also believe there is a time for everything, and currently my energetic focus is on nurturing my business not unpeeling the next layer of my personal onion. So even though I hadn’t approached Darren with the awareness of any problem, the very nature of his questions led him (and me) to probe areas that I wasn’t ready to look at. He was basically stirring up a problem that at that time wasn’t a problem for me, and leading me to feel that maybe it was something important to work on – with his help of course.

5. It’s Insulting

Your client may be polite (too polite to tell you how offended they feel) but they are not stupid. Nobody will “not notice” when you turn a research call into a sales conversation. And it is highly unlikely that someone will be happy to switch seamlessly from realising they have been deceived, to being genuinely open to consider working with you (if they seem to be, I can guarantee they are just being polite).

6. It’s no way to start a Relationship

When your client says yes to working with you, it’s not like selling a widget or a used car where the customer walks off into the distance and you never have to face them again. Instead, when your client says “Yes!” to you, you enter into a deeper level of intimacy where they are going to be opening up to you about details of their lives – their relationships, their intimate fears and desires, their unhealthy emotions, maybe the shambles that is their accounting or business systems. If you enter that relationship based on dishonesty it will be very difficult to regain the level of trust that you need to truly work together to the best outcome.

So what to do instead?

That’s easy! Only ever treat a potential client in the way that you, yourself would want to be treated. If you wouldn’t want to be tricked or lied to, then don’t do it. It doesn’t matter how well-intentioned you are. And even if you get the outcome you want, it will be a hollow victory if it doesn’t feel good for either of you.

Rant over.

PS If you are a heart-centred business owner and have used the above technique with great results and would beg to disagree with me then I’d love to hear from you – I am open to a healthy debate!

With Love & Gratitude,


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Please leave a comment as I would love to hear your thoughts


  1. Holly on February 12, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    I think that selling doesn’t come naturally to most people (probably just about everybody), and that most people are at a loss when it comes to selling techniques. So when someone tells them about a great little trick like the 10-minute survey, they think it sounds good…without ever analysing just how inauthentic it is. And if they’re uncomfortable with sales to begin with, then they may not realise that their discomfort with the 10-minute trick is precisely because it’s inauthentic. They might think that’s just how sales feels: yucky. And of course it doesn’t have to.

  2. Catherine on February 12, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    What a great point Holly, that people just assume sales has to feel ‘yucky’ when done properly it shouldn’t feel that way at all, and so they try to adopt techniques that don’t feel right to them. Thanks for such a perceptive comment 🙂

  3. Bert Bignell on February 13, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    Website about to be set up! I have been a salesman for some years before setting up my own contract cleaning business (1977) – Busy Bee cleaning services – “we try harder to please you” but I found my clients were the biggest cheats! Having earlier had traditional sales training in AIDS – Attention, Interest Desire and then Sell, accompanied by KISS – Keep It Simple and Smile – I’m now semi retired and would like to start my own healing business using “hands on ” and Kinesiology healing. Using these methods I have produced several “miracles” so I agree totally with your attitude to selling and look forward to seeing your seminar.

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