Selling shouldn’t equal annoying

hand putting a penny in a money jar - charity donationThere’s a Walgreens a few blocks from my house. It’s a convenient place to get just about everything, so I’m there a few times a week.  It seems like every week they are collecting money for some charity.

They have the cause of the week prominently displayed.  I can buy a paper boot, heart, ribbon or balloon. And when I go to check out, there’s a jug there — inviting cash donations.  When I run my credit card through — as I approve the charge, I am given the opportunity to donate.

So — I have ample opportunity to give.  But then, if all those efforts have failed to get me to donate — the clerk asks me — do you want to make a donation to XYZ?

Now I’m feeling cornered.  The people in the line are listening. The clerk is looking at me like I’m a cheap jerk and while I should not care about what these strangers think — I sort of do.

That’s not a comfortable position and we shouldn’t be putting that sort of squeeze on our prospects or clients.

There’s a fine line in marketing and sales.  We’ve talked about it before.  You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. If someone is not ready to part with their money, you can’t force or humiliate them into doing so.  And if you keep pushing — all you do is alienate them.

Sometimes this over the line behavior is overt, like my Walgreens friends.  Other times, it’s more subtle – like the passive aggressive voice mail messages or constant up selling or incessant follow up even when you’ve been told no.

Subtle or not — it’s not effective. It makes us question your motives (I am pretty sure Walgreens has some sort of contest among their stores…to see who can raise the most money) and it feels a little desperate.

I know this flies into the face of the sales motto — always be closing.  But the hard sell doesn’t work anymore (Did it ever?).

Instead — you have to find a way to know who your real audience is, capture their attention, market consistently and have something of value to share/teach often enough that you stay on their radar screen until they’re ready to buy.

If it was easy — everyone could do it.  Do you have the stamina to sell?


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11 comments on “Selling shouldn’t equal annoying

  1. Mack Collier says:

    “But the hard sell doesn’t work anymore (Did it ever?).”

    Not on most people, and I bet you’re right, they probably do have a contest going to see which branch can raise the most money. They are focused on what’s best for the store vs what’s best for the customer. Great reminder, Drew!

    1. Mack,

      I think one of the mistakes that puts the biggest “stink” on marketing efforts is when you’re out to serve your own interests, not your customers.

      We (consumers) can smell that a mile away.


  2. Ryan says:

    This was a breath of fresh air. I feel the same way when I am in those situations. I have never liked high pressure sales, but I would like to know where that line is.

    Business State of Mind

  3. Unfortunately it’s Girl Scout cookie time and they are everywhere. Maybe if they would give me a sticker I could wear saying, “I bought my Girl Scout Cookies” and then when others saw that instead of asking me to buy again, they’d just say thank you, I’d feel better about their sales tactics.

  4. Aylin Sankur says:

    Thanks for sharing, Drew. I think we have all had a similarly annoying experience at a convenience store register! You are right on point in highlighting the fact that there is a fine line between and effective marketing strategy and an overbearing sales technique, and the fact is that the latter just doesn’t work. Marketers should focus on strategies that engage customer interest rather than on campaigns that make them feel coerced.

  5. Rachel Blue says:

    Yeah, I agree! It’s really annoying to have this kind of situation, especially when if you don’t have a pennies on your hand. I don’t want to be stress just like this. 🙂

  6. It’s probably worth stating the blindingly obvious that the more we educate, the more our prospects become buyers. The more we sell ,the less our prospects are educated and therefore there is less likelihood of them become buyers.

    1. Chris,

      Hard to argue with that logic and yet most businesses don’t educate — they shout. I think one of the best side benefits of social media is that the educate/help mentality is gaining traction.


  7. As a sales professional, my job is to find a solution to a problem. That is to provide Service. Forcing a solution (sale) to someone that has determined they have a problem or need is indeed perceived as an annoyance.
    Very good Drew.

  8. Nicholas G says:

    That’s interesting. I’m also at my Walgreens a few times a week and I notice all the donation opportunities, but never thought about it maybe being a little too much.

  9. Mark says:

    Not everyone is built for sales. You need to have a certain drive in order to be a successful salesperson. You also have to be able to to take rejection well…

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