Manipulative sales tactics: how to avoid being drawn in

Have you ever purchased something you didn’t want, simply because you couldn’t say ‘no’ to a salesperson? Or have you ever been sucked into donating to a charity, after being asked to sign a petition for what seemed a reasonable cause? If so, you’ve been the target of manipulative sales tactics or unfair influence tactics.

The good news is that you can avoid being taken in by similar tricks in future. Here are three common manipulative ploys to watch out for – as well as tips for responding assertively to the pushy people who use them.

 

1. Illusion of choice tactic

If you’ve ever bought a car, you’ve probably come across this tactic. It involves the salesperson first presenting you with three or four options. Next, they will ask ‘Which option do you want to sign up for?’ This question contains a sly assumption, which suggests that you are choosing between packages, rather than choosing whether or not to buy.

Now you know how this manipulative tactic works, you’ll find it easy to handle. Just say ‘I’ll let you know which package I prefer once I’ve made a firm decision to buy. Thanks for your help.’

 

2. Committing to a higher principle tactic

This ruse starts by asking you to show support for a worthy cause. For example, you might be asked to sign a petition or answer a seemingly innocent question such as ‘Do you care about preserving the local environment?’

Once you’ve signed up or spoken that magic word ‘yes’ the salesperson will reveal their true agenda. They will ask you to make a donation or do something which benefits them. For example, if staff in a hotel enquire about your commitment to preserving the local environment, they’re probably about to ask you to re-use your towels each day.

You can respond to this tactic in two ways. You can avoid giving your commitment in the first place, by politely saying no to the initial question. Or you can expose the ruse assertively by saying ‘I didn’t realise you were seeking donations. Thanks for asking, but I prefer not to.’ Remember that communicating with manipulative people involves setting firm boundaries.

Breaking habits sets you free

 

3. Handling objections tactic

Most salespeople have been trained to push back when you give a reason for not buying. They will refute what you’ve said by presenting a carefully prepared counter-argument. For example, if you say ‘It’s beyond my budget’ the salesperson will say ‘Here’s a cheaper option.’

There’s no point presenting another objection at this stage, because the salesperson will simply present another counter-argument. So you need to be assertive about closing the conversation. For example, say ‘Thanks for that information. I’ll come back when I’m ready to buy.’ Or, if the salesperson is being particularly tenacious, call their tactic by saying ‘There is no point handling my objections, because I have decided not to buy. Thanks for your help.’

 

Want to learn more about handling difficult people? Read Difficult People Made Easy by Eleanor Shakiba.

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