Do You Have to Manipulate to Sell?

Sharon Therien


July 11, 2018 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

Computer and Checklist

People often associate sales and marketing with manipulation. Truth be told, many marketing and sales tactics are manipulative. It’s not even hard to find industry resources that show awareness of using manipulation and then justify it.

It’s safe to say that we’ve all experienced a sales or marketing approach that made us feel skeevy or at least uncomfortable. The method may have even pushed us away instead of converting us. And these types of experiences can leave a bad taste in our mouths regarding the whole sales and marketing industry.

So when it comes time to sell something within your career, you can end up faced with uncertainty and even moral conflicts. You might think you have to use deceptive tactics or find yourself resistant to marketing and sales altogether because you don’t want to trick and pressure people.

The important question is: Do you really have to manipulate to sell? The answer is no.

Problems with Manipulation

Image via Flickr by HloomHloom

Manipulative marketing tactics can walk a fine line of morality, go past the line, and even become illegal, such as in the case of misleading ads. Morality aside, they lose a customer’s trust and often prevent relationship building.

Some examples of manipulative practices include:

  • Creating false urgency and false scarcity, i.e. claiming the customer only has a short window of time to buy or that there is only one item left when that is not the truth
  • Acting like customers need to choose between set options rather than choosing whether to buy anything in the first place
  • Counteracting every objection to buying, which aims to convince people they should buy an item even if they want to think about it
  • Creating a negative situation, such as making a prospect click “No thanks, I don’t want to be successful” as the alternate to the “Yes” conversion button

These are some examples that focus on trying to force the person to take an action rather than giving him or her the freedom to take the action if it feels right. Sure, the goal is to sell, but there are different ways to accomplish this goal, and the customer should be treated as more than just a wallet.

Businesses focused on one-time sales might be satisfied with manipulative practices, but businesses that want to maintain long-term customer relationships should keep trust in mind.

If an audience distrusts messaging and even feels like they need to protect themselves from falling prey to a company’s ploys, they’re not going to want to become customers or remain customers.

Even if deceptive tactics work once, do they work in the long run? If you create false urgency by saying the customer will only get the sale price within the next 12 hours and your messaging works, you might say your tactics were successful. But what happens when your customer sees the same price after that 12-hour timeline is up? You lose his or her trust. Now you’ve weakened or killed a long-term relationship with that customer.

By using manipulative sales tactics, you might especially be alienating your audience if it’s made up of Millennials. A study from The McCarthy Group found 84 percent of people in this group said they did not like advertising. They ranked advertising and salespeople with low levels of trustworthiness. 

Taking a Different Approach

There are different ways to market, so you don’t have to be deceptive. While your goal is still to make a sale, you can respect consumers by allowing them to make up their own minds.

Consider approaches such as these:

Find the right audience.

If you offer what the right target audience needs or wants, and find ways to connect with them, you don’t have to trick them into buying. They’ll want to buy what you have. Develop a buyer persona through research, such as looking at the demographics of people who have previously made a purchase. Use SEO so the people searching for what you offer are able to find you through search results.

Create connections and build relationships.

Instead of focusing on one sale, aim to create and maintain a long-term relationship. To do this well, make it a win-win relationship, where consumers patronize your business, and you offer them valuable content and quality products in return. A prime way to connect is through social media, where you can interact on a more personal level. Even Millennials who aren’t likely to trust your ad tend to respond well to brands using social media effectively.

Provide value to your audience.

Don’t ask your audience members to buy from you with every interaction. Instead, offer them a great experience through valuable content that relates to them. You could share helpful blog posts, interesting videos, and other great content they’ll enjoy or find useful.

Create a good brand experience.

Rather than feeling frustrated and deceived, your customers should have a positive experience when they interact with your brand. You can achieve this by making it easy for them to buy when they want to without roadblocks standing in the way. Also, design branding that shows people your company’s personality and resonates with them on a more personal level.

Help your audience decide without forcing.

Share information that will help visitors decide whether they want to buy your product without trying to deceive them into doing so. Ways to achieve this include sharing specifications of each product, demonstrating your products in action through videos, and including customer reviews.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of how to sell without manipulating. Your brand can find its own methods for success.

The main point is that instead of twisting the situation to get people to buy, sales can instead be obtained by creating connections, providing value through your entire brand experience, and letting prospects know that you have the right products for them if and when they are ready to buy them. Following this approach can help you connect with the audience that would benefit from your product—without any sign of buyer’s remorse or guilt on your end.

Author Image - Sharon Therien
Sharon Therien

CopyPress writer

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