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Pushy Sales People: Need Any Help? Need Any Help? Need Any Help?

Recently, I published an article about how the 9 to 5 hours might be killing your business, but today I was reminded of another business killer that I’ve encountered: your sales force.

According to Advertising Age, a Consumer Reports study found that 65% of people surveyed acknowledged being “Tremendously Annoyed” by a rude salesperson. Rude and Pushy salespeople ranked towards the top of a 10 point scale of Worst Customer Gripes.

What Changed?

What has happened that all-of-a-sudden we are so turned off by pushy sales people? Did pushy sales people appear out of nowhere? Absolutely not! They’ve always been around, but in the past, we were forced to deal with them. Because of that, we were better able to ignore them.

Now, we are so accustomed to shopping online that pushy sales people seem more invasive than they ever have in the past. Pair that up with a tough economy, and sales people hungry for sales, and you end up with a perfect storm of hard-selling, and customers that are highly sensitive to it.

Pushy Sales People: Pushing Sales Away

The problem with your sales people being too pushy is that you have competition like never before. In addition to your local competition, you have an online world of competition.

Not only do you have thousands of independent retailers to compete with, you have individuals selling on eBay, Craigslist, and a host of others, and you have giants like Amazon, Wal-Mart, and every other major retailer online.

Customers can now walk out the door without conscience and have it delivered to their doors in two days using Amazon Prime. Your pushy sales people just pushed a sale out the door, and over to a competitor.

What Do You Do?

Many companies have tried “Soft Selling” as a solution, and it has been met with great fanfare. Apple has employed this tactic very well. The idea behind the soft sell is to remain in the background and wait for buying or question signals. It is quite easy to tell when a customer wants to buy, or has a question. They do, what I like to call, the Meerkat:

This can also be called “Prairie Dogging” (I know that has multiple meanings, but we’re adults here). Basically, the customer stands up straight, and begins to look around as though they are completely lost. Basically, everyone does this – myself included. It’s the universal sign of “I have a question!” Try the soft sell and see what happens.

My Own Personal Story

The worst case of hard selling I’ve ever experienced was about 1 year ago when my wife and I were shopping for a bedroom set. We went to a Kane’s furniture store to browse and met a woman who will forever redefine the way I remember hard selling. She followed us around everywhere, and would intervene on questions I was asking my wife.

Questions such as “what do you think of this set?” should not be answered by the sales person, but she asserted herself at every chance. Finally, my wife and I didn’t feel like we could talk at all, so I had to break my normally non-confrontational demeanor and ask her to go away (I asked nicely!). She stepped no more than 20 feet away, and as soon as another question left my mouth she was back trying to answer it.

In addition to her separation anxiety, this sales person continued to only show us the highest priced sets she could find. She made sure to bring us to the Tempur-Pedic section and forced us to sit on them despite the fact that my wife stated that she hated the way they felt. The salesperson challenged us on that, brought us over, and was surprised to find out that after sitting on them, we still hated the feel of  Tempur-Pedic.

My Escape From Pushy Sales People

After a lot of wasted time, uncomfortable closeness, and an inability to discuss the options, we wanted to leave. I didn’t want her card, I didn’t want the pile of flyers and financing deals that were in her hands, so I had no choice but to produce a decoy.

I asked her to grab the price off of an obscure nightstand clear on the other side of the store. As soon as she made her way over, we bolted to freedom. It’s sad that I feel justified in comparing that moment to the end of “The Shawshank Redemption.” We have yet to return to that store, and purchased our set elsewhere.

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