You know, sales is not an easy profession. In the absolute best of times, we face a high degree of customer suspicion, high rejection rates, and the other challenges that come with being the tip of the economic spear for our companies. In fact, a 2022 HubSpot study found that only 3% of people trust salespeople! The good news is that we came in ahead of lawyers and politicians – so we have that going for us.
I personally believe that sales – done right – is a noble profession and is probably the most fun one can have in the business world. That’s why I’ve been in it for 34 years and counting. And that’s why I am so mightily offended by those salespeople who contribute to the 97% of people who find us untrustworthy, rather than the 3% who trust us. As much as I’d like to believe that the low trust factor is based on past salespeople and past actions, I can’t. I’ve had a couple of instances recently that reminded me that deceptive sales tactics are still out there. I’m going to share those instances with you, and then I’m going to give you some advice to build trust.
Several months ago, I connected with the editor of one of the most popular magazines for Entrepreneurs. It’s widely read and has a high degree of credibility in the market. Yep, my interest was in writing for them. This editor had a series of posts on LinkedIn about all the bad article queries he received, and implored people to “do it right” if they wanted to get published in his magazine, and if people would just query him the right way, they could get published. Well, I’ve written article queries for over 20 years, I know how to do it right, and I had content that bore on issues his readership faced (as noted in some of his other posts).
So, I queried him by email. He thanked me for my query and directed me to a link where all his queries had to be submitted, though his magazine’s online system. And – here’s where I got upset. In order to submit a query, you first had to be a member of his “online community.” It costs $3000 a year to become a member. SO – “doing it right,” as he had been blaring for months, wasn’t what it really took to get published. You have to pay to play.
I called him out via email, and asked him if he didn’t feel a bit hypocritical. He explained that it was “just the way it was done.” OK – but if the real qualification was writing a check, don’t tell people that “doing it right” gets you what you want. To me, that’s unethical. If I have to write a check, tell me that UP FRONT. He has lost all credibility with me, and I told him so.
Then, earlier this week, I was messaged by two different people asking me if I’d be interested in being a guest on a podcast they host (this happens from time to time), and telling me to set up an appointment to talk. I did so, and set them on the same day. The first appointment was with a man named Jeff Davis, who hosts a podcast called Twelve Mavens. I’ll be on his show on March 20; I’ll put out more info when it gets closer. Had a great conversation with him and it’s legit.
The second was less legit. Keep in mind, I’m fresh off a conversation where a guy shared the makeup and size of his audience, asked about my content, and we agreed on a topic and time. That’s how you do it. I’m not going to name the second – but he immediately launched into a presentation about “Now, this is what I do for free.” I stopped him and asked if he was asking me to guest on his podcast, and he said, “Well, yeah, but I’m showing you my process.” Ultimately, what became clear is that I wasn’t really being asked to guest on a podcast, I was being sold a marketing package. I don’t think there even IS a podcast. He set the appointment under false pretenses – and I bailed.
Look, I get it. When you are a speaker, or an author, or a business owner or manager, there’s no shortage of people lining up to separate you from your money. All I ask is that you do so transparently. I also realize that I tread that line a bit – I offer my complimentary Sales Strategy Review to business owners and managers, and in it, I promise 2-3 actionable takeaways geared around helping them with their sales team. Yes, my objective is to get new people into my sales funnel. But that is usually a separate conversation – and I genuinely enjoy helping, and I do so without asking for money to do it. I don’t require money before I help and then hide it.
And now, here’s where it comes full circle to you. I’m seeing a resurgence in disingenuous sales tactics, borne out of desperation to get appointments. The idea is to use whatever verbal or written “hooks” you can in order to just get the conversation – and then, once you have a buyer pinned down, turn that conversation into something they didn’t expect or want.
The problem is this. In sales, what we really market is our credibility. That credibility stays with US throughout our careers, and when you undertake an action that makes you a fake, a fraud, or a charlatan, it sticks with you. I’ll never buy into anything that editor says again, even if he changes jobs. Nor for that matter will I accept his magazine as credible. I’ll never accept a conversation with the second podcast guy again, for any reason. I’d rather get fewer appointments for the right reasons than more appointments for the wrong ones.
Sure, tactics like that can be a shortcut to money. But there’s more to this business than money. There’s being able to look in the mirror at the end of the day. There’s being a true benefit to people you encounter. And there’s the knowledge that when you do move into a well-deserved retirement, you left the profession a better place for those that follow you.