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Deceptive Sales and Marketing
October 27, 2010

Deceptive Sales and Marketing


If you are delivering less than what your customers expect through your sales and marketing efforts, are you being deceptive?

Ask yourself: am I deliberately creating expectations that I know I am not going to meet later on? One of the most common examples of this is the “fine print” today's consumers are so wary of. Or an offer followed by a conspicuous asterisk (*). Or the salesperson that simply facts or provides best case scenarios as being the norm ("We will get it to you by Thursday, guaranteed!"). Sales and marketing professionals who engage in these sorts of tactics are “fudging the truth” at best and lying at worst.

What you should be aiming for instead in your sales and marketing communications is the tried and tested adage of “promise less, deliver more.” Instead of trying to create business through hyped-up advertising and inflated commitments, try to create interest by talking less and listening more. Let your customers tell you exactly what they are looking for and then communicate the basics of what your product or service delivers. Then let their own imagination do the rest; if they are a good fit, it will become obvious and they will tell you.

Sales and marketing should be less about persuading and more about informing. What this means is that your job is to try and match your product or service with what your customers need. If they have a problem to which you are presenting the solution to then all you have to do is create awareness of that fact by managing customer perception. The first step is always to qualify and discover customer needs. In doing so you will create trust and get customers to open up to what they are really looking for.

What do you do if you find that your product or service is not, in fact, an optimal solution for a specific customer? At worst you will take the approach that many sales and marketing professionals do which is to try and get the shoe to fit in any case by forcing a sale. What you should do instead is guide customers to where else they should be looking based on your knowledge of the market and industry. Never try to force a customer to buy from you. All you will do is create bad business which will come back to haunt you later.

Adopting the consultative approach of true sales and marketing professionals means that at the end of the day your job is not to generate business but serve customers. Making sales is a by-product of your sincere and earnest desire to find out about your customer and their needs and then guide them accordingly. Of course, when you are in a position of knowing that your solution is a best fit for a given customer then you should indeed expend every effort in closing the business. Remember, however, that the customer should and does always come first and last.

If your sales and marketing efforts are just about trumpeting your strengths through over-promotion then you may be acting from a position of weakness. Such efforts are generally perceived by customers and prospects as being acts of desperation and a sign of a weak product or service. STOP! Put yourself in the shoes of a customer and look at your sales and marketing communications with the objective eye of an outsider. Are you trying to hard to persuade or do your communications resound with the strength and confidence of a winner? Just as we judge interpersonal communications, so our customers judge our communications to them.

The best approach is always the most direct and truthful. Of course, there are times when your communications strategy becomes nuanced and more complex based on specific sales and marketing situations. A common example of this is communicating less or withholding information in order to increase customer anticipation. However, you must always proceed in good faith and with the firm purpose in mind of guiding your customers to what is best for them. Full disclosure is better than hidden agendas in most cases and customers will appreciate your forthrightness and learn to trust you.

Honesty is the best policy in general and in sales and marketing as well!

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