Biz Tips: How I Survived an Elaborately Planned Sales Pitch

Biz Tips: How I Survived an Elaborately Planned Sales Pitch


How I Survived an Elaborately Planned Sales Pitch

Tips for consumers and insights for marketers

Photo courtesy of and Pixabay

TWO HOURS after I arrived at the beauty products shop for a complimentary facial, I exited the facial treatment chamber and breathed in the mall’s air-conditioned recycled air. I was finally free.

What I expected to be a relaxing time of silence and getting pricked was instead a two-hour session of a sales-orchestrated conversation between me, the facial-lady-slash-saleslady, and her boss. There was no pricking of skin, just a stressful pricking of my brain as I wrestled with a major skin-altering purchase decision that was imposed on me by skilled, experienced, successful salespeople.

“When did salespeople in the mall suddenly get so sophisticated?” I thought to myself, totally not expecting a sales performance of this caliber.

And how in the world did I become the target of a $1,500 anti-aging beauty product?

I hardly exude an aura of vanity nor wealth. I had no hint of cosmetics on my face, nor was I wearing anything that looked expensive. Sports watch, jeans, shirt, sneakers, nerdy glasses. Definitely not someone leaning towards an extravagant purchase of beauty products. I might most readily pay for a truckload of books than a bottle of facial serum.

I am very accommodating though, and so possibly came off with a hint of timidity, gullibility, and a people-pleasing nature, one who might rather pay for something rather than walk away and disappoint the poor salespeople who spent so much time and effort to try to win me over. People like these are also perceived as easy sales targets.

Here is what transpired:

Part 1: Setting the Stage

What happened

The saleslady welcomed me into the chamber and asked about what problems I had with my skin — to which I replied “dull skin, open pores, blackheads.” She then pointed out some additional issues such as uneven skin tone, eyebags and white milia. Gee, thanks.

Sales techniques employed

Focus on customer needs. Magnify their issues and point of need and add more problems, which will increase the value of the solution.

My thought bubbles

Hmmm this lady knows what she is doing. I feel she is listening to my needs and adding more issues to “solve”.

Part 2: Demonstrating the Product

What happened

The lady prepped my face with a cleanser that made my skin very soft. Then she introduced a contraption that uses red LED light that penetrates deep into the skin to activate dormant collagen (the body’s natural collagen stops being active after age 25, she said) and rejuvenate the skin.

She turned the “machine” on and scanned various parts of the right side of my face, while telling me all about the machine — how people from NASA were a part of research and development. How it was FDA-approved and such. She explained that the machine she was using on me — retail price: $4800 — was in their care for only 3 months and I was privileged to get to try it. A few minutes into the experience, I realized that since they were *gasp* selling me the machine. After she finished the right side, she showed me a mirror and it looked like the right side of my face was stretched, and the untouched left side looked saggy, fat, and tired in comparison. The thing worked.

Sales techniques employed

  • Describing the product’s background and certifications.
  • Building trust in the product by citing accreditations.
  • Showing actual results on my face.
  • Emphasizing the high price of the advanced model, so that the regular model looks cheap in comparison.

My thought bubbles

Interesting. I hope this really is safe. It works, but I don’t really want to own something like this.

Part 3: The Attempted Sale

What happened

While completing the treatment on the left side of my face, the boss was watching and marveled at “what great results you are getting!” and offered me a chance to be a “model” of their products. In exchange for taking before-and-after pictures of a portion of my cheeks (and buying “the machine,” they would make me a VIP member and give me head-to-toe care: products worth $800: terribly expensive soap, shampoo, night cream, day cream, and something else in a big box).

They offered a payment plan, then cut down the price, bringing it down to $1100. I told them I wanted to do more research on the safety, check with my derma friend, ask my family about this. It’s such a big purchase; I don’t buy stuff like this impulsively. “No, you don’t want to do that. Of course derma will say no; it’s a threat to their jobs,” the boss said.

Still they got the forms ready and I had to say, hold on, I have not committed to anything. After this, they intensified the pressure, adding eye serum to the freebies. The sales lady pulled out her phone and showed me clients with successful treatments. The boss showed me a video on the safety of the machine.

I asked if I could just have a brochure and think about it. They knew the sale was lost, but were hoping for the best. They were losing energy. They kept going out of the chamber (presumably to discuss and strategize). They spent two hours already on this indecisive guest, and the boss was late for another meeting. The lady finally handed me a brochure and said I can buy it online if I want but I lose all the perks they offered. She disappeared, and left the boss to do the final goodbyes.

Sales techniques employed

  • Adding value through freebies.
  • Making it easy for me to buy through a payment plan.
  • Keeping me in the enclosed chamber, with the machine and the products, to magnify the seeming importance of the product.
  • Preparing the forms for me to fill out, and acting and speaking like I had already bought the product.

My thought bubbles

The product they were demonstrating on me was not the one they were selling to me in the end. How do I know the results from the cheaper machine will really be the same as they claim? Should I just agree to the $91 / month (installment) just so I can get out of here? I don’t feel comfortable making a big investment on vanity. This is really not in my budget.

Lessons in Sales and Marketing

The customer needs to be comfortable with the product

“Thank you for this generous offer,” I told the girl’s boss. “But I didn’t really fall in love with the machine.” In the chamber, I voiced my concerns about safety, and shared my perception of the machine as something new and strange to me.

Speak the customer’s language

Don’t use unfamiliar or scary language. “Facial light therapy” would have been friendlier than “machine.”

There must be a good match between customer and product

Clearly, I wasn’t comfortable buying a $1500 machine. I was open to trying the other beauty products, but they turned out to be outrageously expensive. For me at least.

My skin is dull, with tiny scars and blackheads and open pores but it’s not horrific, really. Those with desperate cases such as extreme acne are more likely to buy an expensive machine. And those who regularly spend on dermatological treatment. This free “facial” was only my second ever, in my entire life. And they were aware of that.

There was a big mismatch between potential customer and product. They spent two hours on the wrong person. Their offer would have been irresistible and wonderfully generous for the right person.

The product was great though — it erased my eyebags, my skin was feeling stretched. And the machine managed to shrink my pores. It was a good product, sold to an unlikely customer who has read Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini.

What they did right was they truly believed in their product, and they use it, (at least they claimed to). The boss had flawless skin, but the lady put on a thick layer of power that I couldn’t really appreciate or see the true health of her skin.

Lessons for Consumers

While being pressured to make a purchase, think and analyze, sometimes out loud

As a marketer, I know that salespeople understand that buying is an emotional process, and they’ll do everything to tug at your emotions. As a consumer, I tried to resist by using logic, remembering past decisions made. Remembering my budget, my life goals, talking about my family — telling the sales people I had to check with my family and friends so I can make an informed decision — the more I said these things out loud, the more logical my thought process became, and the more I felt the suffocating chains of sales tactics being loosened. It is also fair to let the salespeople know your thoughts so they don’t have to try to read your mind or your facial expressions.

Research on competition

Other things you can do when faced with pushy salespeople is to ask about competition — look online for product reviews while they are talking. I wish I had thought of that when I was in the chamber. I would have discovered that there is a similar product for a fraction of their price. More competition also indicates that supply could go up in the future, reducing the price of the item, especially when the product increases in popularity and more companies start engaging in a price war.

Cialdini introduces a concept called “frontloading of attention”- the more attention you give something, the more important it will seem. Once you see a product in comparison with other products you begin to see it in a more realistic light, enabling you to make a better decision, one you won’t regret later on. It becomes a win-win situation.

If you need time to make the decision, insist on it

After I got back to my place, from the mall, I had a major headache. It turns out I was experiencing a side effect of the machine (which I read about later on — side effects include headaches, eyestrain, irritability. And mania — for people with bipolar disorder.) None of these side effects were mentioned when I was in the chamber, and I went home with one of them. If I bought the machine right away and discovered later that I can’t use it because it gave me migraines, I would have had to return it, or file a complaint if they wouldn’t take it back. I would have wasted a ton of my time correcting my mistake.

Learn more about sales and marketing

Read the book Influence by Robert Cialdini. Cialdini wrote the book to educate consumers and prevent them from being ignorant victims of marketing tactics. It is in the interest of both consumers and marketers that the sale is made to the right person, who loves the product and willingly pays. Not out of compulsion or pity, or being tricked into buying.

Just as salespeople are getting more marketing-savvy and sophisticated, we must take time to educate ourselves and learn to make smart decisions when out in the wild, wild world of consumerism.

Recommended reading:

Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

Decoding the New Consumer Mind: Why We Shop and Why We Buy by Kit Yarrow

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