by Jon Atack

Insistent and bullying sales tactics have been developed and refined over the last century, producing a vast literature showing how to by-pass critical thinking and close a sale. A hard-seller simply will not take “no” for an answer. Originally, the technique was just one of persistence – to wear down the customer – but there are now many books and seminars that explain psychological techniques to overcome resistance and create sales.

In ethical sales – or “soft-selling” – the salesperson identifies the real needs of a customer and offers relevant information about a product. The salesperson will be open to questions and will not use psychological tactics to gain an advantage.

Hard selling uses the same approaches as cult recruitment and seduction. The first step is to establish a relationship: hard-sellers will act as if they are the target’s friend and find points of agreement; they will butter you up with compliments.

Often there will be an appeal to fear – if you don’t buy this product now, you’ll lose out. Telemarketers for Internet scams threaten that your computer will be irreparably damaged if you don’t buy their fix – which will install ransom-ware on your computer, so you will be plagued with troubles that only the scammers can fix.

Psychologist Anthony Pratkanis has identified over a hundred techniques of social influence which include:

Foot in the Door – where a small request precedes a larger request: Once you’ve agreed to buy the cushions, you’ll be sold the sofa.

Door-in-the Face – where a large request that will be turned down is followed by a small request: the seller suggests you buy the Cadillac, and then sells you the Ford.

That’s not All – where an offer is made then followed with a lower price or additional “free” products. This technique is often used in commercials, where “gifts” are added to the original product.

Low-balling – here the hard-seller pretends to have offered too low a price once a commitment has been made to buy. The purchaser will often go along with the new, higher price.

Scarcity or “Buy Now” – where the seller pretends that the item will only be available for a limited time or that stocks are low.

The essence of hard sell is to overwhelm a potential customer until they give in to pressure. The answer is to refuse to buy anything without taking time to think it over, take time away from the salesperson, compare prices, and talk it over with someone knowledgeable.

Hard-sellers use the techniques of recruitment and seduction.