Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Reading this and the subsequent comments, I have to ask: am I the only one immune to the this sort of thing? I get approached by these kiosk workers all the time while shopping, and I simply wave and keep walking (possibly reinforcing with a "No, thank you" if they follow me down the path, as they sometimes do). I know it's a high pressure tactic. I know they're selling something that no one actually needs. I know if I give them an inch of attention they'll try to take a mile. It's a well known sales tactic, so I'm puzzled why people continue to get sucked into it.

I'm actually kind of confused why this warrants a post-mortem given that I would hope that no one ever duplicates this sort of tactic in a legitimate business. Let the product sell itself, don't "become the customer's friend" in order to push it on them.




am I the only one immune to the this sort of thing?

I don't know, I feel that way, too. I've been through long sales pitches, mall workers, even TV commercials . . . and I'm pretty sure the emotions I feel are not the ones they intend me to feel.

When I hear friendly pleasantries or "This is a special deal just for you" or "I just marked down the price 50%" or "Super exclusive supreme top-of-the-line product" or whatever, I'm supposed to feel . . . I don't know, flattered? Excited by the opportunity? That's not what I feel. What I feel is more like, "Don't insult my intelligence, you jerk." And maybe a little, "Don't pressure me to make a decision with insufficient research. Jerk."

I don't know, I generally like to think the best of people, but every time I've interacted with a salesperson, I've spent the entire conversation with the forceful emotional impression that they were insulting me and trying to take advantage of me. And I never buy anything from them.


My reaction is more along the lines that if the company is paying so much commission etc. to force the product down my throat, there has to be an alternative elsewhere with lower overheads and consequently better value (and not even necessarily cheaper, just lower ratio of sales:product).


I suppose there's an exception to the rule: when I'm seeking out a product that I already intended to buy, I'm not above using the salesman as an expert on his own product line. That usually goes pretty well.

But man, when the unwanted upsell starts . . . I politely say no, but I'm sure you'd be able to tell from my demeanor that I feel quite insulted.


When you walk by 5 of these guys every day on your way to work you tend to develop a rather callous attitude towards all unsolicited sales. Like you said, give them an inch and they'll talk your ear off for 5 hours, progressing through their bag of tricks like how great the product is, on to guilt trips about how badly they need the sale, to the final stage of feigning annoyance that you wasted their time or that you are a rude person.

But with my parents who I think are quite "normal" and live in my small home town, the vendors and pan handlers can smell fresh meat a mile away. It's not that they're stupid or gullible. It's just that when someone approaches and starts talking - they give them their full attention. And as per small-town courtesy you wait for a conversation to wind-down - which will never happen with these guys. They will literally never let you walk away until either you buy something or you "rudely" remove yourself from the conversation. It takes them a little while to get into that "city" state of mind where you realize that the best approach is to not get yourself sucked into a conversation in the first place.


As someone that comes from a small town, I think you hit the nail on the head. It always felt so rude to not stop to listen to these people. It took me years to learn how to just keep walking without feeling terribly guilty. It helped when I realized from experience that the longer I listen and/or talk to them, the more likely they'll get pissed off if I don't give them something or buy something from them.


Does it help to realize that not stop talking when the other person is trying to end the conversation is really rude?


Absolutely true. It's difficult though, because their whole strategy is to make you uncomfortable. You're forced to modify your own behavior in a way that goes against your sense of kindness.


You are forced into uncharted behavioral territory. This causes anxiety and a strong wish to return to normal. The apparent kindliness and self-assurance of the salesman makes him look like a benevolent guru, a parent figure who will guide you out of the wilderness.

It is Stockholm syndrome in miniature. I have seen people thank the salesman who has just roped them into buying unwanted, overpriced junk. Hell, I have even seen people thank aggressive panhandlers and wish them well.


Thanks, that's a good way of looking at it. Nowadays, I have so much pent-up anger and rage at these types of people after coming to terms with all the years of being manipulated by them. They must sense it, because they tend to shut up when I glare at them.


One way I've managed to get past it is thinking how politely listening to them is wasting their time - time they need to make a real sale instead of me stringing them along.

And for the ones who push past that, well, annoying/ignoring the intentions of person you're selling to is sort of a jerk thing to do, so that mitigates the guilt a bit.


You probably aren't that immune either but the key is to shrug these people off right off the bat.

When you just wave the off and walk past you never enter the danger zone. Things get increasingly more difficult once you engage in conversation with them as they won't let you go unless you rudely quit and walk away, and most people don't want to do that. The logic goes that since you've already spent a while talking with them, spending your time and their time, why stop so suddenly and throw all that away unless you end up buying something to warrant the effort made. It's basically bullshit but that's how many people go about it: you either decline right from the start or end up "having to" buy something. It takes some strenght to break out of that pattern.


Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but a lot of these tactics are used in "legitimate" businesses. For example, free lessons (e.g. 20 Ways to Speed Up Your Wordpress Site!) and mailing lists are often used to gain the customer's trust before pitching a service or a product. Becoming the customer's friend is simply a way of gaining the customer's trust.


Mailchimp is a great example of this. They have pages upon pages of free guides and information, and even give out email templates for free.


Those sleazebags.


I know I'm not completely immune, so I have one simple rule - never buy anything on the spot that costs over a certain margin. The margin depends on the kind of things - may be smaller for small things and larger for bigger ones, but usually somewhere around $50-$100. And that is regardless of any offers, discounts, special promotions going on just for the next 50 seconds, etc. I might be losing some deals on that, but I don't think so. If he was genuinely ready to go down 20% today to make a sale, he'd do the same tomorrow.

So if I see something offered that I need to buy and the price is attractive, I leave and wait for some time - again, depending on the sum in question it may be a day, maybe more. If after the wait the offer is still attractive - I take it. If after the pressure is off I discover the deal doesn't look as nice as it looked - I pass. If the salesman says "if you don't buy now, the deal is off" I say "it was nice talking to you, good bye". So far this rule worked quite well for me.

As for using it in business - it is used all the time. I've been subjected to it (to remove any doubt - in US, not Israel, and not by Israelis :) many times, and not only in the malls. It is being used because it works - you think people doing it do it for their own enjoyment? They do it because that's how they make the most money. Not my money, though :)


>I know they're selling something that no one actually needs

Every single smartphone maker in the world is listening


For those of us that don't get sucked into these easily, more than anything it is probably that we just don't engage the sales person in the first place. I never purchase anything being sold these ways, but I can't really say I have given the sales person enough of a chance to employ these methods on me.

I have an aversion to anyone who is pushing sales onto me like this. Even if they were trying to sell something I would be really interested in, the method would cause me to avoid it.


You have said that you know that the best tactic is to avoid these people, which presumably is through experience. So why do you say that you're "Confused" and "Puzzled" at why this article exists? It's a well known sales tactic as you say, but it's obviously not universally known, so instead of acting superior and declaring yourself "puzzled", let other people have the benefit of learning it too.


That'll work fine, until someone comes up with product 70% as food as yours, but with a good salesman pushing it.


> product 70% as food as yours,

Sounds like modern agribusiness.


Because he got suckered and instead of blatantly admitting he acted like a smug idiot, he has to rationalize it as a good thing by saying "look, I learned something, and now so did you".


Hey, experience is what you get when you don't get what you want.


He was doing it for science.


You don't have some unique immune ability. The OP said he approached the vendor first for some sales advice, and in the end the guy got him to buy his wares.


But the OP also admitted he had no particular interest in sales - a cue to the huckster that he was dealing with a clueless innocent who could easily be manipulated by the tricks of the trade.

This leaves open the question of why the OP approaced the salesman in the first place.


>am I the only one immune to the this sort of thing?

Thing is, techniques that work great on one type of person will repulse another, so it's perfectly normal for a nerd to be completely immune to a sales pitch targeted at a neurotypical. But that doesn't mean you can't be manipulated; it just requires different techniques. To believe otherwise is dangerous overconfidence.

>I'm actually kind of confused why this warrants a post-mortem given that I would hope that no one ever duplicates this sort of tactic in a legitimate business. Let the product sell itself, don't "become the customer's friend" in order to push it on them.

All co-location is sold this way. As are commercial real-estate leases... and most residential leases, for that matter. All of us, if we go into business, will have to buy products or services sold by those sorts of salesmen. Knowing a bit about how their manipulation works is the first step towards self-defense.

I mean, it's not usually unsolicited... but if you want to lease some co-lo? almost nobody except maybe some of the tiny nobodies list prices on the web page... and 90% of the time, those prices are not solid; they are significantly higher than the 'special for you' price.

If you want to lease bandwidth? same thing applies, only the difference between the first price you get and the 'special because you are my friend' price is larger. I'm paying 1/5 the 'list price' for my large Cogent pipe.

So... it should be obvious why you need to study this stuff. Well, obvious why I need to study this stuff; I blow through north of a hundred grand on co-lo, bandwidth, and other related fees every year; I'd bet money that I'm not within 20% of the lowest possible price, so yeah, it's worth quite a bit of effort to figure out how this bullshit works.

All that said, it is bullshit. I avoid it whenever possible. I build my own servers from parts, because you don't have to negotiate to get reasonable prices on parts, but you do have to negotiate to get reasonable prices on assembled servers. The negotiation effort is far greater than the assembly effort.

Really, I think this is one of the primary reasons "the cloud" seems so much easier to deal with than co-location. No negotiation, no dealing with the co-lo jacking up your rent every year. (Yeah, just like a commercial or residential real-estate lease, every time your lease is up, the rent goes up in proportion to how difficult the landlord thinks it is for you to move.)

I've tried putting 'real prices' on my website for things like bandwidth and co-lo (the bandwidth prices were really good, for the amounts I was offering. The co-lo prices were reasonable but not unheard of.) Almost no bites. I did get salesmen calling me up all over the place; for a 10% cut, they'd send me all kinds of customers.

So yeah... as far as I can tell? this is just how some goods and services are sold. As far as I can tell, the optimal move is usually to rearrange your life and your business so you buy as few of the products that require negotiation as possible; But eh, depending on your sector, well, this may be impossible. In that case? yeah, learning sales bullshit and negotiation is important, if nothing else, to defend yourself against others.

I mean, I've negotiated a fair number of co-lo deals. Probably more than your average person negotiates residential leases during their lifetime. But the person at the other side of the table? they are a professional. They do this all day, every day.

So yeah. Even now? I do sometimes come away finding that the professional has manipulated me into doing something stupid. For me? key is to not agree to anything in person; take it home, show it to a (more conservative... my problem is that I optimistically buy more for a lower unit cost and end up not using most of it.) friend, sleep on it, and then decide. I mean, I am in business and my conservative friends are not, I can't completely defer to them, but getting a perspective that is different from your own is super important, because sales manipulations that work on one type of person don't work on another.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: