Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Hard Sell

We went to the Indiana State Fair a few weeks back, and while in the Commercial Building (roofing companies, cookware, and gimmicky products as far as the eye can see), my wife was accosted by quite possibly the pushiest mattress salesman in existence. Fortunately, my daughter ran away (bless her heart), and my wife had an excuse to flee.

This guy pushed all the wrong buttons. He was overbearing, didn’t give you space to breathe, and didn’t seem as concerned with what you wanted as with what he was selling. I disliked him almost instantly, and wouldn’t have bought a mattress from him if the alternative was purchasing a urine-soaked cot from an affable hobo.

I started to think about how this sort of “hard sell” online can turn me off of a RPG product almost as instantly. It’s great to love your product or be a super fan of a product, but when you’re recommending it blindly, regardless of what I really want, how am I supposed to trust you?

Similarly, if you’re a publisher, there’s a time to be proud of your product, and a time to listen to what I want (yes, you can do both). Listening before talking up your product can help you highlight what I’m after, and possibly save us both some time if it turns out not to be what I want.

And if your product isn’t for me and I politely communicate that fact, don’t turn into a jackass. If you’re polite and pleasant, I just may have a friend or friends that the product will work for.

It’s no coincidence that many of the RPG publishers whose work I enjoy and admire don’t come off as hucksters, spin-men, or shills. You want a sale, give me room to breathe, time to ask questions, and keep an ear open for what I’m looking for.


N. Wright said...

As a retail salesperson at Sears, they actually explicitly tell us not to do exactly that. If you're overbearing and rude and try to "push" a product, then the store suffers, since people will remember that some douche works there.

That said, the man may have been a vendor, who is told by his company to push only his company's products, and push them hard. They don't usually look any different than regular employees.

To get back on the subject: The best products don't need any hype. It's as simple as that. As a good example, Mr. Raggi's Lamentation of the Flame Princess' success is almost entirely word of mouth based on the evident quality of his work. That's the way it should be done. You don't buy a Mercades because some salesman wants your money, you buy a Mercedes because they have a reputation for quality and good engineering.

Tommy Brownell said...

Companies I've worked for have almost always given us mixed signals. Blockbuster, for example, was all about "find the product that's best for the customer", at least in private...and given the leeway to do that, I could truly help most customers that came in the door.

Unfortunately, what they REALLY meant was "Take our latest product and shove it down everyone's throats".

Gratuitous Saxon Violence said...

A few years ago I almost bought a car solely because of how well the salesperson did her job. It wasn't really the car for me, I just stopped in to check it out because it had won some Car of the Year award and was on my way home.
She was low key & let the car's features sell it. Best of all, when she didn't know the answer to a question I asked, she freely admitted it, and went and found out the correct answer. To me that is the most trustworthy thing one can do. No one has all the answers, but a lot of people will BS if they don't know.

Same car search, I was at a dealership test-driving the car I eventually bought. The sales guy had no interest in "selling" the car. He kept trying to push a lease offer on a totally different model of car. I assume that was a part of the monthly sales push/goals, and he would receive a bonus. Next day, I went to a different dealership and bought the car I wanted.

barrataria said...

@ N. Wright: Actually I think James Raggi has been a tireless promoter. And I say that with respect both for the quality of his writings and his dedication to make his works known, via message board (his and others) and blog and anything else he could think of. I think he's a good model for self-promotion without hucksterism or "hard sell" as criticized in the original post. The word-of-mouth caught on because the quality backed up the promotion, itself a very rare feat.

Greg said...

I like to ask sales people difficult questions that make them uncomfortable. Ask them how well the mattress will hold up if you got blood all over it. No matter what they say, follow up with "now I mean the really dark thick kind blood. Not some paper cut." Questions like this tend to cut those conversations short.

Or you can start selling THEM something. You dont have to actually have anything to sell, just tell them you do. Make sure it is more expensive than what they are selling you.

The same works against prostelytizing. If anyone tries to prostelytize to you, rip into your own explanation of the invisible dragon named Pistachio that lives on your shoulder and tells you what to do. That will stop them COLD.

Anything to break their mental preparation works. Before making pitches like these, they have to clear their mind and focus. Break the focus and you break the pitch.