Long before the internet gave rise to sales blogs (like this one), sales advice was dispensed with fervor by word of mouth, and by a handful of well-known trainers eager to hawk their wares to the salesmen and saleswomen of the world. The sales tactics of the 20th century have been enshrined in legend, and, for better or for worse, when the general public thinks about salespeople, they usually think of these classic sales techniques.
In this day and age, however, the past is better left alone. Many of the sales tactics that were once preached as gospel no longer work. Not only that, but some of them may actually backfire as better-informed customers now expect transparency, excellent customer service, and can easily see through gimmicks and prevarications.
Here are five outdated sales tactics to avoid, if for no other reason than they no longer work:
1. The high-pressure close
To be sure, you can still convince certain people to buy using high-pressure sales tactics. But if that’s your go-to, then your career in sales is likely to be short-lived. Not only do people expect not to get hassled these days, they also have a lot of recourse besides simply saying “no.” Review sites, net promoter scores, and the bullhorn of social media make overly aggressive tactics a terrible idea. The days of bullying a buyer into signing a contract before disappearing into the night are long gone — good riddance.
2. Frequently repeating the buyer’s name
Perhaps this tactic was effective in the 20th century, but these days, it’s just irritating. Sure, repeating a prospect’s name shows that you remembered it and that you’re a friendly person who’s thinking about the other side’s perspective. But it’s also a fairly obvious gimmick, and anyone who hasn’t been living in a cave for the last few decades will see right through it, and will (rightly) be annoyed.
3. First one to speak loses
The Wolf of Wall Street mainstreamed this sales tactic, along with “sell me this pen.” However (aside from the valuable lesson that being a good listener is important), there’s really not much truth to its effectiveness. It’s preposterous to assume that if a prospect has no need for your product, or if they’re still researching different options, that all it will take to change their mind is a staring contest. That being said, you should learn how to get comfortable with silence, and always give a prospect the opportunity to tell you everything they want to.
4. Badmouthing the competition
It was once perfectly acceptable to bash the competition, but these days, it’s a bit of a faux pas. Of course, differentiating your product or service from the competition is fine, but always toe the line carefully and try to keep criticism constructive, not destructive. That being said, if a prospect starts to bash the competition, you shouldn’t necessarily jump to their defense either. Play it cool and don’t try to drag anyone down into the mud — you’ll only make yourself look bad.
5. ABC: Always be closing
Alec Baldwin’s famous rant in Glengarry Glen Ross touched off decades of always-be-closing speeches on sales floors across the globe. But far too many people forget that movies and theater aren’t real life. Hard-charging sales managers will always exist, and pushing salespeople to focus on the end goal is a good thing. But it’s simply not realistic to take a trite piece of advice like “always be closing,” and to try to make something more profound of it than what it really is: a catchy line from the clever mind of David Mamet.