How to Avoid Falling for High Pressure Sales Tactics

by Marie on May 16, 2012 · 4 comments

Have you ever kicked yourself after getting home from a shopping expedition where you spent more than you wanted or bought more than you intended?

I recently did just that! I hope this post will help you avoid my situation by calling out some of the tactics used and what you can do to counter act them.

My high pressure sales experience.

We are celebrating our 40th Wedding anniversary this year – which we think is quite significant. As part of that celebration, I decided to get some professional portraits done to give to our two children and a few other relatives. I did my online research and queried around to find a portrait studio or photographer and ended up just going with a chain portrait outlet. The price seemed reasonable, it was close to home and I could get an appointment in my timeframe. They had a $9.95 package that seemed perfect – with no sitting fee. It was just the right size for the number of people to whom we wanted to give pictures.

I spent some time trying on clothing, both at home and at stores – trying (pretty much unsuccessfully) to find something to wear that made me look good. Hubby spent some time putting a special press on his white dress shirt.

I had my hair done and afterword, we took two sets of clothing and trotted on up to the studio for our appointment. I mentioned that I was there for the $9.95 package before we started the sitting session.

The photographer spent about an hour taking the pictures (including our time to change clothing), with multiple different poses and backgrounds – using that time to build up some rapport with us – chatting with us, remarking on how great we looked and etc.

This studio captures digital pictures, then throws them up on a big screen for you to review with your photographer. Ours started with the high end package ($300), but quickly threw that away saying ‘No one buys that much’. She had us pick our favorites between 2 pictures at a time, to eliminate some of the poses and backgrounds. She started flashing up some special effects (such as black/white and combinations of poses onto one photo sheet). She spoke rapidly, worked the big screen at the same time and worked my spouse and I off one another.

We ended up with 10 different poses – more than a hundred pictures. I knew at the time that it was more than I needed, but I sat there thinking my spouse wanted the poses I didn’t and he sat there thinking I wanted a bunch of pictures.

When we got home, I spread out all of those pictures (they print them right after the session) and then spent a sleepless night kicking myself for being taken by stupid sales techniques.

So, how do you avoid being taken in by fast talking sales tactics?

Two simple steps can help you avoid falling for high pressure sales tactics.

First Step: Be Prepared.

Here are several things you can do to get prepared for that purchase you are considering, and to avoid situations where you are talked into a purchase you don’t want or need.

Avoid the sales situation entirely.

  • Get on the no call list so the sales people don’t call at home.
  • Avoid watching the shopping channels on TV.
  • Discard your junk mail without reading it.

Decide what you need and want ahead of time.

  • Rent Vs Buy Vs Lease – know the differences in the costs and terms.
  • Do your research to know the features and functionality you need or want and what the cost implications are.
  • Comparison shop before you are ready to buy.

Have an out.

  • Make up a spending limit before you are ready to buy. Some couples will agree that anything over a certain dollar amount must be jointly discussed.
  • Establish a price or price range before going out to buy. You’ve done your research, you know what the competition is offering and what a reasonable price range will be.
  • Set up a signal to use with your spouse or shopping companion – one that will tell you both that it is time to walk away and cool off before signing on the dotted line.

Second Step: Understand potential sales tactics that might be used on you.

Here are some of the common sales tactics used across multiple products and industries.

Playing husband against wife or kids against parents.

Sales people know that couples often want the very best for each other and they are also aware that we don’t talk to each other specifically about what we want and don’t want. They use this to sell, upsell and oversell.

  • Talk to each other before you hit the stores or car lots. Be blunt with each other about what you are expecting from the purchase – work it out at home, not in front of the sales person. At the very least, let each other know the features and functions and price points you are wanting and which are must haves vs. nice to haves.
  • Control the sales conversation – don’t let the sales person get started pitting you against one another, or taking advantage of differences. If you weren’t successful in talking to each other before the sales conversation, don’t hesitate to postpone the purchase and come back after you have had that private conversation. Ours took advantage of the fact that we hesitated to offend each other by denying  what each of us perceived the other wanted.

Establishing rapport to make you feel obligated to buy.

Sales people try to be your friend so you feel guilty if you don’t buy. Ours did this by telling us how great we looked in the pictures, how awesome it is that our marriage has lasted and etc.

  • Don’t fall for it.
  • They are not your friend.
  • They may actually consider you more of a ‘mark’ (just an object to get money from) than anything and have a nice laugh at your gullibility after you leave.

Setting a deadline.

Sales people make their merchandise look scarce or time sensitive so that you think you have to commit now. They know that if they let you get away now, you probably won’t be back.

  • You can always buy tomorrow.
  • You can always buy from someone else.
  • If it is a good deal today, it might be better tomorrow.
  • You don’t ever have to have it right now.

Prolonging the conversation.

Sales people may try to detain you with talk, trying to close a deal. Some hope to wear you down by the sheer length of the conversation or pitch. They have all day, they know you don’t.

  • Just walk away, or steer the conversation back to where you want it to be.
  • If you aren’t interested, politely and firmly say so and then leave.
  • If you are interested, bring the conversation back with a relevant question or concern about the product.
  • Don’t give away personal details in chit chatting – the sales person is using that information to tailor their pitch to you.

Pitching to you.

Your sales person has a practiced spiel – maybe even a company scripted one.

  • Get them off their pitch by interrupting with questions and challenges – don’t just go along nodding your head. Tell them what you think of the product – politely and firmly. I certainly should have done this, insisting to be shown the $9.95 package all by itself and proposing different combinations than she presented on the various packages.
  • Slow them down if they are confusing you. Ours spoke rapidly, firing different options and choices up on the screen so fast we didn’t follow well.

Giving you their personal recommendations.

Sales folk will certainly let you know that this is the one they like best (it just happens to be the one they see you leaning towards). Our photographer used this by participating subtly in the photo selections (she highlighted one or said outright “I like this one best, this is so cute”).

  • Take any recommendations from a sales person with many grains of salt.
  • Probe with questions if they offer comparisons.
  • Ask why.
  • Ask for additional references – get names and numbers of other people who would recommend it.

I think I am through kicking myself about the number of photographs we bought. We actually got them for a fairly good price and we will find relatives on whom to inflict them – perhaps even as part of their Christmas from us!

Have you ever felt taken by a sales person’s tactics? What high pressure sales tactics have you seen and how can they be tempered?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 SB @ One Cent At A Time May 17, 2012 at 7:38 am

a nice and sweet “no Thanks” does wonder, often I had seen.


2 Marie at FamilyMoneyValues May 17, 2012 at 6:29 pm



3 Christa May 17, 2012 at 1:40 pm

I just had a vaccuum sales guy descend on my house for the second time. The first sales guy was annoying and didn’t deliver on promises (I was promised a $50 gift card simply for listening to his spiel — supposedly it would be in the mail after the call concluded — I never saw the card). So when the second guy stopped by yesterday after a one year breather, I told him no in no uncertain terms. That seems to be the only way I’ve found to get rid of the leeches!


4 Marie at FamilyMoneyValues May 17, 2012 at 6:30 pm

We haven’t had any of those, but we did once (long ago) fall for the free gas grill trick….come see our wonderful lake lots and get a free gas grill. We drove for an hour there, an hour back and listened to a lengthy sales pitch for a 1′ by 2′ grill powered by a tiny propane bottle – and topped it off with a flat tire on their yukky roads. Never more!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: