5 Non-Aggressive Selling Strategies for Independent Consultants
I love that I can work to support my family from home. It's my perfect balance, and my perfect life. And I LOVE that so many women around me are finding ways to do the same, starting their own side hustles or becoming independent consultants for brands that they love! I'm totally in support of the choice to do something you're passionate about, whatever business you start or join. One thing I'm pretty adamantly AGAINST, however, is some of the sales tactics I see that have become so prevalent on social media and even in person as women representing these companies try to sell the products or services they've invested in.
I've seen (or heard of) quite a few scenarios recently involving pretty aggressive, confrontational selling strategies that have really left me feeling uncomfortable. Is that really how you want your business to be known? Even if it's not your self-started business, but you're selling to represent another brand, is that what the brand wants to be known for? Making its customers feel obligated to buy? Personally, I'm much more likely to share my excitement for a product I've found and loved on social media and with my friends than a purchase I made from a friend who shoved it in my face and made me feel obligated to buy in order to keep the relationship friendly. I'm not one who enjoys confrontation or tension, but it really irks me when women take advantage of these strategies to increase their own commission.
I've thought really hard about this and how much it frustrates me. I asked myself, "How could these women be more successful? What alternative strategies would be more effective and leave customers/clients/friends feeling less like they are being backed into a corner?" And that's exactly what I'm going to be sharing today: five of the most super-sales-y, in-your-face promotions that you're used to seeing, and my suggestions for how they should actually be carried out. I'll also include some ways that you, as the friend or person getting sold to, can respond to messages or requests to buy. Read through these suggestions from my own personal experiences and give me your feedback on each of these scenarios!
Number One: The Long Lost Friend
I think we'd be hard-pressed to find a person who hasn't received a similar message to the one below in the recent past from someone that haven't seen or talked to in a long time: "Hi, (your name), how are you?? I recently became a consultant for XYZ Incorporated and I know you'd LOVE their products!"
This cold-calling strategy might be pitched to consultants as a good way to find a new customer, but it's really not. Think about how much time and energy you're putting into crafting these emails! I know it's a lot of copy and paste, but it's also a ton of time following up with those who do respond, and weeding out the potential customers. Instead of directly speaking to each and every person you know, think about ways to bring them to you!
Instead of a copy-and-paste mass method of communication, save time (and face) by creating a short list of people you KNOW will be interested. Your list might be really, really short, but with such few numbers you can consider all the products and services you sell and craft a special message specifically for each person outlining exactly why you think the product might be worth their time. Even if they're not interested, they'll appreciate your thoughtfulness and are way more likely to recommend you when someone they know is actually looking for something you sell! You'll stand out from the pack of obnoxious, sales-obsessed friends and hopefully get a new customer, even if it's not the friend you reached out to.
A tip for someone who gets a copied-and-pasted mass message like this from someone they haven't spoken to in a long time: just ignore it. Unless you want to build up that relationship again, just forget about it and wait to see if they're actually interested in getting back in touch.
Number Two: The Repeat Offender
I know I'm not the only person who has been the recipient of multiple texts/messages from someone even after expressing disinterest in the product or ignoring the message. This practice also seems like a waste of time to me - wouldn't you rather be spending your time investing in actual potential clients than someone who didn't care enough to follow up with your previously suggested awesome sale on such-and-such product?
If you're the repeat offender, I would again recommend you avoid wasting time reaching out and messaging this way, and instead really invest in a long-term, sustainable marketing strategy. Consider creating a separate Instagram account or Facebook page for your side hustle and directing all your marketing efforts there. Share the page with friends and family, ask them to add people that might be interested, and be GENUINE as you post or add people to the group. If people don't respond to you, channel your efforts into your supportive team of followers on your page to see if they have anyone they'd recommend you reach out to.
When you get repeat messages and you're really not interested, you might need to be blunt. This is hard when it's a friend, and it's really easy to say "I'm sorry, not in the budget this month!" or "I'd really love to, but my husband says no!" Those are cop-out answers, and they leave the window open for further messages from the friend. Instead, respond with a simple, "Thanks for thinking of me! I'm not interested in these products, but I appreciate you reaching out. Good luck with your business, and I'll be sure to send any referrals your way!" This message is clear, honest, and polite. It should get the point across without any offense.
Number Three: The "I've Done it all For You"
"I've bundled everything for you right here; all you need to do is purchase!" They've done the "hard part" and picked out all your products for you, and left you with the simple task of entering your credit card number. While disguised as a thoughtful, time-saving gesture by a friend, this is actually super inconsiderate. You're disrespecting the client by telling them how to spend their money, and completely eliminating the part of the consumer experience that is the most emotionally rewarding: the SHOPPING.
Customers want to feel excited about their new purchase as much as they want to feel satisfied with their client experience! Letting them pick out what they want, even if it's not what you'd choose for them or as much as you'd hope they'd buy, will allow them to feel independently confident in their purchase, or at least much more so than when the decision is made for them.
If you find yourself about to walk out of an in-some sales party with a basket of goodies for which you need only swipe to receive, consider asking for some time to think it over. You may have a spouse or a family to consider, and it is respectful of you to remember this money may not be up to you to spend. There is really no reason why you shouldn't be able to order from them in the future, should you decide to make a purchase.
Number Four: The "Order Now"/"Won't Last Forever" Sale
This gimmick is super common, but all smart consumers should remember that it's just that - a gimmick. As an independent consultant, you've likely been indoctrinated with all the ways to create a demand for your products or to create scarcity to invoke impulse purchases. "Only two of these bad boys left!" "This deal is for a limited time only, so grab yours today!" "This hot product is 1,000% off TODAY ONLY." Sometimes these claims seem a little far-fetched, but they still work. On the short-term, at least. But what do you do if no one buys, or you have product leftover after the sale? Do another mega-super-awesome-limited-time sale? I'd like to suggest an alternative.
If you have products that you need to push and the only way to create demand is to offer them on sale, then you're probably overpriced. If you're not able to set your own prices, think about creative ways that you can incentivize people to buy at that price. This is where your marketing skills will really get put to the test. Think about your target audience. Relate to them, and their struggles, and their immediate needs/limitations/upcoming schedules. Market your products in a way that appeals to them, without making it about the price. Communicate the real value, and if you're successful, you might not even need to mark anything down!
As a consumer, you can avoid the impulsive urge to buy something on sale by remembering the Old Navy rule: you should NEVER buy something full-priced at Old Navy, because the true value of their products is structured in such a way that they can always accommodate big sales and coupons and still make a profit. If a consultant is reaching out to you using the "one day only" defense as the reason you should buy, be smart about timing your purchase. If it's not something you need or want that day, then wait for the next sale, as there is sure to be one. Respond to messages with something like, "I'm not interested right now, but if it does go on sale again, or if you offer it at this price at another party, let me know!"
Number Five: The Person Who Thinks You're Made of Money
Sometimes we're approached by a salesman peddling something outrageously out of line with our budget or our financial priorities. I strongly urge all consultants and sales representatives to do their research and discover their target audience. This will save you so much time and energy not wasting your sale pitches, product, and time communicating with people who don't prioritize what you're selling financially.
Each of us has money to spend, and money is what makes the world go 'round. We earn it ourselves, and we should get to spend it ourselves. One of the awesome things about money is that it's a form of expression and can bring us joy when we do make a satisfied purchase and bring into our lives something that serves us. We have the right to decide which products or services are most valuable to us, and our friends shouldn't make us feel obligated to support their own financial priorities with our hard-earned money.
When you're approached by a salesperson who is selling more than you can afford, or when you're pitched a product that you haven't set aside money for specifically, respond with a similar simple response as the one mentioned earlier: "Thank you for teaching me about this, but I'm prioritizing my money in other ways. I'd love to support your business, even if not financially, and I'll be telling my friends about what you've shared with me!"
There are so many ways we can support each other, even our friends who push their products or services in our face. By spreading the word about their business, offering verbal and social encouragement, and engaging with their Instagram and Facebook pages, you're showing your support and offering your love to this friend as they proceed on their entrepreneurial journey. Let's remember that there is a place for all of us in this vast marketplace of consumerism, and that by working hard at what we love and finding the right way to sell, we can all find success in our individual endeavors.