I’m worried about dodgy sales tactics

In the world of sales there has always been the following advice for customers and for good reason:

  1. Buyer beware.
  2. Read the fine print.
  3. If it’s too good to be true, then it is. And so on.

As much as I advocate for and encourage healthy, trust-based, open transparent salesperson/customer business/sales relationships, I am fully aware of the “dark side” in the profession of sales. 

In my travels, sadly I hear of many stories about people being ripped off and taken advantage of often with no idea about what is happening to them until it’s too late.  All under the guise of selling.

There will always be those people who are after victims instead of customers.  While they call themselves “sales people” they are really con artists, thieves and “rip off merchants”. They are always looking at how they can get something at someone else’s expense.  If you’re unsure about your sales ethics, check out Are your self-promotion and prospecting tactics ethical or not?

However, with so much access to information these days, customers are doing their research and shonky sales people are getting found out more and more.

If you want to rip people off, think again.   

As I wrote last week about healthy sales relationships and good news sales stories, here are some things to look out for as a customer when some people cross to the “dark side” of selling.

Alan Kohler wrote about one of the causes that can lead to unethical selling practices when he highlighted the need for finance brokers and financial planners to shift to a “fee for service” model  rather than the trail commissions from products.  While I hope most brokers and financial planners do the right thing by their customers regardless of how they are remunerated, the real problem with trail commissions is that is sets up competing motivations – “Do I give my client what is best for them or best for me?” 

The issue as I see it is that we are likely to get products that make the most money for the broker or planner not the best product or solution for us.  We are at risk of becoming a vehicle for them to make as much money as possible at our expense. Here are a few stories from the field to illustrate the point:

The grazier

Business Banker gets contacted by a Broker and Accountant of a Grazier in northern Queensland.  The Broker and the Accountant are wanting to get the Grazier into a financial product where they can make more money on trail commissions, even though the product concerned is not the right product for the Grazier and will cost him a lot more than he needs to pay. 

The Business Banker, who shared this story with me, did not give the Broker and the Accountant what they wanted.  However he felt very uncomfortable knowing this was happening and was unable to help the Grazier directly as the client relationship was with the Accountant.

It’s bad enough the broker was shopping around for trail commissions, but when your own accountant is in on the act, then who can you trust?

Lesson:  Whenever you are being recommended a financial product of any sort by your broker, financial planner or accountant, ask them point blank do they get trail commissions or any other kickbacks from the deal.  If they do, then keep looking, preferably for a new broker, financial planner or accountant.

Remedy: Fee for service, not trailer commissions.

Ask questions and read the fine print

I don’t know about you, but I like to know what I am getting upfront before I make a purchase. I do not like surprises. 

The borrower:

Another business banker was telling me a story about a prospect he was speaking to who was trying to get out of a financial deal that his current bank had put him into without fully disclosing all the fees involved. 

The current deal was drawn up for the prospect by his current bank.  The deal was “very good” according to what was on paper.  The business banker I spoke to said to this prospect that deals like this usually attracted high treasury fees (which had not been disclosed at this stage) and he couldn’t understand why they hadn’t been cited in the deal.  He suggested that the prospect go and ask about the backend of the deal and get it fully disclosed. 

The prospect did ask about these fees but was reassured by his bank that everything was OK.  The prospect signed the deal and was stung for, you guessed it, treasury fee of $20,000 that wasn’t disclosed up front.

Now the prospect is trying to get out of the deal, but has signed the paperwork. 

Lesson: Check for variance in any contract.  If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t sign.  Get professional advice (however make sure your adviser is not on trail commissions for that advice).

Do your research and check the real deal.

The telco customer:

Customer wants a new mobile phone and contract.  He calls a mobile phone dealer to buy a new phone and contract over the phone.  After lengthy discussions with the mobile phone dealer he pays for the phone contract and a new phone separately only to find out later that the phone contract actually included the new phone as part of the cost.  At no time was this made clear even though he asked on several occasions about the way the deal was structured.

He ends up paying for the phone twice. 

Essentially this customer was robbed.

Unlike more stably priced industries, the finance market fluctuates.  Therefore it pays to really check out what the current rates are.

Another business banker I know gets a call from a prospect she had been talking to.  The prospect cites that they are being offered two vastly different rates by their current bank for the same deal. 

The prospect stated they had acquired a new business banker who was quoting them 12.4% for a fully secured loan.  It didn’t sound right to the prospect, so he called around to the same bank but in different regions and twice was quoted 8.5% for the same deal.  He rang back his new business banker to tell them the news, and they demanded to know who he had spoken to and how dare he look around.   Who is she kidding?  The prospect is now in discussion with the business banker I know about how they can move ALL their banking to the new bank.

Lesson: Do your research before you buy, especially in industries that are littered with “deals”.  And check what goes with the *.  That asteroid is responsible for more dubious deals than we can poke a stick at.  Also don’t cop abuse from shonky sales people.

All these stories are NOT about good selling practices, they are about people cheating and ripping off other people.

Customers are on to it.  And customers are sick of it.  Customers are taking their business elsewhere.  

Today’s customers have access to more information than ever before and have more choice.  And while it might take more time to check out, customers can, and they do.

Most customers know what they are after even if they don’t know how to articulate it sometimes. Today, customers expect to deal with a real professional who knows their own business and how they can best serve their customers’ needs with creative solutions and fresh ideas.

Customers don’t expect to be coerced, bullied, tricked or intimidated into buying. They don’t expect to be treated like an idiot by shonky sales people who just talk at them and flash brochures or product sheets hoping to dazzle them or seduce them into signing deals. 

Customers are now after “business people” who can sell. They are looking for partners to help them map a pathway forward into the future.  Now that is GOOD SELLING.

Happy selling.

 Sue Barrett is founder and managing director of BARRETT, a boutique consultancy firm. Sue is an experienced consultant, public speaker, coach and facilitator. Sue and her team are best known for their work in creating high performing people and teams. Key to their success is working with the whole person and integrating emotional intelligence, skill, knowledge, behaviour, process and strategy via effective training and coaching programs. Click here to find out more



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