Ethical Selling: When Does Persuasion Turn into Manipulation?

By Sven Riehle

TeroVesalainen / Pixabay

For the archetypical salesperson, any tactic or technique that leads to a sale is the right one, as long as it’s not outright fraud. And a prospect that can’t parry his tricks should either gear up or expect to become easy game.

This approach to sales is both outdated and obsolete because there is a growing overlap of the ethical and the economic perspective in today’s transactions. In fact, in the Age of the Customer, this duality is increasingly considered the norm.

In order to stay on the right path, let’s take a closer look at how influence works.

1. The difference between persuasion and manipulation

Any sales talk with an undecided prospect is at its heart an attempt to influence him to make a purchase, either through persuasion or manipulation. While persuasion will be expected, manipulation will be perceived as offensive. So, how do you know when you cross the line?

One way is to distinguish persuasion and manipulation based on intent: in sales, “good intentions” could mean “in the prospect’s best interest.” Then, as long as the outcome you pursue matches that ideal, the words you use to persuade don‘t matter so much.

Conversely, any persuasion effort will be perceived as manipulation if your intention merely is to maximize your own benefit, even at the expense of your prospect’s if need be.

2. Objective and subjective need

But what if the prospect sends mixed signals, mentioning that he really likes a certain feature while he doesn’t have a use for it?

Here, the attempt to convince your prospect of the upselling option might be well-intentioned but not necessarily in his best interest. The scenario prompts the question about objective and subjective need.

Arguably, a product with practical value for its buyer serves an objective need while a product purchased merely for the sake of owning it serves a rather subjective need. Thus, you can’t always trust your best intentions to be in line with your prospect’s best interest.

Here, it helps to look at common behavioral patterns in sales talks:

● Making someone aware of a problem they previously didn’t see and presenting an effective fix. → persuasion
● Addressing a prospect’s problem by presenting a more effective but different solution than he had in mind. → persuasion
● Making someone believe there’s a problem worth fixing (through your product) when there is none. → manipulation
● Misrepresenting your product as a fix for a problem it can’t fix. → manipulation
● Misrepresenting your product as a permanent fix when it’s only temporary. → manipulation

Consequently, basing your persuasion on good intentions won‘t excuse you if you needed to lie to your prospect in order to make the sale.

3. Why the customer’s best interest is your best interest

There are many good reasons to focus completely on adding value. One is that we almost never purchase something we don’t inherently desire on some level. If we do, we usually regret it and blame the vendor’s manipulative sales methods.

Here’s the reality: it’s almost impossible to make someone want something they don’t Go to the full article.

Source:: Business 2 Community

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