Paul Boldyrev

Is sales always manipulative?

48 posts in this topic

I'm currently in the application process for a sales job in a financial firm. The company seems to be alright. They care deeply about their customers and try to offer them the best insurance or investment deals possible. Also, they offer lots of ways to learn entrepreneurial things.

 

However, I wonder whether sales in general is a bad means? Or is even the whole finance industry fucked, no matter where you turn?

 

Also, I'm worried about what my family will think when I talk to them about this.

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My mum works in sales for an IT company. She's pretty good at her job, and it's not really manipulation because she works for a high quality company that provides high quality service. Her job is to skillfully show that to clients in the best way possible.

But my ex used to work for a dodgy gas and electric sales company that went door to door, and the best salespeople at that company were all the stereotypical sleezy, scummy manipulative salespeople. Because what they were selling was essentially bullshit which they had to manipulate people into thinking was valuable.

So it depends on what you are selling. If you are selling a high quality product it isn't manipulation. If you are selling something valueless then it very often is.

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@Paul Boldyrev I'd say its always manipulative, just to varying degrees.

A lot of sales, to my opinion, inherently involves exploiting vulnerabilities in human psyches, so as to try and influence to people to act differently compared to how they otherwise would.

That said, the way i see it most industries are full of manipulation, again just to varying degrees. 

Edited by Ulax

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manipulation: by 1730, a method of digging ore, from French manipulation, from manipule "handful" (a pharmacists' measure), from Latin manipulus "handful, sheaf, bundle," from manus "hand" (from PIE root *man- (2) "hand") + root of plere "to fill" (from PIE root *pele- (1) "to fill"). Sense of "skillful handling of objects" is attested by 1826; extended 1828 to "handling or managing of persons," especially to one's own advantage.

Business itself is about manipulation, as well as domains such as politics. The whole game is about influencing, moving, creating effects on others so that you get your agenda met. It's a form of self-survival. It can also apply to a collective form of survival, like that of an organization or team.

Not all manipulation is negative, scammy, unconscious or purely about your own benefit. You can do it in a straightforward way, and empower and inspire others, etc.

Better to look into what manipulation is for oneself.

Edited by UnbornTao

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Sales is always manipulative and so is every form of communication.

Unless you want to postulate that communication can be an end in itself (which I don't buy - and certainly not in a business context), it is always geared toward some end - and thus effective communication means achieving that end. 

There are levels to manipulation of course - something as banal as speaking loud and clear enough to be understood is certainly not the same level of manipulation as some sophisticated Machiavellian trickery.

The problem is that the whole incentive structure in sales is so brutally geared toward Machiavellianism. Sooner or later you will inevitably drop your "ethical standards" and just go full Wolf of Wall Street.

As long as you sell something that's genuinely beneficial for your customer and you're just "helping him make a choice," you shouldn't be too worried about being immoral. There are certainly much "worse" things one could do.

Edited by Nilsi

“We are most nearly ourselves when we achieve the seriousness of the child at play.” - Heraclitus

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No. Especially in your industry, more success will come from long term trust built relationships. 

 

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29 minutes ago, Devin said:

No. Especially in your industry, more success will come from long term trust built relationships. 

 

That's unfortunately not true.

As a sales guy you have the same perverse incentives as the politician serving a limited term.

It's way more advantageous for you to make as much money in as little time as possible, burn all bridges and move on to the next job, than it is for you to build long term relationships for an enterprise that isn't directly coupled to your self-interest.


“We are most nearly ourselves when we achieve the seriousness of the child at play.” - Heraclitus

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17 minutes ago, Nilsi said:

That's unfortunately not true.

As a sales guy you have the same perverse incentives as the politician serving a limited term.

It's way more advantageous for you to make as much money in as little time as possible, burn all bridges and move on to the next job, than it is for you to build long term relationships for an enterprise that isn't directly coupled to your self-interest.

Someone at a finance firm CANNOT be a regular bridge burner, CANNOT.

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1 minute ago, Devin said:

Someone at a finance firm CANNOT be a regular bridge burner, CANNOT.

What makes you say that?


“We are most nearly ourselves when we achieve the seriousness of the child at play.” - Heraclitus

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If you are in a competitive field, you have to be persuasive otherwise you will be left without a job unless you work in a noncompetitive sector.

I was in sales and there is definitely manipulation but there is a big difference between doing manipulation at the expense on the customer or not.

Most people value emotional connection with the seller so if you use your charms and savvyness to make them like you they will spend more money with you than with the competitor but is that manipulative? I would call it savvy, not manipulative because I sold from power, not from force.

Edited by StarStruck

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34 minutes ago, Nilsi said:

What makes you say that?

          The video is long but I remember him covering it fairly well in a related manner. Long term trusting relationships are how you make the most money in a lot of types of business. People will go with you even if someone else gives a better offer, and customer acquisition is not only a real cost but you have to weed through the bad customers if you don't already have a base of "good" customers.  And it's hard to see but when your customers do well, you wind up doing better too in the long run. And reputation, the number one salesman is reputation.

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6 minutes ago, Devin said:

          The video is long but I remember him covering it fairly well in a related manner. Long term trusting relationships are how you make the most money in a lot of types of business. People will go with you even if someone else gives a better offer, and customer acquisition is not only a real cost but you have to weed through the bad customers if you don't already have a base of "good" customers.  And it's hard to see but when your customers do well, you wind up doing better too in the long run. And reputation, the number one salesman is reputation.

That's what your boss wants you to believe. His enterprise succeeding long-term mustn't be coupled to your personal success at all.

Most every new sales person is cold calling their customers anyways - the job doesn't magically come pre packaged with a loyal customer base. That means there is a virtually infinite pool of new prospects.

Whether they stick around and are ultimately satisfied with the deal or not doesn't mean jack shit once the contract is signed and the commission is payed out. 

You're guaranteed to be better off talking 10 people into a deal they don't really want to make than getting 1 loyal customer to stick around - unless you're really invested in the enterprise long term (which is why businesses like to shove stock options down their employees throats).


“We are most nearly ourselves when we achieve the seriousness of the child at play.” - Heraclitus

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3 hours ago, Nilsi said:

Sales is always manipulative and so is every form of communication.

Unless you want to postulate that communication can be an end in itself (which I don't buy - and certainly not in a business context), it is always geared toward some end - and thus effective communication means achieving that end. 

There are levels to manipulation of course - something as banal as speaking loud and clear enough to be understood is certainly not the same level of manipulation as some sophisticated Machiavellian trickery.

The problem is that the whole incentive structure in sales is so brutally geared toward Machiavellianism. Sooner or later you will inevitably drop your "ethical standards" and just go full Wolf of Wall Street.

As long as you sell something that's genuinely beneficial for your customer and you're just "helping him make a choice," you shouldn't be too worried about being immoral. There are certainly much "worse" things one could do.

yep happens gradually too.

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@Ulax I also talked with friends about this topic and we concluded something like this.

Also, almost everywhere in life, you have to manipulate to some degree, right? With women, business, yourself, your children, etc.

Guess I'm just scared of stopping to see the truth because it isn't beneficial in sales...

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@Nilsi So you'd say that the means sometimes justifies the end, right?

 

I guess I'm too much of a Kant to open myself up to that right now haha

Edited by Paul Boldyrev

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@Devin That's what I hope. And in the end, there's definitely some truth to that. At least for people who respect themselves in business.

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58 minutes ago, Paul Boldyrev said:

@Nilsi So you'd say that the means sometimes justifies the end, right?

 

I guess I'm too much of a Kant to open myself up to that right now haha

You're gonna get eaten alive in sales, if you're truly a Kantian.

I prescribe a rigorous reading of Nietzsche's "Beyond Good and Evil" & "The Geneaology of Morals" ;).


“We are most nearly ourselves when we achieve the seriousness of the child at play.” - Heraclitus

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