There are a few different philosophies in marketing. Let's think of them as varying hunger levels.
Starving. There are businesses who are starving for business. Their appetite's are insatiable. They want everyone. When I ask who their audience is, they say things like 'anyone who owns a business', or 'anyone who has a bank account', or 'anyone who drinks coffee'. They steamroll over the competition and they knock at their prospectives' door relentlessly with social media posts, targeted emails, and follow up calls.
Hungry. There are businesses who are hungry for business. They know that they don't exist for everyone, but they also don't want to turn away willing money, so they say yes to anyone who wants to hire them, even if they know they are sacrificing excitement and compensation.
Content. There are businesses that are content. They still eat/prospect. They still market. But they are choosy about who they work with. They know who they are and what they offer, and they know when they are hungry and passing a Taco Bell that they can hang on for the ocean-view lobster buffet up the road. They are not interested in getting business- they are interested in getting the right business.
Most business owners have camped in all of these philosophies at one time or another. I know first hand the pressure of needing to make rent and taking whatever scraps come your way. I also know that locking in to bad clients will bite you in the butt every time. It will cost you opportunities, it will cost you hours and dollars, and it will cost you reputation. As a business owner, one of the best things you can do for your business is to say no to prospective clients when they aren't aligned with your brand goals and values.
There are countless businesses that find monetary success in starvation. They ruthlessly run after anyone willing to pay a penny, and if they are fast enough and slick enough, it works. They make some bank. If you are sitting behind a multi-billion dollar corporation, you probably don't care if you're selling to the wrong person because you never see them. You have the capital to consistently bring in new customers, so reputation and maintenance of existing customers doesn't have to be a priority.
I would argue however, that if you have to consistently bring in new customers, you are doing something wrong. If you are truly good at what you do, your customers should be bringing new customers in for you.
What does this have to do with sales and manipulation?
Going back to philosophies, the person who is hungry or starving doesn't really care where they eat, they just want to eat. They view marketing as a loudspeaker to shout in all directions, beckoning any and all to come hither and purchase. As a consumer, they do not care if you are the right match. They aren't selling you on a solution to your problem, they are manipulating you into thinking you have a problem that you need them to solve.
The person who is looking to sell is looking to understand your problem, and determine whether they can actually provide the solution. They view marketing as a signpost that says "I know you're looking for me- I'm going to make it easier for you by letting you know I'm right here."
A few things to look for before saying yes to a sale/manipulation:
- Is this person spending more time asking me about my problem, or telling me about their solution?
- Does this person have an 'x-step easy solution' that is one size fits all? (this generally means they are replicating what worked for them, rather than understanding what your brand is)
- Can this person describe their ideal audience as if they are a single person? How well do they know their audience?
- Does this person have proven results? (Don't be swayed by numeric metrics- someone can easily make 6 figures by being a great salesperson, but their clients aren't actually seeing results)
- Does this person have a clear brand? If they are wish-wash and it's all about the services and they are not crystal clear on their personality and differentiation, they are not being picky with who they work with.
- Do they make impossible promises? Look for language like 'find out how you can save $$' or 'virtually free', or 'people are knocking down my door to get a spot, and one could be yours!' (If people are really knocking down the door, they don't need to be spending time shouting at you on Facebook every day)
- Consider asking this person "Why do you feel that you are the right fit for me? Can you share an example of past work that you feel is relevant to me?"
- Is there an out? Most best practices in sales teach you how to close the sale on the spot. You have a whole list of responses to overcome objections, and you do everything but bodyblock the door until they say yes. You should always feel good about your yes, and comfortable saying no. At the end of the day, it is your business, and your brand. You should be the owner.
When it comes to service-based sales, it should be akin to a date. It's not just about the service someone provides, it's about whether you have the right chemistry. Are you a match. Do your brand values and personalities click. And when it comes to product sales, there are many tools in the box, and they all work. But some work more efficiently than others.
At the end of the day, a healthy sales transaction should include presenting your problem in detail, hearing the provided solution in detail, and an open invitation to say yes or no thank you. If you have anxiety about asking someone to share their services because you're afraid you'll be stuck in a sales pitch or get bombarded with marketing emails and that keeps you from wanting to start a dialogue, trust your gut and go with someone who is content with or without your dollars. That is the person who ultimately wants the best success in both your business and theirs.