Rogue Ink

October 6, 2008

Why Sales Patter Kind of Sucks

Filed under: Writing — Tei @ 5:22 am
Tags: , , , ,

So I’m joining a leads group in my local Chamber of Commerce. This is very cool, because it makes me feel like a grown-up. I’ll explain what a leads group is in some other post when I’ve got a better handle on what goes on and I can figure out whether I’m for them or against them. At which point I shall take a righteous stance on one side or the other and woe betide those who dissent.

Trouble is, I don’t know if a leads group is a worthy investment of your time. Because I apparently was not at the leads group meeting that Thursday. Instead, I found myself in the middle of a sales pitch for a ‘success’ seminar lead by a dude named Brian Tracy, who is apparently (according to the always-helpful Wikipedia) from Canada, so be it known I am holding that illustrious nation responsible for the following story.

Don’t fret, James. You don’t want to KNOW all the stuff I hold the U.S. of A. responsible for. Paris Hilton, for a start. Oh, and Australia is responsible for Crocs. Just so everyone keeps track here.

So this guy walks into a room . . .

He’s short. Notably so. I might not have noted the short (being as we were all sitting down, he was standing, and heights tend to get a little skewed in that situation) except that he was so obviously compromising for it by being well-groomed, and well-dressed, and holding his chest about four inches out from his sternum. There is a relaxed quality that most people who don’t much think about their appearance have, and this guy lacks it. Now, I’ll grant you he didn’t go the alternate route of getting all shy, but over-confidence is equally unnerving. It lets us know you’re compensating for something, and then we simply must find out what. (Low sex drive? Secret garage full of old Star Wars memorabilia? Third nipple?)

This is also true for guys in nice cars. You can tell the sort of guy who has a nice car because he’s just really into cars, as opposed to the kind of guy who has a nice car because he thinks everyone else is into cars. Even if you have never consciously had this thought, you know exactly what I’m talking about. This guy had the physical appearance equivalent of a midlife-crisis car draped all over him.

He was also, just so I’m not ragging on him all the way through, quite good-looking. Nice jawline.

And starts to ask us about our small businesses.

Which is kind of nice. We go around the room, we give the ten-second version of the elevator speech, everyone smiles at everyone. We feel congenial, banded together, pleased with ourselves for not accidentally saying ‘like’ when we have repeatedly told ourselves to do no such thing (what? I’m young, and my generation says ‘like’ a lot. It’s a horrible habit, I’m working on it. YOUR generation probably smoked, and that’s way worse for you).

So that’s all good. He asks us whether we need to improve anything in our small business running, and we of course all confess that we do, except for a very tall grumpy guy looking put upon directly across the aisle from me, who maintained an expression throughout this session that is probably best described as ‘smells something foul in his sister-in-law’s house and is waiting for the right moment to undercut her by drawing attention to it’.

As it turns out, he had the right idea.

Presentation guy asks us about our strengths and weaknesses.

He’s got a little chart. We write things down gamely, rating our ability to do certain things from 1 to 10. If you’re interested, the stuff I suck at is prospecting and procrastination (even in my faults, I am alliterative). Everything else I’m fantastic at. No, really. I rock at everything else.

There might’ve been some sevens in there, but whatever. Seven’s a lucky number.

He gets motivational.

Fear is the mind-killer, he says. No, he doesn’t, because most people aren’t dorky enough to get a Dune reference. Instead he uses some handy acronyms – False Evidence Appearing Real and Forget Everything and Run. Fear is a bad thing. We get it. Stop being afraid. Get out there and do your business up right. Awesome. We’re all feeling motivated and groovy, like we can conquer the world.

Then he name-drops.

He picks up a book from the table and starts talking about how it changed his life.

Now, all the way through this whole presentation, this guy has had a patter going. He’s gotten us to finish sentences with him – “How do you eat an elephant?” – “One bite at a time.” Stuff we know, stuff that gets us involved with him. I can hear the patter, it sounds like patter, it sounds like the sort of voice a frat boy puts on when he’s read The Game one too many times and thinks he can pick up Madeleine Albright if he wanted to. I knew it was coming.

But I still felt like a jackass when it did.

He sells.

He sells us the book, the man who wrote it, the man whose seminar he’s hawking. We all like him by now – of course we do, he’s likeable, he’s used all the techniques sales people use to endear themselves to their audience. I watched him do it. I know what’s up. When he asked us to spend $500 to see a day-long seminar – go now, we won’t be back through Denver for another two years! (OFFER ENDS NOW!) – I was not at all surprised.

And I still felt kind of used.

The problem with sales of this kind.

Sales copy does more or less the same thing. You’ve seen websites and ads like this all over the web – “I made over $1,000,000 with this technique and so can you. This book shows you step-by-step everything you need to get a great career going in a new field. In just one week, people who have read this book got an average of five new clients. Start your new career today.”

“Oh. Cost? Right. Um. Tell you what. I’ll patter at you for another eight pages, get you really psyched about this new career of yours, and then tell you the cost, okay? At which point one of two things will happen. Either you’ll get really pissed at me for dragging you along for all that time, building up your hopes only to discover it’s $120 for the package, which is way too much of an investment for a book that’s probably going to wind up to be a scam, OR you’ll be in such despair you’ll think, well, I guess I’ll buy it anyway. Maybe this one is for real.”

I saw people at this seminar have the exact same thought process. Words are words whether spoken or written, and sales patter is the same throughout the kingdom of communication. The way that these guys make money is through those people who feel guilty. They’ve come this far, they might as well take the chance. Maybe it’s for real. Maybe it will work. Those are the people who buy.

Which is good for them. But it sucks for you.

Sales patter is very, very rarely the prelude to a product you want. Sales patter is there to disguise the product itself. Good products don’t need patter – they stand by themselves, you don’t need to be convinced that you want them because you really, really want them. You can tell that they’re worth hiring because their statements are straightforward and unambiguous. They don’t need to say things like, “And one guy who bought this product came home and found an elephant just waiting for him in his front yard! He’d always wanted an elephant, ever since he was a boy! A childhood dream came true because of this product! Also there was cotton candy! And acrobats! And a fire-breathing dragon that unfortunately set a small community alight but OUR GUY WHO BOUGHT THE PRODUCT WAS UNHARMED! HA!”

Companies who have something worth selling have statements that usually run something like, “I’m very good at this. You should hire me to do it for you.”

The Difference Between Buyers and Clients

Sales patter gets a lot of admiration because sales copy and sales patter tend to get buyers. I’m not denying this. They definitely get buyers. However – and this is a big however – they don’t get clients. If you actually go through with buying the book and it’s the same drivel you’ve heard a million times before for free on blogs, you’re never going to buy from them again. That’s okay – they’ve got your hundred bucks. And there’s a lot of people out there just waiting to be lulled by patter.

Getting a client – one who will stick with you for years to come, who feels loyalty for you, who is grateful to you for always being exactly what they needed – is far, far different from getting a buyer.

People who are seeking buyers are like the people who run Vegas. They only need you to come once. They’ll show you a good time, they’ll make you feel special for a bit. You’re taking a chance, going crazy – WHOO! But then, at the end of it all, you’ll feel kind of used and you won’t know why. You signed up for it, after all.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas because you’d be too ashamed to admit you did it anywhere else. If I’d signed up for the day-long $500 seminar the guy wanted me to sign up for, I’d never admit it to anyone. Because I would have been had, and I would know that this was my own secret shame, to be confessed to a priest and maybe a bartender immediately after.

Don’t fall for sales patter, seriously. It’ll make you get that old-vodka taste in your mouth and an empty wallet, and you won’t have anyone to blame but yourself.

And the short guy. And Canada.

Subscribe. I will denounce more people tomorrow, I’m sure. Maybe weasels. The weasels totally have it coming.



  1. Tei,

    You’ve done it again – left me cracked up laughing in recognition of how true all that you say is.

    I’ve fallen for the peddlars of broken dreams so many times.


    Comment by David Masters — October 6, 2008 @ 6:55 am | Reply

  2. Well. This was a great post. But.

    I’d like to point out that there are just as many people in the U.S. doing this sort of thing, and often in methods that leave me feeling like I need to have a shower. So, unfortunately, the move to associate cheap sales with Canada shot my whole enjoyment of the post and left me feeling defensive.

    Sensitive? A little. But think about it. Would you like me to run around associating the integrity of Americans in general with one person’s actions?

    I’ll go have more coffee and a smoke now.

    Comment by James Chartrand - Men with Pens — October 6, 2008 @ 11:39 am | Reply

  3. OH-MY-GOD James.. I didn’t read that into it at all, Mr. Sensitivity. I found it to be one of Tei’s better posts, and as such it has been stumbled, dug and shared on my reader, the latter which provides it as a link on my own sidebar for a time. This is because I have a great bias against dudes like she described. It’s a bias that has been earned through my own experience with them, mainly a longtime friend who has turned into one of them after many years. The friendship is gone, btw.. I can’t stand what he’s become.

    Oh, and he’s from San Diego, and of average height.

    You know how she is – you know how I am – we kid, we kid! But I’m down with dissing the seminar dudes, wherever they may be from or however tall (or not) they might be. Charlatans, the lot of ’em!

    Comment by RhodesTer — October 6, 2008 @ 12:28 pm | Reply

  4. Oh hell sure, I agree on that – call out the asses, definitely. It’s fine to say Brian Tracy sucks. I don’t see the need to point out his nationality, though. Doesn’t add to the conversation, post or story.

    Comment by James Chartrand - Men with Pens — October 6, 2008 @ 12:41 pm | Reply

  5. But she called Canada “Illustrious”. I don’t think she’s ever called ME that. Although she should.

    Comment by RhodesTer — October 6, 2008 @ 12:54 pm | Reply

  6. (Don’t worry, good people of the earth. Rhodester is currently handling this, telling me I’m a complete oversensitive ass and agreeing that yes, I should have more coffee. And probably two smokes. It’s all being taken care of.)

    Comment by James Chartrand - Men with Pens — October 6, 2008 @ 1:01 pm | Reply

  7. James, darling: Sometimes I just like to bait you. And look! It worked! You’re so easy. As though I’m not aware that half my readers are Canadian. Come now. If I blamed Harry for some weird happenstance coming out of Nevada, wouldn’t you see the joke?

    “I lost all my money in a poker game last night. I blame Harry and his legal gambling state of Nevada.”


    Rhodester: You, sah, are an illustrious defender of the funny.

    Comment by Tei — October 6, 2008 @ 1:08 pm | Reply

  8. Easy, but not cheap. 😛

    Comment by James Chartrand - Men with Pens — October 6, 2008 @ 2:16 pm | Reply

  9. You are SO much nicer than I am — all your colleagues there were. I’ve hit the point where, if I’ve signed up for a meeting, seminar, whatever and it turns into a sales pitch where they’re trying to part me from several hundred dollars, I stand up and I leave. These are moments of my life I can never get back — why should I spend them enraged? Especially if, when I booked the time, I asked the booking person, “this isn’t a sales pitch, is it? Because if it is, I’m not interested” and then that’s what it turns out to be anyway.

    Actually, by the time he hit the “call and response”, I don’t think I could have stood it. The “call and response” crap pisses me off. I’m not in nursery school. I’m at a business meeting.

    I am not interested in sales pitches. And most so-called “motivational speaking’ makes me want to puke. The minute that spiel starts, it’s usually on its way to sales pitch territory. Ding, ding, ding — there go the warning bells. Up go the red flags. I’m outta there.

    That’s why there a lot of blogs I only visit once and never again — they’re daily sales pitches. And I’m not buying.

    Your point about buyers versus clients is excellent — I’d never articulated it in those terms, but that’s exactly what it is. Well done!

    Comment by devonellington — October 6, 2008 @ 2:19 pm | Reply

  10. “Oh, and Australia is responsible for Crocs.”

    Crocs? The shoes? That company’s headquartered in Niwot.

    Comment by Matt Tuley, Laptop for Hire — October 6, 2008 @ 3:24 pm | Reply

  11. Darling twin, stop baiting James. Please. For the love of gods I don’t believe in. :-p

    That aside, I have nothing to contribute here other than my love for you for your hatred of sales patter. And weasels.

    Comment by Amy Derby — October 6, 2008 @ 8:33 pm | Reply

  12. P.S. Dude. Please stop telling me it’s 8:33 when it’s really only 3:33. One of these days I might be tired enough to believe you. 🙂

    Comment by Amy Derby — October 6, 2008 @ 8:34 pm | Reply

  13. I so know what you mean about the patter, Tei. (Although if it’s the same Brian Tracy I know, Colin likes the guy!) Regardless, I hate when I’ve signed up for a conference call or seminar on how to market my site or profile my ideal client or do something I really need to know and suddenly there’s this pitch in the middle that’s not helping me or telling me what they said they were going to tell me. None of this “but first” or “and this is a great segue into [sales pitch]” or basically, “well, this *is* free and we are *personally* taking our precious time – because we *are* big-time and oh-so-important, after all – to help you out here, so the least you can do is listen to us pitch our ridiculously expensive conference/product/whathaveyou.” I h.a.t.e. it!!

    Comment by Steph — October 7, 2008 @ 12:33 am | Reply

  14. […] Addendum. It occurs to me that I never thought sales guy was stupid. I thought he was underhanded and a shyster, but I never once thought he was stupid. […]

    Pingback by Stupid Fear and Smart Fear and Stupidity That’s Smart « Rogue Ink — October 7, 2008 @ 3:56 am | Reply

  15. Tei,

    Good post, not ragging on Canada, and BTW, this is going to sound odd since you’re very down on him at the moment, but I really like Brian Tracy’s writing. Not sayin’ it’s worth $500 to see him, I don’t know. He is a sharp dude, though.

    I’ve written on pitches like this before, and I completely agree. You get a different customer from sales slime than from being good and confident. I like to mix a little… happy cockiness?… into it, but no slime. Just “we’ll get along and I’m psyched for this work and I know my stuff and I’ll pull for you all the way.” That’s my pitch.

    The networking group may be very handy. I’m looking forward to hearing more on the subject.



    Comment by Kelly — October 7, 2008 @ 10:50 am | Reply

  16. […] it comes to promoting yourself, forget overly clever, forget loud, and definitely forget long-winded. I don’t want to know you’re good, and I sure don’t want to know your writer/ […]

    Pingback by Inspiration Points: Why Having the Coolest Ads is NOT the Way to Go | Maximum Customer Experience Blog — October 8, 2008 @ 9:23 am | Reply

  17. Holy cripes, I think I’ve just fallen in platonic love with you. And peed my pants a little laughing. What a delightful combo.

    I hate sales patter with a fiery hatred that knows no bounds, and now you’ve given me smart, concrete reasons to go on hating it. Just sell the effing book/course/what-have-you because of its merit! I beg of you, oh sales patter spreaders!

    Thanks for a great read and, like, the best, like, understanding of, like, our thoughts. Like.

    Comment by QuietRebelWriter — October 8, 2008 @ 11:50 pm | Reply

  18. […] Why Sales Patter Kind of Sucks at Rogue Ink. It, like, totally does. […]

    Pingback by Creative Link Love and Grohl Goodness - Quiet Rebel Writer — October 10, 2008 @ 2:08 pm | Reply

  19. I know and like Brian Tracy’s stuff very well. Brian Tracy, and Tom Hopkins were early influencers in my sales career. I also know “presentation guy” and hate, hate, hate that style of “selling.” You have done an excellent job of capturing the sleaze factor while keeping me laughing throughout the entire post, okay so you always do that but darn it you’ve done it again. Good on you!

    Comment by Karen Swim — October 10, 2008 @ 8:31 pm | Reply

  20. Wit, choc full of information…i loved reading it!

    Comment by pepperclip — February 20, 2009 @ 12:43 pm | Reply

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