Salesmen are Sneaky

by Cameron on August 7, 2011

Commissions make some salesmen do dirty things. Their goal is to increase their income through sales commissions. Big corporations have entire departments dedicated to researching and discovering how to psychologically entice you to purchase their product or service. Salesmen are well equipped with an arsenal of techniques that prey on your emotions and desires. Knowledge is power. Let’s discuss a few of dangerous techniques that you can keep in mind when working with salesmen.

Herding Effect

Have you ever heard a salesman use phrases like “everyone is getting one” or “this is really popular right now?” The herding effect, derived from behavior finance, relates to the feeling of comfort that is brought on by making the popular decision. It is easier to make the decision knowing that if the decision is a bad one, you won’t be the only one that made the mistake. It also relates to the thought that if the majority of the people thought it was a good idea than it must be a good idea. Be aware of the herding effect. This rationale can result in big losses in the investing world. Most of the time, it results in average gains and losses, but at certain times, can be devastating financially. Be your own person. Make your decisions based on what it is rather than how many other people made that decision.

Prospect Theory

This is another theory derived from behavioral finance. This theory discusses the inclination of a person to reevaluate or change opinion of something when presented with a third option. For instance, if you were choosing between two cars, you would look at a variety of things. Maybe Car A is a little cheaper but worse than Car B in four of six categories. You would probably lean toward Car B since it is superior in most categories. However, if you were given the option of Car C, it might change your opinion. Car A might be better than Car C in four of six categories while Car C is superior to both cars in two categories. Now, that means that Car B is better than one of the other cars instead of being the worst in four categories. Car B now appears to be a value rather than a cheaper, worse vehicle. Salesmen will frequently use this technique. Many realize its effect without realizing exactly what technique they are using. Evaluate products individually rather than comparatively.


Limited time offers and limited quantity deals are all techniques used to pressure the customer into making a purchase. This is probably the most commonly used technique. Customers fall into the trap of believing that this is the only time they will ever be able to get this deal. In reality, another similar sale will happen next month. Make sure it is something you need to have at that time. If it is not, wait until you are in a good position to make the purchase.


Everyone wants to fit in or be accepted. Even those that are trying to be different are trying to fit into a different group. Salesmen prey on that desire to fit in. Phrases similar to the ones described in the herding effect are used to take advantage of this desire. Do not buy just because a lot of people you know have one. Buy because you need or want the product, and the product is the right price for you to consider purchasing it.

Take Away

Some salesmen try to use a person’s desire to have the best or to have something that is out of their reach to their advantage. A salesman using this technique will begin making a sales pitch. Then, either in the middle of the sales pitch or after you show some hesitation toward the product, the salesman will make a comment, such as “you aren’t the type of person that would buy this anyway,” “that’s only for our wealthier customers,” “that’s only for our customers that can afford the best,” or “that’s probably too much for you to handle anyway.” Do not fall victim to this technique. A technique that might flip the script on the salesman is if you say something like “Well, I’ll discuss my needs with the salesman at your competitor’s store” or “You are right. I probably shouldn’t spend any money at all today.”

Subliminal Messages

Salesmen use subliminal messages throughout their conversations with you. For example, a salesman might say “which color would you like the chair in” or “how many were you looking to buy today?” Techniques like this one are effective because they might sway you that little bit that is necessary to get you to make the purchase. Some people might want to avoid embarrassment to the point of making the purchase so they don’t have to tell the salesman he is wrong. Subliminal messages are not as effective as other techniques because they are typically a little easier to spot. To avoid being worked over by this technique, do not let something the salesman says sway your decision. Their job should be to give you the information. Once you have the information, you evaluate it, and make an informed decision.

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