Dr. Penny Pincher founded the popular personal finance blog Penny Pincher Journal in 2013 and has published two books about saving money.
The Great Sales Pitch
Last week, I had an opportunity to experience a great sales pitch in the comfort of my own home. Here's how we ended up with this opportunity: I attended a "home show" with my wife to check out the latest home construction products and technologies just for fun. We entered a few drawings for prizes. My wife got a call to say that we won a prize- all we had to do was listen to a sales pitch and then we would get our prize of a free air purifier.
It's hard to turn down something free, so we decided to listen to the sales pitch.
Sales Pitch Begins...
The sales person arrived a few minutes early on Saturday evening carrying a couple of boxes. Since I was expecting a free prize, this seemed promising. She had mentioned that she wanted to demonstrate the larger version of the air purifier before she gave us the small one that we won. I thought this would be a great learning opportunity for my 13 year old son to see a salesperson in action, so I invited him to watch the sales pitch.
The sales person- I'll call her Caroline- unpacked a box with a machine about the size of a shop vac called a "Rainbow". After finding an outlet and filling its tank with water, she demonstrated the Rainbow air purifier. It could run on a low speed or a high speed and did produce a nice fresh smell using water as a filter to trap dust and small particles. She also demonstrated several scents that could be added to the water to produce vanilla, cinnamon, and other scents. My favorite was the pure water.
A Classic Rainbow Vacuum Sales Pitch
Next, the demo went in a direction I had not expected. The salesperson got out some flip charts and talked about some of the hazards of having dust and dirt in your house and showed a picture of a giant dust mite. She got some attachments out of one of the boxes and revealed that the Rainbow air purifier could also function as a vacuum cleaner. One of the nice features was that the air smelled fresh coming out while it was vacuuming.
The demo of the Rainbow vacuum went on for at least an hour, but it was actually pretty interesting. Caroline had us sweep a section of hardwood floor with a broom, and then went over it with the vacuum and showed us how much dirt and dust we were missing with a broom. At one point, she had my son vacuum a section of his room with our $80 Hoover vacuum from Target. He went over it 50 times with the Hoover. Then she went over it 10 times with her vacuum and showed us how much dirt she was picking up from the same spot after every sweep. She let us vacuum the room with the vacuum and empty out the water filter tank to see how much dirt we were picking up. The vacuum was very impressive.
If you are interested in getting a Rainbow Vacuum cheaper, here is an article on finding a used Rainbow Vacuum.
Finally we got to the bottom line- how much was the vacuum? She turned over a flip chart that revealed the price of the vacuum to be $2,300. That is more than my car is worth, but it is a really nice vacuum. I was expecting her to flip over another chart showing a lower price, but there was no lower price. Of course we could make low monthly payments if we wanted. She also offered an opportunity to sell these vacuums and get ours for free. We passed on both offers.
This was a great sales pitch. We weren't even thinking about getting a new vacuum, but Caroline's pitch got us interested and made us consider for a fleeting moment how nice it would be to have a really great vacuum. On her way out, Caroline mentioned that she makes sales to most people she visits.
How can a great sales pitch make people buy things they didn't even know they want?
Elements of a Great Sales Pitch
After Caroline left, I reviewed with my son the key elements from the great sales pitch we had experienced. I thought it was awesome that he got to experience a good old-fashioned sales pitch so he could learn the tricks that salespeople use to get you to buy things:
1. Take Control. A great salesperson takes control. Caroline had us sit on the couch. She had us help her plug in the air purifier. She had us get a broom and sweep part of the floor, and she had us get our vacuum and vacuum part of a carpet. She was establishing control and getting us used to doing what she wanted. This pattern of control can help get buyers to comply with the salesperson and buy the product.
2. Touch the Product. You are much more likely to buy something if you touch it. A great salesperson gets you to touch the product. Caroline had all of us try out the product several times.
3. Scare Tactics. An effective sales pitch plays on emotion- including fear. The flip charts talked about all kinds of germs and bad things that are in household dust. The giant dust mite looked like something out of a horror movie. The message she was planting- your family can get sick if you don’t buy this product.
4. Limited Time Offer. The offer to buy the cleaning system was only good for the home demo. Caroline told us that "the offer ends as soon as I leave..." Infomercials and stores use this tactic all the time to get people to make the decision to buy quickly before they have time to consider the options and make a careful decision.
5. Getting You to Agree. During the flip charts, Caroline made a number of obvious points and make us agree or acknowledge her point before going on. "Would you rather live in a clean house or a dirty house? A clean house, right?" This is another tactic to soften up buyers and get them in the pattern of agreeing with the salesperson. Agreement to such points along the way can be used later to pressure a buyer into purchasing. If you agree with everything the salesperson says, you will end up buying!
6. Awkward Silence. A good salesperson gives you chances to reveal information to them or agree with them. People tend to want to say something when there is an awkward silence. This can be advantageous to the salesperson.
7. This Will Change Your Life. A good sales pitch is not only about the product, but how you life will be better if you buy the product. Imagine your house smelling clean and fresh all the time. Imaging being able to breathe easier and being healthier. This sort of thinking sets the stage to get people to spend a lot of money to change their life.
8. A Great Deal. This product is a better deal than other expensive products that you don’t have... During the sales pitch, Caroline compared her brand of vacuum to other very expensive vacuum cleaners that cost thousands of dollars. This is a tactic to numb your mind to expensive prices and try to reset your expectations for the price of a product.
9. Fatigue. A long sales presentation can wear you down, especially if you weren't expecting it. I have read on the internet that some sales demos for this type of vacuum go on for three hours! Fatigue can reduce your ability to make good decisions and plays to the salesperson's advantage.
10. Call in the Boss. Sales people sometimes go talk with the boss and come back with price reductions or other sweeteners to entice you to buy. Caroline called her boss to review how the demo went. At a car dealership, the salesman will often take your offer to the boss to discuss and then come back. Invoking the need to see the boss can give the salesperson time to think and supports their strategy to get the most money from you.
11. Payment Plans. "You don't need to pay $2,300, you can buy this for only $80 per month." Most people respond better to a small monthly payment than a large one-time payment, even if the total is more due to interest.
12. Free Gift. Offering a free gift can soften people up. Even if the salesperson tells you there are no strings attached, most people feel like they owe something if they get something for free. This is one of the psychological factors that can work to a salesperson's advantage.
13. Bandwagon Effect. Here are some things that Caroline mentioned during the sales pitch: “I sell a lot of these” and “Most people buy this.”.. This makes it sound like you’re making a mistake if you don’t buy it since most people who get the same information make the decision to buy.
14. Repetition. Caroline made the same points a lot of times and in a dramatic fashion. She showed us that her vacuum could pick up more dirt than our primitive vacuum and broom a lot of times. When you are exposed to repetition, it is hard to forget and it is hard to argue with a point that has been made over and over.
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How a Great Sales Pitch Can Sell Anything
As we have seen, a great sales pitch takes advantage of many elements to establish control and steer people to the conclusion of buying something- whether they need it or not.
In a sales pitch, the salesperson almost always has the advantage. They have practiced their pitch on lots of people. They may be using sales materials and presentations designed and perfected by experts. They use all of their psychological tools to press you into buying.
A good way to deal with a sales pitch is to boil the deal down to its essence- does it make sense? Does buying a $2,300 vacuum cleaner make sense? Does agreeing to sell vacuum cleaners alone in stranger's homes make sense? Is this something you were thinking about doing before the sales pitch?
I enjoyed the sales pitch, and am currently checking out similar used vacuums on eBay that are nearly $2000 less than the $2300 model we were pitched. Yes, I do agree that a clean house is better than a dirty house...
© 2014 Dr Penny Pincher
Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on August 29, 2016:
Lee, I have met people who are "natural" sellers. They just know how to work people and are able to keep coming up with different angles until they can manipulate the buyer and make the sale. Thanks for sharing your firsthand experience!
Lee Tea from Erie, PA on August 28, 2016:
"Rainbow rainbow don't be blue,
we're gonna find a home for you...
Be it cash or payment plan,
sell that Rainbow, Rainbow man!"
I was 3 years old when I learned that song and would dance it around my dad's sales office. He spent the next 30-some years raising our family on commission based pay just like the Rainbow gig, and direct sales has had a hook in my head ever since :-/ I even went to college, got a bachelor's... didn't matter. Screwin with the public one right after the next after the next for every penny in their pocket on an impulse was everything I knew work should be! Little song, little dance, make 'em smile... sprinkle in a few 'yes/yes''s, shove their choice of this or that in their hands, pitch em a price hot n fresh like a pizza (oooooh.... make that dough ;) ) aaaaand assume sale for the close. Not 'so, do you want this?' but I can do cash or check or even a card - brought the ol' knucklebuster along for the ride today so whatever's clever for you!" big fantastic smile, starring em straight in the eye with the product in their hands letting them squirm on that awkward dead air. Their move, the only "right" answers have to come from that multiple choice list I just spelled out for them, and any of the three they pick pay me. But on the unusual chance they STILL try to back out, I open my bag of special tricks - in this case I'm playing the 'fear of loss' card...rip the product out of their hands, thrust it into the next hands I see, and start having the sales pitch of my LIFE - OH what a GREAT TIME we're having over here!! With that thing, that you thought about turning down... oh, what's that? Here's your check?
Well, since you're paying with sparkly unicorn checks and I LOVE sparkles AND unicorns (and I overpitched the first price 50%) I'm gonna let you grab another for half off for your ... son at home? Daughter? Niece...(doesn't matter I keep naming relatives until I get a match)... did you want the red for her or blue?
Making a living as a master manipulator maaaay have had affected my relations to others. I could talk to 300 people face to face in a day and not have an authentic conversation with a single one. They'd be feelin it, but I was just running script, same 5 step impulse, for any brand or product you could probably think of. And, like my dad, I made a living for MY young and growing family one sale at a time.
After 15 years I left direct sales, put that bachelor's degree to use, and rededicated my efforts instead to indie journalism with a public service focus on consumer advocacy.
Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on March 29, 2014:
Hackslap, good point about delivery being an element of a great sales pitch. I might add that one to the list... Thanks for reading and commenting!
Harry from Sydney, Australia on March 28, 2014:
This ia a very informative and in depth article re a decent sales pitch... although I'd say that 'delivery' is equally important as is the contents of the pitch... you really have to sell yourself before you can sell a product