I firmly believe that — especially in today’s well-informed marketplace — marketing and sales should work hand in hand.
When they work hand-in-hand to swindle, guilt-trip, or otherwise manipulate, it’s a surefire way to permanently alienate your customers.
Case in point: the transcendental meditation (TM) introductory class I took at the end of 2018.
Little Communication — No Conversation
The red flags started weeks before the class was scheduled to meet.
I had attended a couple of TM introduction webinars, and I knew that to learn the principles of this meditation practice I had to sign up for a free introductory class followed by three paid lessons.
I was prepared for this when I went to the TM website and filled out the form for a local teacher to get in touch with me. I knew that they were going to try to sell me on the paid classes during the intro, and it was all part of the process.
Still, I expected some kind of further communication — or even more marketing — after I filled out the form.
I filled out the form … but never even received a confirmation email. (Sales and marketing sin #1 — poor communication.)
Weeks later, I received a roughly written, poorly formatted text email from a guy (we’ll call him Mario) asking me if I could attend an upcoming TM intro class at a local library.
I was a little hesitant because the class was scheduled at 6pm at a library downtown that gets a little scary after the sun goes down. (Sales and marketing sin #2 — picking the wrong venue.)
Nonetheless, I was committed to learning more about TM, so I made sure my husband would be available to stay with our daughter for a couple of hours, and emailed Mario telling him that I would attend.
Again, no confirmation from Mario.
The night before the class, I still hadn’t received any confirmation email, or even a reminder that the event was coming up — so I emailed Mario and asked him if the class was still on.
I got a simple “yes” in response. (Sales and marketing sin #3 — no effort to build a relationship with your prospect.)
I just wasn’t feeling great about this whole thing. But I persevered.
Instead of Setting Expectations, He Set Me Up for Conflict
I showed up at the library 15 minutes before the class was supposed to start. I parked my car as close as I could to one of the few streetlamps and climbed the urine-stained stairs to the main floor.
It didn’t take me long to find the room. It was in use when I arrived, so I stood outside the door next to a lady with a dozen shopping bags and a man who smelled like blue cheese.
When the room emptied, I walked in. A friendly older couple and a man with a military buzz-cut and the stance of a soldier followed me in moments later.
At about five minutes past when the class was scheduled to begin, Mario walked in. He was an older gentleman who moved like he was in no hurry. His smile was warm enough, though, so I started to relax a bit.
Mario handed out three large, heavily dented, foam-backed boards with aged charts on them. The charts showed the results of old studies that proved how transcendental meditation made you smarter, calmer and more productive.
Then Mario left the room for 10 minutes in search of a marker for the whiteboard. (Sales and marketing sin #4 — being unprepared when engaging with prospects.)
When he returned, I expected him to introduce himself and then ask the four of us in attendance more about ourselves.
Well, he did introduce himself. He told an hour-long story about how he came into TM, and how he became a teacher — but he never once gave us the opportunity to tell him about us. (Sales and marketing sin #5 — making it all about you and not your customers.)
The introduction was so painfully dull, I swear Mario was putting himself to sleep. I was literally digging my fingernails into my palm to try to stay awake 10 min into the 1.5-hr presentation. (Sales and marketing sin #6 — putting your prospects to sleep.)
After going over the history and general idea behind TM, and explaining that he’s the only certified teacher in this region — he told us about next steps.
Now THIS was what I came for!
First, he said, we were required to go through an interview process — which would take place that Saturday.
Then, assuming we passed the interview portion, we were required to take 3 classes, which would take place that Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
Finally, he told us what it would cost. And he hung out on that topic for almost a full 10 minutes. He qualified the price a dozen different ways, citing the lifelong benefits of a TM practice, and how the only way you could learn TM is by paying for and attending these classes. He even talked about payment plans — all without a single word (of protest or otherwise) from his audience. (Sales and marketing sin #7 — spending too much time talking about price.)
All the while, I’m sitting there thinking, “The cost is well within my budget. But I need to check with my husband to make sure he can be with our daughter while I attend four straight days of classes!” (Sales and marketing sin #8 — not knowing your customers. If Mario had taken five seconds to learn about me, he’d know that time commitment, not price, would be my objection.)
And then he committed the greatest sales sin of all: He was disrespectful.
Mario went around the room and asked each person, one by one, if they were taking the class.
When he got to me, I said, “Well, I can’t commit to anything until I can make sure my husband is available to watch our daughter.”
He responded, “Bring your husband.”
I said, “Then there’s no one to watch our daughter. And he would never come to this anyway. Meditation isn’t his thing.”
He said, “Well, if you miss this round, we won’t have another round until Dec.”
I said, “Okay, good to know if I miss this one I can come in Dec.”
He said, “Well, you’d have to do the intro class again.”
I asked him why. He said, “Because in a month you’ll forget everything.”
Let me be clear. There was NOTHING in this intro class that would in any way prohibit me from meditating should I forget it. This was clearly a ploy to force me to commit to this weekend.
I asked Mario if I could get back to him the next day, because there was absolutely no way I could commit to four days away without checking in with my family first.
He rolled his eyes.
Then he said, begrudgingly, “Fine, but all the spots will probably fill up by then.”
I was furious. Mario was trying to manipulate me into signing up for four days of classes without allowing me to check in with my family first — and giving them only two days’ notice.
But I maintained my cool as best I could at 7:30pm after a long day of work and an incredibly boring presentation.
I told him I’d get back to him.
And I left, trying with all my might not to slam the door behind me.
The Hard Sell Only Works in the Movies
I went to this TM intro class prepared to commit to taking a series of paid classes if I wanted to move forward. If Mario had told me about the schedule in advance, I could have figured out in advance if I would be able to attend the next round of classes or not. But telling a mother she has to commit to four days away from her family in two days??? That’s NUTS.
Then using manipulative sales tactics on me? INSANE.
I walked out of that intro class wondering if he learned sales from watching Glengarry Glen Ross.
The sales and marketing lessons I want you to take away from this are simple:
- Communicate early and thoughtfully.
- Pick the right venues for your meetings.
- Build real relationships with your prospects and customers.
- Always come prepared.
- Make the conversation about your customer — not yourself or your product.
- Don’t put your prospects to sleep. Make every interaction worth their time.
- Don’t spend too much time talking about price.
- MOST IMPORTANT: Take the time to know your customers.
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