Slimy Sales And Marketing Tactics

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Are you a salesperson?

How does that sentence make you feel? Most people say that they either hate sales or hate salespeople and yet, those same people fail to realize that everything we do in life is sales. When we wake up and get dressed, the clothes we put on is a sales pitch to ourselves (we sell ourselves that the clothes we are wearing best represent to the public who we are… or who we want them to think that we are). When we are pitching our ideas, we are selling. When you are having lunch with a client (or a potential client), you are selling yourself in the hopes that they will work with you. Yes, there are soft selling techniques and hard ones (and we have to be careful of which lines we cross), but everything we do in life is a sale… and there’s nothing embarrassing about it. If you think there is, I would recommend that you pick up a copy of Jeffrey Gitomer‘s amazing book, The Sales Bible.

It’s only embarrassing when it gets slimy.

Sales gets slimy very fast when people misrepresent their intentions as wanting to be helpful when all they’re really trying to do is close a sale. Recently, a major media company reached out to me to discuss what they called, "a new business opportunity," for Twist Image. In the email exchange that ensured, the individual indicated that they had clients who may require our services and would like to set-up an exploratory conference call. It seemed reasonable enough and there have been multiple instances in the past when these types of conversations have led to new client work, and a reciprocation in terms of business opportunity (the old "win-win scenario" we often hear about). We settled on a date and time. About an hour before our scheduled meeting, I was sent an email with a PowerPoint attachment. The body text of the email went on to describe to the Vice-President of the company (I was dealing with a person at the management level) that our call was scheduled for them to present their credentials to us. Yep… I was scammed and the got the old bait and switch. I quickly responded back to the VP (cc’ing my original contact) that my understanding of the call was that there was a new business opportunity for them to discuss with us and not a credentials pitch of their services . The meeting quickly got cancelled with an apology from the VP. The tragedy here is that I may have needed this company’s services, but I would not have led this conversation – it would have been someone else within my organization. Now, not only will we never work with this company, but their image is tarnished forever. Over what? Lying. Plain and simple.

Did someone get fired?

I hope not. I hope this person was given an education in leadership. People don’t hate being sold to. People don’t hate advertising. People don’t hate being marketed to. People hate bad advertising. People hate marketers who lie about the benefits and value. People hate feeling like they’re being taken advantage of instead of being offered an opportunity. It sounds simple enough, but it’s so rarely practiced that we wind up giving sales, marketing and advertising a bad rap. It’s a shame…

And it’s easy to solve. Here are some simple steps:

  • Follow first. Before calling on a company, follow them online. On Twitter via Google Alerts, whatever. Within a couple of hours you can better understand their needs.
  • LinkedIn them. Use LinkedIn to see if you know (or are connected to) someone who knows someone. You would be surprised how often this is the case.
  • Give value first. You don’t have to buy them anything, but think about someone you could introduce them to or uncover a piece of content (a Blog post, Podcast, article, whatever) that they have not yet seen and send it to them with an introductory note (keep it short and sweet).
  • Be honest. If all you’re looking for is a sale, let them know. You’re probably going to get blown off. Let this be a lesson to you: there is no quick sales in life. Give value first and keep giving. Sales is a long, hard road of relationship building.

It’s not easy.

I’m a sales person. My main job at Twist Image is to get people to buy our marketing services. In reading a ton of sales material, I realized that the best way I can do this is by providing value and building relationships first. It’s slow going. This is why I Blog, Podcast, write books, speak at events, pen columns for newspapers and magazines, join industry associations and do a lot of community work/outreach. I don’t want to cold call companies. I’d much prefer that Twist Image makes itself as findable and as shareable as possible. It’s not easy. It’s not easier than cold-calling a random list of potential customers, it’s just different. One of the biggest differences is that in all of this hard work, I don’t have to lie, misrepresent or posture. This is who we are. In the process of using more of these inbound marketing channels, it has also made me much more knowledgeable about the industry I serve. The process of selling like this forces me to constantly educate myself about the industry, so that once we do get a new client in the door, I’m also in a better position to provide a unique solution to their problems (I do this as part of the strategy and creative teams here).

What’s the point?

Being slimy, lying or misrepresenting your services may get you an immediate sale, but it’s never going to foster a lasting relationship. The funny thing is that you know this. It’s obvious. And yet, with Social Media, look at how much posturing some of the most respected brands take part in that make them look, feel and act pretty slimy. Don’t believe me? Look at what a brand is willing to do simply get someone (anyone) to like their brand on Facebook. Is that a real "like" or a little bit more like a slimy move to bump up numbers? Is there an actual marketing result that comes from that? There is much more real work here for all of us to do.

Don’t you think brands need to be a lot less slimy? 


  1. I’ve been caught in that trap once too often. Agree it’s highly slimy and leaves a bad taste. Waste of my time + I try to avoid working with people I don’t feel I can trust, so automatic #fail.

  2. Great article Mitch.
    I also get the weekly sales calls masquerading as value added ventures or opportunities. It’s automatically a big turn-off and a shut down. When it’s transparent I may listen, but for the most I now rely on solid information and knowledge transfer that happens when companies offer up a “smart” part of themselves. I read, listen, evaluate, subscribe, share and eventually engage.
    Slimy is just… well… slimy and doesn’t work in todays sophisticated ecosystem.

  3. The same plague can be found in the claims of a lot of self-styled social media consultants. For that matter, it’s getting hard to believe half of what you read in a run-of-the-mill resumé anymore. The root issue here is simply plain old ethics. Ethics are inconvenient. Ethics are risky and expensive. Ethics are not impressive or fashionable or likely to raise your salary or your credit limit. And ethics are probably the last hope we have for marketing to be a respectable profession or a force for good. Good piece, Mitch. And very much the tip of a very large iceberg.

  4. Absolutely, they do need be less slimy…and if they don’t, hey, more opportunities for the other good, hardworking honest players on the market. Patience, hard-work, and honest relationship building will pay off! “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson

  5. Right you are. It is about acting with elegance. Behaving with class. Regardless how “low-end” your product is or how “basic” your service offering may be.

  6. Great post.
    Regarding cold calling: It is an incredibly effective form of business development, especially for service based B2B companies. Not sales medium is innately slimy. What is most important though is that in cold calling, and any sales for that matter, the goal has to be long term relationship building.
    The big takeaway is that it does not matter how the relationship is initiated. It has to be started honestly and you must communicate your intentions clearly. Sales people who get this can be incredibly effective.

  7. Mitch great post.
    what you wrote here could not be more bang on.
    it’s sometimes difficult to keep straight in sales and build the relationship. it’s a longer sales process, but down the road, its deeper, more meaningful, more rewarding and more fruitful.
    plus you’ll feel better about yourself. and perhaps gain a friend.
    in this world of ultra competitiveness, price slashing, budget cuts and much more, many salespeople lose sight of the process and the need for that process in sustainable selling and relationship building.
    if more people took the time and effort to sell the way you sell, wow this world would be a better place.

  8. Today if you cold call you are being lazy. If you have a name you have the ability to find out more about that individual. Do not interrupt people unless you take the time to learn about them and drive value. Great post Mitch. Keep leading!

  9. It seems like we’ve all experienced this at some point or another. Having been in sales and working with sizeable sales teams, I’ve seen first hand the “other side” of salespeople. The one customers don’t see at the meeting… and it made me feel very uncomfortable and jaded. Not with all salesfolk, but a good percentage.
    The one true measure of a salesperson is their intentions. Are they there to sell… or help? This of course hinges on the leadership team… do they push for revenue or relationships first?
    Alan Weiss, whose work and principles I try to follow, says to think of the fourth sale first. This means thinking about building a long term relationship from the very first meeting.
    I understand the need for cold calls and other similar techniques, but if you start the relationship with a half-truth, hard pitch or even a lie you could lose a lifetime worth of a customer. Which most of time isn’t just the one sale… it’s 50 or so years worth of sales.
    Great post Mitch, it’ll be interesting to see if they’ll ever try and contact you again.
    – Ernest.

  10. Great post, Mitch. I think you’re on the right track. Sales is about building relationships first. Putting yourself out there in all those various ways, blogging, writing books, video, etc., is an important part of the game.

  11. This is good to hear at the end what you said about slow going. I often struggle with the transition to marketing services for my niche and I can slowly see it taking shape. Blogging for our industry magazine and speaking at our conferences is slowly paving the way. But it’s just nice to hear someone who’s made it not just say how easy it is and anyone can make it to the top in 6 months with enough work.

  12. It’s easy to get fooled, even when wary. I currently have a major company calling me but I think their goal is to sell me their services. The calls are from Montreal instead of the local Toronto office. When I called back and got voicemail, I asked that their next message give the reasons for their call. They haven’t provided details other than asking me to call back.
    The consequence of trickery is cynicism. It’s especially bad when the slimy are in the same line of business. While we can differentiate ourselves over time, we get tarred by association.
    The antidote is your approach. Mine is similar. It’s sad that your prescription needs to include words like “Be Honest”.
    PS Sometimes customers are slimy too …

  13. in essence: people lose their minds and go crazy. All they can think about is their day and the cheque they’re going to get at the end of it. It’s that desperation that makes people feel like sales is such a dirty word… and we both know that it isn’t.

  14. I can’t agree with this, sorry Kyle. I have a friend who owns a marketing agency and they look at a whole bunch of small and medium-sized businesses websites on a mobile device. When it’s not a good experience, they cold call them and show them a simple package to make it work. It has not only increased their business significantly, it has brought them deeper into the business and enabled them to sell additional services. Bad cold calls don’t work. Great ones, will work every time. And there are lots of great stories out there.

  15. But adding real value is the critical component. We’ve all seem our share of brands “putting themselves out there” and it’s nothing but narcissistic marketing that is of no value to anyone but the PR team.

  16. I DEFINITELY believe that all brands can benefit from being a lot less slimy! Just because a brand won over one sale doesn’t mean they will receive repeat sales from these customers; there have been plenty of times where I’ve felt ripped off because of a slimy sale and I never returned. And that’s just sad to me. I think that brands have a duty to their companies and customers to try and build long-lasting relationships. I’ve read your blog for awhile and this is the first time I am commenting 🙂 I just feel that this post has everything to do with marketing and branding because customer service plays a huge role in those things. Your blog is an inspiration to me and I hope to link back to some of your posts on my fashion branding blog, Thanks for the post!

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