A false sense of urgency, manipulative tactics or any kind of aggression should be red flags when someone is trying to sell you something. Learn more about high pressure sales tactics and how you can avoid issues within your small business. 

Some sales training can involve not taking “no” for an answer, overcoming all objections or creating a sense of urgency – but there’s a difference between effective sales tactics and high pressure sales tactics. If someone puts pressure on you to buy, this could lead to quick sales and short term gains, but in the longer term, these can harm a business’s reputation and cause issues for you as the buyer. 

Here’s what to watch out for when it comes to high pressure sales tactics – and some tips from SBDC business adviser, Ali Richards, to help you handle these tactics. 

Be aware of these high pressure sales tactics

Ali describes the three red flags to watch out for if a supplier is putting pressure on you to commit to a sale: 

  • Urgency -  Watch out for phrases such as “buy now or miss out” or “only a few items left”. This tactic involves creating a sense of urgency to push customers into making impulsive decisions. 
  • Manipulation - Preying on customers’ emotions or insecurities can include exaggerated claims about the benefits of a product, using fear tactics to generate a sense of urgency, appealing to a customer’s ego or guilt-tripping to make the buyer feel compelled to buy. You might hear phrases like “I’ve come all this way to see you” or “Your competitor wants this but I’m offering it to you first”.
  • Aggression -  Watch out for multiple phone calls or emails, anybody who discredits their competitors’ products, someone who interrupts you, doesn’t let you ask questions or argues when you respond negatively. 

Ali notes, it’s worth watching out for these sales tactics before you commit to a contract, as falling for these tactics can be detrimental to your business. 

“You might experience financial loss, by paying more than necessary or investing in something that is not beneficial to your business,” Ali says. “You could also waste time and resources dealing with the aftermath of a poor purchase decision or even face legal disputes if you need to challenge or exit an unfavourable contract.”

 As an example, our SBDC team has heard of sales teams pressuring business owners to allow them to visit their businesses. After the visit, the sales person might send an invoice for services or a contract, validating the fake agreement by stating “You invited us to your premises.” This could be considered an unsolicited consumer agreement. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has strict guidelines to prevent this kind of arrangement but unethical suppliers may try to find loopholes. 

“If you find you have made a poor decision under pressure then reach out to the SBDC for advice as soon as possible,” says Ali. 

Photo of SBDC Business Adviser Ali Richards sitting at her desk in the SBDC's office in the Perth CBD.
SBDC Business Adviser Ali Richards.

How to respond to high pressure sales tactics

If you’re approached with an urgent or high pressure offer from a business, Ali recommends you research them online as a first step. 

“Check for reviews or complaints about the business before you agree to anything. This way, you can check if other customers have had issues with the conduct or service provided by this business.” 

“If you’re not interested, say NO loud and clear. You don’t need to say why or explain yourself. The less conversation you engage in the better.” 

Ali recommends assigning a gatekeeper within your team to be a single point of contact for sales. “Designate one person that your team refers unsolicited calls or visits to and provide that person with a script to decline requests politely but firmly. If you are the only point of contact in your business and you find these interactions difficult, have a script ready that mentions a ‘business partner’ or ‘adviser’ whom you need to refer to for decisions. This takes the pressure off and gives you time to decide.” 

Before committing to anything, make sure you have it in writing. “Ask for any verbal promises to be placed in writing, and the contract emailed to you prior to making a decision. When it arrives, check the cooling-off period conditions, ongoing fees and renewal terms – don’t sign anything you don’t agree to.” 

Ali notes it’s always worth doing your homework when a new offer or contract is made to your business. “Tell the salesperson you want to check that the business and the offer is legitimate. This is good practice and it’s important to be vigilant against scams.” 

Check your own sales tactics are ethical 

If reading this has made you rethink some of your own sales strategies, take action to make sure you’re not using high pressure tactics within your business. Ali’s tips to avoid using high pressure sales tactics within your business include:

  • Be ethical – “Avoid misleading claims or exaggerations about your product or service. Offer products or services individually and avoid forcing customers to buy bundles they don’t need. Offer trial periods without onerous conditions and allow customers to opt-out easily if they are not satisfied.”
  • Be clear – “Provide all necessary information about your product or service, including pricing, terms and conditions, without any hidden details. Ensure contracts and agreements are clear and easy to understand without hidden clauses.” 
  • Be respectful – “Adopt a consultative approach where you focus on understanding the customer’s needs and providing solutions that genuinely address those needs. Allow customers ample time to make their decisions without imposing artificial deadlines. Follow up respectfully without excessive persistence. Understand that customers need time to evaluate their options.” 

Find out more 

If you’ve had an issue with high pressure sales tactics and would like to discuss your options, contact our free business advisory service to speak with a business adviser. 

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Legal and risk
29 May 2024