Pardon me while I rant incessantly: The hard sell

Awhile back I was invited to one of those home parties where they sell stuff. Specifically, kitchen stuff. And while I usually politely decline invitations to these things, it had been years since I’ve attended one, it was being given by a couple of good friends from church and my husband saw a knife in their catalog that he wanted. So I accepted the invitation. In case you’re not familiar with these home parties, the person or persons who host the party receive incentives by way of free merchandise and/or discounts on products they want depending on how much other people buy.

At this particular party, the theme had something to do with chocolate. There was a chocolate fountain and other things made with chocolate. For the demonstration portion of the show, the consultant made a dessert with chocolate, crushed pecans and some other stuff. (Sorry, my eyes sort of glaze over when people prepare food. Just tell me when it’s ready, thank you.) Each step of the process involved some handy-dandy product which made the process of preparing this dessert much easier: a mini food chopper (for the nuts), easily read measuring cups, spatulas, and the baking stone which it was cooked on. There was probably some other products used, too. (See previous “eyes glazing over” comment.)

But lest you think we all just stood around watching this woman make dessert, let me assure you that was not the case. She encouraged us to ask questions about the products, about how we could host our own parties for free products and discounts and how we, too could work from home if we chose to sell all of these wonderful products. Which incidentally, are pretty great products. I bought plenty of them before the night was over, but once she started talking about how easy and profitable it was to be an independent consultant for her company, I knew where this was going. As we say in Texas, this wasn’t my first rodeo. This is the birthplace of Mary Kay Ash.

When the demonstration was over, I was first in line to check out. I already had my order form filled out and my checkbook open. She immediately proceeded with the hard sell. Bless her heart. She doesn’t know me at all.

Consultant: You have quite a large order here.

Me: Uh huh.

Consultant: Did you know that if you signed up to be a consultant many of these items would be in your starter kit?

Me: Really? I’m not interested.

Consultant: You wouldn’t believe all the free items I’ve received by being a consultant.

Me: That’s great. For you. For me? That’s never going to happen.

Consultant: Were you interested in hosting a party? I still have some openings for next month.

Me: No.

Consultant: You could get several items for free, deep discounts and free shipping.

Me: That sounds great. Where do I sign? HA! Just kidding. I don’t want to sell kitchen gadgets. I don’t want to host a party. I try to avoid the kitchen as much as possible. I’m here because my friends invited me. I want to help them out and my husband needs a knife. I’m not a seller. I’m a consumer. What’s my total?

I had my order totaled and was out the door in record time. My other friends (who are way more polite and accommodating than I) were not so lucky. From what I understand, it was pretty late before everyone got out of there.

I have since been invited to three more parties that were booked that night. I have declined two so far. I may attend the third, but again, only to help out a friend.

I don’t fault anyone for trying to earn a living in this tough economy. But there’s got to be a better way than how these parties are structured. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time because I was with good friends and was served chocolate–win/win. But I don’t think it’s by accident that these selling parties are geared toward women and more specifically wives and moms who are looking for ways to stretch the family dollar. We like hosting gatherings with our friends. We like shopping. We like the opportunity to get free stuff. (Obviously, these are largely stereotypical statements.)

But no should mean no, however polite it may be. If your presentation and your products don’t convince your customer that this is something they may want for themselves, don’t try to hard sell them into something they don’t want.

Because saying no doesn’t come easily for many people, but being resentful for feeling pressured to say yes does.

For those of you who find it difficult to say no, trust me. It gets easier each time. And saying no to what you don’t want frees you up to say yes to what you do.

Editor’s Note: I don’t mean to imply that all of these parties end with the hard sell. It’s just been my personal experience that many do–regardless of what’s being sold.

« « Previous Post: Crap at my Parents’ house | Next Post: What fresh hell is this? » »

16 Responses to “Pardon me while I rant incessantly: The hard sell”