“Shameless” Sales Tactics You Need to Avoid

in Random Rants

I had thought that today we were beyond much of the sleazy, deceptive tactics often associated with sales. But, sadly, I am wrong, as evidenced by an online article, “No Successful Salesperson Is Too Proud to Use Any of These 12 Shameless Tactics,”by Gene Marks, a sales consultant. The amazing thing is that this article appeared on Entrepreneur.com, what typically is a reputable site. Not any more, in my mind, if they give credibility to this crap.

Today we are now experiencing that apparently it is OK for politicians to lie and deceive—which is a sad statement and dangerous rabbit hole to enter. But every truly successful sales pro I know IS indeed too proud, and ethical to use most of these tactics.

I’m going to share his 12 tactics with my remarks.

1. Ignore his office number and call his cell phone. The author suggests that if the cell number is on his email signature, or anywhere else, it’s not private. Then he suggests calling very early or late, and saying you thought it was his office phone and you were just going to leave a message—a blatant lie. I am behind the times on this and old school… I feel that calling someone’s mobile phone should be reserved for situations where you have explicit permission to do so.

2. Ask for him/her by first name. As in, “Dave please.” Of course the thinking here is that you will somehow trick the screener into thinking you are an acquaintance of Dave. Might it work? Sure. But my philosophy is, let’s work WITH the assistant, not try to go around them.

3. Say you’re returning his call. Oh. My. God. This was actually in the article:

“OK, this may be shameless lying. But on the scale of lying it’s pretty far down the list.”

Apparently the author’s ethics reside in a gray area as big as the sky on a rainy day. He then explains that if the prospect confronts you by saying he never called, you can shift the blame elsewhere, “Oh, someone here said you did.” Another lie.

4. Send the same email twice, five minutes apart. He says to apologize in the second one, saying the first bounced back. Did he get it? Let’s see, if you’re keeping score… four tips so far… a total of four lies.

5. Send six duplicate emails, all at the same time. Really. You can’t make this stuff up. He says to apologize in the seventh that you are having software problems (lie five), and hey, how about that open quote?

6. Send an email with the subject line, “Are you OK???” (And keep in the multiple question marks.) Then you should ask if he’s been ill… showing empathy and concern. “Of course you’re not concerned or sympathetic— but there’s a fair chance he’ll reply when he thinks you are.” Lie number six.

7. Find the boss. Email his superior with the subject line, “I want to be sure Dave is OK.” Mention that you were talking but now can’t reach him, and the author reasons it will get forwarded to Dave. Ok, perhaps. But it doesn’t address why Dave was ignoring you, and could have the opposite effect, since you obviously are going over his head.

8. Send from a different domain. He reasons that perhaps your company emails are being filtered, so send from a Gmail or Yahoo account. Ok, I can approve of this one. Because its intent is not to deceive.

9. Spam him. Yes, but it’s “light spamming,” the author defends. Put all of your tough-to-reach prospects on a list and bulk email them three-four times yearly. He emphasizes these are not people who asked to be on your list, you are indeed spamming them. I’m of the belief that if a tree falls in the woods it does make noise, and a bad, untargeted email does do damage. Come on, let’s get a little more creative here.

10. Text him. Tell him your emails aren’t going through, so you were concerned. Probably a lie, but he doesn’t say it in the article. Again, similar to my point on using mobile phones in general, if you don’t have permission, I would not suggest texting.

11. Message him on LinkedIn or Facebook. I personally do suggest sending Linkedin messages also, since they are more likely to get read and responded to. However, he leaves out a very critical point: have something of value when you message. Don’t make it all about you.

12. Tweet at him. This is the only point that even hints at something of value for the prospects. He suggests making it informational, perhaps sharing an article the prospect would get some value from. Congrats, Mr. Marks, after suggesting numerous lies and acts of deception, we have what most people could look at and say that is a good, solid, ethical tip.

Too late though.

I feel like I need a shower to get rid of the sleaze just from reading this article.

There is no place for lying in professional, ethical sales. Every truly successful salesperson I know feels the same way, and I’m pretty sure you are in that group.

Share your thoughts below on these tactics, or on sleazy tactics in general.



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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

b. Lindsey October 21, 2016 at 9:26 am

I would say for the majority of these ‘tactics’ I agree are deceptive and damage your companies reputation.

The ones I do not agree with are:

Giving out my cell phone number: I usually work a 8am – 1800 shift and I am very much aware that majority of my clientele work similar hours and include both my office number AND cell phone number in my signature line and business cards. It gives credibility when I do call them when I am working from home that I am who I say I am.

Texting a client has been proven to increase a response rate because people are more likely to check a text message then a voicemail, social media contact, or even a letter in the mail! I have used this technique only when I know its their cell phone and they fall within a certain age range.

I tend to use first names because where I market it is culturally acceptable for the age ranges of 60 and under. An older client I would use their last name however, I have had even older clients tell me to use their first name instead.

So other than those three I agree that the other ones are very deceptive and should never be used by anyone wanting to preserve their reputation as well as the companies.


Janet Huey October 21, 2016 at 10:30 am

This is a perfect article on how to lose your reputation in your industry.

This fits exactly into “People complain far more than they praise”. Does the writer think the intended target won’t slam the contact especially if he/she engages in more than one of these?


David Schultz October 21, 2016 at 11:18 am

Truly terrible tips, with the exception of 8, 10, 11, and 12 (depending on circumstances and value – and in the case of texting, as you said, you’d better have a valid reason to have your contact’s cell number). Most of the other tips could only hurt the seller. If someone pulled any combination of #3-7 & 9 more than once, they’d go on my block list.

Art, as crazy as it seems, I know of an even worse spin on #1: I have personally met salesmen from 2 different companies and industries who blatantly lie to get someone’s cellphone or home number, by telling (lying to) the gatekeeper that they already had the number but lost their contacts or phone. This was a widespread, taught and encouraged ‘sales tactic’ at their companies! Unbelievable.


Greg C. October 21, 2016 at 3:47 pm

I can’t believe these tactics are still being taught! Even if you do get to Mr. Big, once he realizes you LIED to get to him, you now have ZERO credibility and he will doubt everything in your presentation . There’s an old saying, “Tell the truth. There’s less to remember.!


Jack Huisman October 23, 2016 at 10:05 am

Thank you for writing this.

I have sometimes felt embarrassed about being a salesperson. Talking about the job at cocktail parties was often unpleasant when I would hear stories from the other side of the table.

More needs to be written (as you just did) about how selling is really the art of helping people get what they want through your product, not getting people to buy what they don’t need or want. Selling is like teaching – it should be able to be an honorable occupation.

So, I like it when I read that ‘thought leaders’ such as you are forcefully espousing that doctrine. I wish I had read more of that early in my career.

Thanks, Jack


marc zazeela October 25, 2016 at 4:56 am


It is 2016. It is really hard to believe that folks use these creepy and cheesy tactics. Its true. I have had sales people use them on me.

If you have to resort to lies, deceptions, and gimmicks, it might be time to try a new profession.



Guillermo October 31, 2016 at 1:09 am

It’s still surprising how some of these tactics are still being used, especially the ones concerning getting around the gatekeeper with a lie. Some of my colleagues still do so.

The only ones that I can agree with is the use of the cell phone and texting. Sure, if someone displays his/her mobile phone number in his signature or elsewhere, I could infer he’s willing to receive a call. As with every smart call, if you have good skills and something valuable to offer, that person won’t take your call as something intrusive.

As with texting, this really depends on people. I don’t like using What’s App for business purposes (even though I’m a 25 year old newbie), but curiously enough, some customers see my mobile phone number in my signature and then suddenly drop me a What’s App message. I do business from afar, meaning I cold call customers from China to other countries, mostly Europe and Latin America, so time difference is an issue. It does help in the fluidity of communication in my very particular case, but I’d still rather use Skype to text customers and I only use this AFTER getting a reply from the customer, not as my first approach.


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