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Selling is a real rollercoaster of emotions for business owners. Keeping your audience’s attention, time, and open wallet while dealing with the “icky” feeling selling inspires is one of the most challenging aspects of online marketing.
This is why so many freebies, masterclasses, and coaches teach you how to ‘Sell With Confidence’ and ‘Reach $10K Months In 10 Weeks.’
The catch? Many of these so-called ‘expert strategies’ rely on seriously unethical sales techniques that leave your clients feeling embarrassed, ignored, or plain ‘ol unhappy about working with you.
Not the vibe you’re after, right?
Isn’t it better if your clients are filled with happy endorphins after making a purchase?
So let’s say goodbye to unethical sales tactics and hello to the good stuff – transparency, integrity, and lasting relationships by ditching these 9 manipulative marketing practices.
Have you seen those outrageous promises sound too good to be true? You know, ‘Make $$$$ In Just 3 Months!’?
Although you want to share the transformation your services provide your clients, don’t make false or exaggerated claims. These false claims damage your client’s trust in your abilities and harm your brand’s reputation.
Think about it: when a company hypes up its services or makes grandiose claims it can’t deliver, it’s like a punch in the gut to your trust. These businesses are telling you, ‘Hey, we’d rather lie to you than be honest about how we’ll help you.’
Dishonesty is not what you want your current or future clients to think of when they picture your brand.
Instead, focus on transparency and honesty when describing your services. Use real client stories that highlight what you’ve achieved while being honest about what your services don’t do. For example, while I do SEO copywriting and have had many web pages and blogs rank on the first page of Google…I also tell every client on Discovery Calls that I can’t guarantee that result. There are just too many other factors to consider.
Being honest sets the right expectations for your client and shows that you’re confident in your skills and the results you can deliver, which is pretty damn appealing to potential clients.
Another common (and unethical) sales tactic is creating fake scarcity around a service or product. You know, those live classes that say, ‘Only 3 seats left!’ when the Zoom link could actually host 50 more participants.
This sales tactic creates a sense of urgency and pushes clients into making quick decisions. It’s a marketing ploy that plays with emotions and exploits people’s fear of missing out. And when or if this tactic is revealed, it undermines a client’s trust in the business.
So what can you do instead?
If there really are only 3 seats left because of capacity then it’s 100% okay to say that! But if you’re looking for alternate ways to encourage purchases, try filling your offers with undeniable value or bonuses like ‘first 5 members get a bonus 20-minute one-on-one call!’
With these bonuses, you’re being honest with your audience AND you’ve gotten them even more excited about working with you ASAP.
Deceptive pricing techniques involve hiding additional fees (like airlines that add a baggage fee, seat fee, or boarding pass fee) OR inflating the ‘original’ service price so a discount looks freaking amazing.
Hidden fees may cause clients to back out before they put in their credit card numbers. While inflated prices raise doubt about the actual value of the service.
Instead of these dishonest pricing techniques, offer your clients fair pricing models, tiered options (I love a good add-on to a service!), and genuine discounts to help them find a service that fits their budget and meets their needs.
Unwanted upselling or aggressive sales techniques are sooooooo unbelievably common. You’ve likely experienced a pushy salesperson (or several) in your life on the phone, in a Discovery Call, or even at the mall. These people are determined to squeeze every penny out of you, regardless of your wants.
Upselling and aggressive selling create an uncomfortable and intrusive sales experience that disregards a client’s boundaries. It makes them feel pressured or disappointed about what they’ve signed up for because they didn’t really want it – or have the budget for it!
Instead, create a discovery and sales experience that prioritizes your client’s genuine needs. Sure, this could include personalized or custom solutions. But it could also be a conversation focusing on specific features of your service, tailoring them to your client’s hopes, and explaining the purpose behind what you do.
Of course, if you have add-ons you think could truly help your clients then share that information without pressuring clients to purchase.
No one wants to play hide and seek with important information like buying details, warranties, timelines, and guarantees. Whether you’re hiding these details in complex language or in 5-point font at the bottom of a page, all it does is create a sense of mistrust with your clients.
By presenting your contracts, terms, and conditions in clear and easily-accessible language you empower your clients to make informed choices they’re confident with. Not only do you avoid any arguments in the future about terms or conditions, but you also foster a positive client experience that leads to long-term loyalty and return clients.
Some industries or styles of business are more prone to using emotional manipulation to create sales (I’m looking at you girl bosses and pro-diet wellness businesses). These entrepreneurs take advantage of their audience’s vulnerabilities to pressure them into purchasing. When all it really does is make them feel ashamed about themselves and unhappy about their choices.
Uplifting your clients, celebrating diversity, and helping them realize their dreams will encourage clients to work with you even more.
It means creating a welcoming space for your clients to be their genuine selves. It means that your clients will feel excited and confident about their decision to hire you. And it means they’ll proudly share their achievements with you and turn to you when they need more support.
Sweeping statements rooted in privilege perpetuate stereotypes and ignores diverse financial, lifestyle, and personal situations. These harmful generalizations sound like ‘everyone can afford $200 a month’ or ‘who hasn’t enjoyed a beach vacation?’ that don’t acknowledge the real experiences your audience has.
It’s a delicate balance to speak directly to your audience and address their hopes, goals, or problems without actually knowing each individual. To avoid harmful generalizations though, spend time getting to know your audience through one-on-one conversations, surveys, and research.
From there, tailor your messaging to their values or interests and reframe sweeping statements to emotion-provoking questions. For example, turn ‘no client is impressed with your web design’ to ‘are you avoiding sharing your website with potential clients?’
Look, the truth is in the small business world there’s going to be a feeling of competition among your peers. But that doesn’t mean you need to turn those feelings into a playground brawl complete with mudslinging and bad-mouthing.
When you try to discredit competitors to look superior you really come across as unprofessional and unable to stand on your own merits. Plus you’re missing out on the support you can only get from other experts in your industry! I’ve held Discovery Calls with potential clients that I know have also met with my peers. Sometimes I’ve been the better fit for those clients and sometimes someone else is. Either way, I celebrate their wins and can’t wait to see the copy they create!
So instead of bad-mouthing your competitors and the way they work, focus on your own work. Dig into what makes you unique, showcase your expertise, and promote a positive community that draws your clients to you because you’re you.
Your testimonials exist as evidence that you can deliver those amazing transformations you promise because you’ve done it for others. While you’re free to edit your testimonials for grammar or clarity (with permission), you cannot modify the actual meaning and intent of testimonials.
If you cut and paste your social proof so that it’s inaccurate, you’re presenting a distorted perception of your offerings and results. On top of that, you’re also betraying the trust your past and future clients have in you. So while it might feel a little awkward to ask for feedback at first, try to get in the habit of automatically sending a testimonial request to all your clients. That way you’ll have an array of kind words to pick from!
And trust me, your happy clients are happy to support you.
Look, it’s a wild world of sales and marketing out there. But that doesn’t mean you should use manipulation, embarrassment, or other unethical sales practices just to get by. From sneaky pricing tricks to pushy upselling to bogus testimonials, trust me when I say you don’t want any of that sleazy stuff associated with your brand.
It’s time to embrace transparency, authenticity (no, it’s not overused), inclusivity, and empathy in your marketing plan for sustainable business growth that actually feels good. Let’s all be real with our clients, celebrate their stories, and create sales experiences they don’t dread. ‘Cause at the end of the day, you’re clients would rather partner with someone who makes them feel positive and excited than like a dumpster fire.
If you’re hungry for more feel-good/do-good marketing strategies, I’ve got you covered. Join my email list for exclusive access to copywriting insights, tips, and action-packed strategies straight to your inbox every Monday morning.
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Creative copywriting for open-minded adventurers and imaginative entrepreneurs seeking new experiences.