Confession of a Lifelong Salesman: The Two Faces of Persuasion


I have a confession to make.

I haven’t always been as comfortable in my own skin as I might let on. For years I’ve been at odds with myself. Having spent over 20 years in sales and marketing, I’ve walked the line between my area of expertise and my moral compass.

I love working in sales. Properly done, it’s a challenging and fulfilling profession that benefits all parties involved.

But as there usually is, there’s another less altruistic side to this coin. It’s the darker, greasier side of persuasion that often puts me at odds with my beloved field of expertise.

The side I don’t want to be associated with.

The Slow, Justified Death of Old-School Marketing

I’ve often likened persuasion to a hammer.

In and of itself, it’s just an innocent tool.

Put it in the hands of someone who’s both skilled and ethical, and they can make amazing things happen. But if you put it in the hands of a devious sociopath, it can become an instrument of destruction.

All around us still is a prevalence of the old, schmutzy 1950’s Mad Men style marketing: Catchy, big claim headlines and so-called persuasive language that is meant more to open wallets than it is meant to help.

(By the way… if you focus on helping people first, wallets tend to open on their own!)

On television, you’re fed a steady diet of commercials featuring P.T. Barnum-esque carnival barkers shouting ridiculous promises at you day and night.

Turn on the radio and you’re bombarded with those auto sales commercials and their ultra-fast, super long disclaimer at the end that negates every claim in the ad.

And online, your inbox becomes so clogged with long, rambling offers and emails that I can only assume are meant to wear you down until you give in.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t even read those types of emails anymore. They’re just SO boring.

It’s almost insulting. Old-school, loud marketing often assumes the consumer is an easily malleable simpleton who can’t see through the manipulation.

Why Consumers Control the Game

But there’s good news for marketers with integrity.

The times, they are a-changing my friends.

Not too long ago, consumers were a captive audience for the media. With relatively few choices, consumers were easier to target… and in some cases, to fool.

Welcome to the information age, marketers of tomorrow.

Today’s consumers have nearly infinite choices and can access much more information much faster, so they’re more sophisticated than ever before.

They know what they want, and they’ll tune out everything else.

Consumers aren’t hostages to traditional television anymore.

DVR’s allow them to speed right by any offer they find uninteresting or insulting. Not to mention they can now turn to NetFlix, Hulu, RedBox, Amazon Prime, and any number of other digital entertainment options if they choose to.

It’s also easier than ever before for them to tune out radio ads if they choose to. Today’s consumer can easily switch between local radio, satellite, Pandora, iTunes, Spotify, and so on.

Our options as consumers are nearly endless.

Waiting for New Leaders to Emerge

And guess what, internet? Your day of reckoning is coming, too.

Fair warning to old-school internet marketers: The world is changing right in front of your eyes. Ignore the change at your own peril.

Your audience is way smarter than you think. Start treating them like intelligent, valued customers, or watch them migrate to someone who will.

Look, I love sales.

I love marketing.

But sometimes I hate the tactics used in the execution of both.

People like you, the creative leaders of the future, are going to have to come up with smarter conversations that go beyond loud, glitzy marketing fast-talk.

We need to give the lip-service a rest and deliver something that actually moves the needle for our followers. Or someone else will.

What do you say?

Are you up for it?

About Gary Korisko

Gary is a battle-tested sales and marketing pro, copywriter, coach, and business strategist who teaches how to create worthwhile work on Reboot Authentic. Connect with Gary on Google+ and Twitter.

12 Replies

  1. You’re right. Seth Godin has written several books about it.

    However… The truth is that those long emails appear to work. The people writing them claim to be making millions off them, and I believe them. Copywriting is a time tested and proven key to success.

    But I hate it. I’d rather remain a pimple on a bee than have to do that for a living. It’s just who I am (or am not) and it may destine me to a life without millions. But it will be a contented life. Already is 🙂

    Maybe you and I can start a movement! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. William! How are you??? Long time no talk!

      You’re exactly right. Copywriting works. Powerful words can be used to convince. The questions become…

      Who will they convince? For how much longer? To What end?

      I’d contend that it turns more people off (Like you and I) than it convinces in the long term. If we have to trick or manipulate people to say yes… ultimately how often will they come back to the well?

      I’m convinced a consumer change will change much of what we now see online.
      Gary Korisko recently posted…Confession of a Lifelong Salesman: The Two Faces of PersuasionMy Profile

  2. I am not in sales, but I am a consumer! I have always appreciated dealing with honest and helpful salespersons. As a customer, I would agree with what you’ve said. Good people are the key to getting our business and keeping it. Interesting post.

    1. Exactly, Carina.

      And my take is that there’s a quiet but emphatic majority that agrees with you. Thanks for speaking up!
      Gary Korisko recently posted…Confession of a Lifelong Salesman: The Two Faces of PersuasionMy Profile

  3. Cheap, shouty headlines are an insult to customers.

    Click bait headlines, for example.

    It’s very old school, works to get clicks, but also decreases trust, since the headlines rarely deliver on the promise made.

    Honesty, transparency, and genuine heart wins every time. That doesn’t mean we can’t be playful and creative with headlines – it just means we have to drop the tactics and go back to basics – what does the customer actually WANT?
    Razwana Wahid recently posted…What can the awesome dudes at Kissmetrics teach you about landing pages?My Profile

    1. Yep. Good points. The goal is value, not shares. Shares come anyway if you’re really helping folks, right?
      Gary Korisko recently posted…Confession of a Lifelong Salesman: The Two Faces of PersuasionMy Profile

  4. Hi Gary, I completely agree both as a lifelong consumer and a new blogger. I just can’t buy into anything noisy or manipulative.
    I have to believe that any effectiveness that such methods have will wane. I know I delete the noisy ones after giving them a chance to ‘be real’.
    I joined a new list the other day and the blog owner did something I had never seen before. She personally emailed me after visiting my blog first, expressing an interest in what I’m doing as it relates to her own work.
    It wasn’t the instant responder email that we’re so used to; it took her a few days. And yes, it’s a little labor intensive and *gasp* a little slower. But that blog owner and I are now connected and I will read everything she sends me.
    It certainly gave me food for thought.
    T.O. Weller recently posted…Friday Flick: It’s Not Too Late to Find Your Mold!My Profile

    1. That personal touch makes a difference… and even more so SINCERITY makes a difference. I don’t buy from people whose marketing is shady or insulting… but I buy over and over again from people who act like they care about connecting. Just like your story about the email list you joined. Great comment. Thanks, T.O.!
      Gary Korisko recently posted…Confession of a Lifelong Salesman: The Two Faces of PersuasionMy Profile

  5. Great post!

    There is nothing worse than a sales pitch that is obviously a sales pitch. It puts me right off.
    I was talking to a guy on the phone the other day who was using every technique in the book to sell me something health related. Yet he failed to provide answers to my questions about what his (online) programme offered or the tools it used. The fact he called me initially made me feel so special, but it was a big massive fail because he wasn’t genuine. I left the conversation thinking ‘you don’t care about me. You don’t care about providing a good service. You care about making money!’.

    1. Roisin:

      You’ve hit something important there. And that is – how obvious it can be to distinguish between a message that is designed to solve a consumer’s problem and a message that is designed to empty a consumer’s wallet.

      Consumers see through that stuff these days. You sure did 🙂
      Gary Korisko recently posted…Confession of a Lifelong Salesman: The Two Faces of PersuasionMy Profile

  6. Hi Gary,

    Amen! The rules have changed and they continue to change around marketing and sales. One of the biggest problems I see online is that too many businesses are using the internet like a mass marketing tool, which it is not.

    Just because most of your audience is there does not mean they want you.

    That’s why I wrote my book titled “The Shift – The Fast Paced Transition from Mass Marketing to Context Marketing.”

    The goal is to learn to speak the language of the consumer; i.e. what tangible values do they experience for having done business with you, what specific problems do the tangible values solve and who are you specifically solving them for?

    Then learn to create content to that initially and forever more. Learning what business you’re “really” in is vital to success today.


    Because mass marketing and that mindset is all about you. Way to many websites, emails, social media pages, videos, podcasts, etc., say nothing, mean nothing and help no one.

    If you are talking to their needs in a way that is compelling, interesting and inspiring then you can head down the road of attracting instead of hunting.

    In the last year my blog skyrocketed because I use the internet as the tool it is not the one the old school marketers want it to be. It’s harder work in the beginning but the more you use it right the better and easier it gets.

    Fantastic post Gary. I love what you’re communicating and I’ll be sharing this out with my audience.

    Have a great week!

    ~ Don Purdum
    Don Purdum recently posted…7 Reasons Businesses are Wildly Successful in Online MarketingMy Profile

  7. Yes, yes, yes I agree. I think its about connecting with people and being honest. Thanks Gary I’m enjoying your articles.
    Clare recently posted…An easy way to add your podcast to i-tunesMy Profile

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