I appreciate how Simon Sinek makes the point that great businesses do not manipulate customers into buying.

By “manipulate” he means playing games with pricing and discounts or fabricating a sense of urgency to force the customer to buy.

The Wrong Way

As I survey the landscape of sales advice, provided to both business leaders and individual sales reps, I find many trainers and teachers lacking the self-awareness to see that the methods they’re recommending constitute manipulation. They’re artificially creating circumstances in which a purchase of their product is the only path forward.

Let’s admit that this method does indeed move product. However, let’s also recognize this sort of relationship for what it is: coercion.

coercion - the act of using threats, intimidation, or undue pressure to force someone to do something against their will. In the context of business, this can range from subtle manipulation to outright threats, all aimed at influencing a customer’s decision to buy.

-Google Bard

I expect every one of my readers can call to mind an example of this. Simply turn on the TV around any major holiday and listen to the rationale in advertisement after advertisement for your favorite retail stores.

The Right Way

So what’s the alternative?

If the wrong road leads to coercion,

The right road loads to love.

Love is a particularly Christian idea. I’m currently reading through Fr. Jonathan Strickland’s Paradise and Utopia series on church history.

Today even our secular culture has been saturated by the Christian definition of love (or at least some artifact of it). Today I can ask Google Bard about “love and business,” and even the machine will give me an answer like:

Defining “love” in a business context is tricky, as it carries a vast and often personal spectrum of meanings. However, salespeople can tap into some aspects of “love” in a positive and ethical way to foster emotional connection and trust with their customers. Here’s how …

This wasn’t always the case. As Strickland’s series thoroughly demonstrates, the world into which Christianity was born hardly knew any motivation like “love.” Oh, they knew words like “lust” which perhaps they might have called “love,” but the Church came along with a new paradigm:

The first of all the commands is, “Hear O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all they soul, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

-Mark 12:29-31 (KJV)

Love Your Customer

In very practical terms, to love your customers (through the same methods we’re called to “love our neighbor”) means to treat them like yourself.

You’re a sales rep, and you’ve put together a proposal. Ask yourself, “If I was in the customer’s shoes, would I buy this?”

If the answer is no, well, you have one simple step to accomplish before your next meeting: Change whatever elements of the deal you need to, to make that answer yes.

I also suspect this is why many salespeople feel anxiety or imposter syndrome. Deep in their bones, they feel like what they’re doing is wrong. Their conscience screams at them that they’re doing something to this customer when they know deep down in their bones that they should be doing something for their customer.

If a salesperson (or an entire sales organization) can shift that perspective around, growth is easy. Who doesn’t love love?