Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

The American GeniusThe American Genius

Business Marketing

I was wrong about the hard sell

I have been wrong before, and I think it was on as Thursday.  I wrote an article about how the hard sell is dead. It is not dead, it is alive and well. I would like to know how effective it is, maybe someone will fill me in.

Last week I attended the NAR annual convention in Orlando. I managed to make it to the exhibit hall a couple of times.  The first time was Saturday morning on my way to a panel discussion.

It was early when I arrived and they were just getting started.  As soon as I walked in the door one vendor put a plastic necklace around my neck and I was advised that if I wore it at all times during the rest of the event I could win a prize.

Vendors who sell products I am familiar with jumped out of their booths and accosted me in the aisle.  By the time I got to the area where I was supposed to meet my fellow panelists I had collected a plastic necklace, a button to wear on my shirt, two pens and a business card on a magnet.

I pitched the magnetic business card almost as soon as I got it as they tend to mess up hotel key cards and some of the electronic devices I carry.  The necklace went in my bag, and I kept the pens.  I would have collected more but when I started walking down the middle of the aisle with my head down looking at my blackberry the vendors called out to me instead of putting things in my hands, and I pretended not to hear.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

A couple of the vendors apparently thought that people who wear two pair of glasses have a hearing problem.  They commented loudly as I walked by, “look that lady is wearing two pair of glasses”.

Some of the vendors tried to overcome my objections when they approached me and I said no thanks, but did not bother to listen to what those objections were.  Then there was the guy in the booth all alone selling paper calendar organizers. He looked sad wedged in between two high tech booths. I almost stopped and talk to him but the people in the booth next to his started moving toward me so I went in another direction.

In September I attended Blog World.  The exhibition hall was very different.  There were many new products.  No one jumped out and no one tried to sell me anything.  I talked to many of the vendors and brought home some new ideas and information, and I bought a couple of products and a book.

I am not sure why the two exhibition halls were so different. All I can say is that my experience at the blog world expo was more comfortable and I actually tried some of the products. The vendors were in general less scary and more friendly.  I collected business cards and have since connected with some of the business owners through twitter and linked-in.

I am in sales. 100% commissioned sales no less, so I understand sales pretty well, so please don’t tell me that the hard sell is what makes sales happen. I am not buying it, oh and my hearing is just fine, the glasses protect my eyes and help me see.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.
Written By

Full time REALTOR and licensed broker with Saint Paul Home Realty Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. Author of, Columnist for Inman News and an avid photographer.



  1. Steve Simon

    November 12, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    The hard sell has no appeal to me or mine…

  2. Kelley Koehler

    November 12, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    I was only giving away Jr. Mints at my booth, but I made people ask for ’em. Next time, I’ll try chucking them at people’s heads as they walk by, see if that gets me more attention. 🙂

    I won’t defend the agro-vendors, but I will say there are some nasty expo attendees too. People that put their hand in your face and try to use your computers, or are just downright rude when you smile and say hello. A small portion, to be sure. But when I paid $150 for the delicious pleasure of a single hard plastic chair for 4 days, and another $40 for the honor of a trash can in my booth, I can’t afford to not try and engage the people that walk by. Granted, all I did was smile and say hello. But bleeding the vendors dry, I would imagine, makes some of them desperate. Every item you see in every booth, from the carpet to the tables to the chair and the trash can – it’s thousands of dollars at a minimum.

  3. Ruthmarie Hicks

    November 12, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    I guess it is difficult to avoid. Being a former scientist who decided that a life of indentured servitude was not for me, I see what you are describing as pretty much inevitable.

    Right now, in America, you have four choices – you can work in sales, finance or law – or choose to starve. When we become a nation of sales people and paper-pushers everyone ends up shouting louder to be heard above the “noise” – creating ever more “noise.” This in turn breeds desperation. We have become a nation of sales people in order to survive. The result is that the consumer feels under assault.

    Unfortunately, the hard-sell works around here with respect to real estate. Its VERY disappointing. But the pushy and difficult seem to move ahead leaving the soft-sell types in the dust.

    Some of this is just simply the betrayal of work.

  4. Teresa Boardman

    November 12, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Kelley – I stopped by your booth. You have a great product and I didn’t see any evidence of a hard sell. I get what you are saying about rude conventioneers and I admire you for how hard you work.

  5. Kelley Koehler

    November 12, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    T – I remember you. 🙂 I’m not a huge fan of the hard sell – I’m not sure I’d even know how to if I tried – but after doing the vendor thing, I start to see where it comes from. My favorite part was watching some of the people in the booths really hustle and fail – and then the dude selling purses just sits there on his phone, ignores everyone, and people stop and buy in droves. Next year, I’m selling shoes. I think that’d be a bit hit.

  6. Bill Lublin

    November 12, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Teresa; All things are considered, Trade shows have a lot in common with Carnivals – everyone is like the barker looking for the attention of the passers by – and the passers by are looking for goodies- like animals grazing they collect the Jr. Mints, pens, buttons, necklaces, and other stuff –

    But somehow through the noise and the tumult, there are people who get what they need and people who sell their products- and for some its an enjoyable experience.

    More importantly – are you aware that Twitter is no longer just for REALTORS?

  7. teresa boardman

    November 12, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Bill – keep in mind I am anti-social, which isn’t just for Realtors any more either and it isn’t fun for me to talk to people, so I don’t get any of the joy from it. Except I do like to talk to you . . sometimes.

  8. Katie Minkus

    November 12, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Aloha, Theresa… what a difference a year makes!! We attending NAR in Vegas last year and found the exact opposite to be true, barely anyone in the booths would talk to us, and certainly not one vendor aggressively approached us. Coming from a culture that lives and breathes “talking story” you can imagine our shock at the disconnect! Perhaps the true test of the health of our economy is: how hard the sell? Thanks for the insight! Warm aloha, Katie, R(B).

  9. Mike Parker

    November 12, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    I have noticed of late a movement in sales related to real estate that is disconcertinly similar to that of selling used cars.

    I guess this is what happens when 30+% of all agents are starving. They have families to feed, too, you know. These are hardly normal circumstances.

    However, I think that the overall loss of civility in business has a lot to do with the death of face-to-face business selling; you know, where one used to travel to call on one’s clients, get to know them socialize with them, etc.? Today, it is so impersonal as to be white noise, so some think that by screeching, they’ll be heard.

    More likely, they’ll be tuned out.

  10. Matt Stigliano

    November 12, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    Thanks for sharing Teresa. I am one of those that didn’t go, but I imagine if everyone would have been hawking their wares hardcore to me, I may have gone and hid at Kelley’s booth and stuffed my face with Junior Mints. I like info and I like free stuff, but if you expect me to sign up then and there, you’re probably wasting my time.

  11. monika

    November 12, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    I usually smile and look them in the eye and say “Hi- Have a great show- I may be back later but right now I’m on a mission” and I say it before they can say anything to me. I feel bad for the vendors as they usually spend big bucks to be there.

  12. Missy Caulk

    November 12, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Teresa, Cyndee and I walked up to a guy just sitting selling wine with personal labels. Cyndee ask him about his product. He said “it’s 300.00 a case and we don’t sell just one bottle” and sat back down.

    He was NOT a salesman and we moved on. Funny thing is we stopped at his booth, as Cyndee was interested. Guess we all relate to different folks differently.

    So nice to see you again !

  13. teresa boardman

    November 12, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Missy – it was great to see you again too. I am not suggesting that the way the wine sales person ran his booth is the way to do it. I am sure I would have walked away too. There may be some middle ground, like the way Kelley ran her booth or the way many of the vendors at blog world handled it. They were all friendly and alert. When we asked questions we got answers and had some interesting discussions.

  14. Gretchen Faber

    November 12, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Hi Teresa,
    I felt much the same way this year, that more of the vendors were in the aisles pushing themselves on attendees. Although I did want the free pens for my office, since we’re on a spending freeze.
    I usually handle it like Monika, and say I’ll be back later. When they’re friendly and ask permission for a minute of my time, I’m much more apt to listen to them.

  15. Michelle DeRepentigny

    November 12, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    HAving been to many C21, ERA,and NAR conventions in the past I have to say that the attitude from many of the vendors this year at NAR was very strange. This is the first year that I left without buying anything or coming home thinking I really wanted something they had to offer. Was it the stink of desperation or just my tooth throbbing the whole dang day?

    NOT saying they all stunk but it seemed there was a cloud over it this year.

  16. Paula Henry

    November 12, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    T – Shoving product down someone’s throat rarely gets the long term attention or respect one would like to have in sales. I much prefer to interact, have a discussion and take time to decide.

    I can see the desperation in our industry may have some behaving badly, hoping to cash in on “our need” for their latest and greatest product. If they would approach with a reasonable amount of respect, it may have changed their cash outcome.

    I didn’t know you are hard of hearing or that glasses help 🙂

  17. Darren Kittleson

    November 13, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Teresa-I agree with the comments above and your post. This is the 9th year I attended NAR Conference and Expo and there truly was a different attitude from many of the vendors. The ones I felt were most aggressive were those hawking out of date and obsolete products and services. Overall I was VERY disappointed at the lack of ingenuity in the exhibitors this year. I usually spend 4-6 hours in the trade show, this year I felt releived when I completed the walk through the aisles in 3 hours.

    Thanks for the post!

  18. Deborah Madey

    November 14, 2008 at 3:44 am

    Kelly – I never got any Jr. Mints! I’m feeling slighted. Oops, I guess I didn’t ask.

    Missy – I did get a free glass of wine, but no sales pitch.

    T- You are a better person than I. You put your necklace in a bag. I threw mine away. More innovation at BlogWorld, and more interesting as a result.

  19. Kelley Koehler

    November 14, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Deborah – ack! I send you many minty apologies. Sometimes, I ran out of them early. *Someone* might have trouble not eating them once the box is open.

  20. ines

    November 14, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    The obnoxious microphones, the games, the loud sales people… was insanely horrible and uncomfortable. I felt bad for our vendor friends that were being misrepresented.
    I guess some people still like that …btw….bite me! 😉

  21. teresa boardman

    November 14, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    I never got mints of any kind at Kelley’s booth and I can’t figure out why Ines would say “bite me”. I am going to go find other web site where I can feel the love, it just isn’t here for me any more.

  22. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    November 14, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Awww – you know I love you T

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.



Economic News

A Self-Imposed Examination I’ve been so intensely focused of late on the tasks at hand, that I haven’t taken time to gaze into my...

Business Marketing

I’ve had my share of luck in my life, most of it good luck, so generally I live with an expectation that things will...

Point & Purpose

Perfect Timing Lani and Benn’s invitation to contribute to Agent Genius coincided with the deadline for completing my semi-annual CE and quadrennial Code of...


The American Genius is a strong news voice in the entrepreneur and tech world, offering meaningful, concise insight into emerging technologies, the digital economy, best practices, and a shifting business culture. We refuse to publish fluff, and our readers rely on us for inspiring action. Copyright © 2005-2022, The American Genius, LLC.