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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.

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.

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  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

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Business Marketing

Use nostalgia as a marketing niche for your business today

(MARKETING) A market that is making waves is found in the form of entertainment nostalgia. Everyone has memories and attachments, why not speak to them?




Is it just me or does it seem like there is something for everything nowadays? Let me clarify, as that is a rather broad question…

With the way communicating through technology has advanced, it’s become much easier to connect with those who have shared interests. This has become especially evident with interests in the entertainment community.

Entertainment nostalgia

It now seems like there is an event for every bit of nostalgia you can imagine. Autograph shows, meet and greets, and memorabilia collections of all kinds are held in convention halls all around the world. (To give you an idea of how deep this thing goes, there was a “Grease 2” reunion convention sometime within the last five years. Being that I’m the only person I’ve ever met who likes that movie, it’s amazing that it found an audience.)

This idea of marketing by use of nostalgia is something that is becoming smartly tapped and there are a variety of directions it can go in.

For example, the new Domino’s ads feature dead-on tributes to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

What’s your niche?

If you’re a fan of anything, it’s likely that you can find an event to suit your needs.

And, if you want to take it a step further, you can think outside the box and use nostalgia as a marketing tool.

I recently began dabbling in social media gigs that have brought me to a few different fan conventions. One was a throwback 80s and 90s convention that featured everyone from Alan Thicke to the members of N*SYNC. Another is a recurring convention that brings together fans of sci-fi, horror, and everything under that umbrella.

I was amazed by the number of people that came out to these events and the amount of money that was spent on the day’s activities (autographs, photo ops, etc.). I was energized by the fact that you can take something you have a great appreciation for and bring together others who share that feeling. Watching people meet some of their favorite celebrities is something that is priceless.

Hop onboard the nostalgia train

If you’re a fan of something, you don’t have to look too far to find what you’d enjoy – going back to the aforementioned “Ferris Bueller” example, there is a first-ever John Hughes fan event taking place in Chicago next month that will bring fans to their favorite Brat Pack members.

In the same thought, if you have an idea, now is the time to find others who share that interest and execute your vision.

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Business Marketing

5 tips to help you craft consistently high-converting email marketing

(MARKETING) Email may seem too old to be effective but surprisingly it’s not, so how can you get the most out of your email marketing? Try these tips.



Email marketing

Email marketing might seem archaic in comparison to modern mediums like social media, blogging, and podcasting; however, it actually remains one of the highest converting options marketers and small businesses have at their disposal.

But Why Email?

Hopefully, you believe in email as an effective marketing channel, but in case you have doubts, let’s hit the reset button. Here’s why email marketing is worth investing in:

  • Email is one of the few marketing channels that you have total control over. Unlike a social media audience, which can disappear if the platform decides you violate their terms, you own your email list.
  • Email is considered very personal. When someone gives you access to their inbox, they’re telling you that you can send them messages.
  • From a pure analytics perspective, email gives you the ability to track behaviors, study what works, and get familiar with the techniques that don’t.
  • The ROI of email marketing is incredibly high. It can deliver as much as $44 in value for every $1 spent.

5 Tips for High-Converting Emails

If you’ve been using email, but haven’t gotten the results you’d like to, it’s probably because you’re using it ineffectively.

Here are a few very practical tips for high-converting emails that generate results:

  1. Write Better Subject Lines: Think about email marketing from the side of the recipient. (Considering that you probably receive hundreds of emails per week, this isn’t hard to do.) What’s going to make you engage with an email? It’s the subject line, right?If you’re going to focus a large portion of your time and energy on one element of email marketing, subject lines should be it.The best subject lines are the ones that convey a sense of urgency or curiosity, present an offer, personalize to the recipient, are relevant and timely, feature name recognition, or reference cool stories.
  2. Nail the Intro”: Never take for granted the fact that someone will open your email, and read to the second paragraph. Some will – but most will scan the first couple of lines, and then make a decision on how to proceed.It’s critically important that you get the intro right. You have maybe five seconds to hook people in, and get them excited. This is not a time to slowly build up. Give your best stuff away first!
  3. Use Video: Email might be personal, but individual emails aren’t necessarily viewed as special. That’s because people get so many of them on a daily basis.According to Blue Water Marketing, “The average person receives more than 84 emails each day! So how do you separate your emails from everyone else? Embed videos in your emails can increase your conversion rates by over 21 percent!”This speaks to a larger trend of making emails visually stimulating. The more you use compelling visuals, the more engaging and memorable the content will be.
  4. Keep Eyes Moving: The goal is to keep people engaging with your email content throughout. While it’ll inevitably happen with a certain percentage of recipients, you want to prevent people from dropping off as they read.One of the best ways to keep sustained engagement is to keep eyes effortlessly moving down the page with short and succinct copy.One-liners, small paragraphs, and lots of spacing signal a degree of approachability and simplicity. Use this style as much as you can.
  5. Don’t Ask Too Much: It can be difficult to convey everything you want to say in a single email, but it’s important that you stay as focused as possible – particularly when it comes to CTAs and requests.Always stick to one CTA per email. Never ask multiple questions or present different offers. (It’ll just overwhelm and confuse.) You can present the same CTA in multiple places – like at the beginning, middle, and end of the email – but it needs to be the same call. That’s how you keep people focused and on-task.

Give Your Email Marketing Strategy a Makeover

Most businesses have some sort of email lists. Few businesses leverage these lists as well as they should. Hopefully, this article has provided you with some practical and actionable tips that can be used to boost engagement and produce more conversions. Give them a try and see what sticks.

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Business Marketing

Here’s how one employer was able beat an age discrimination lawsuit

(MARKETING) Age discrimination is a rare occurrence but still something to be battled. It’s good practice to keep your house in order to be on the right side.



Jewel age discrimination

In January, the EEOC released its annual accounting for reports of discrimination in the previous year. Allegations of retaliation were the most frequently filed charge, which disability coming in second. Age discrimination cases accounted for 21.4% of filed charges. As we’ve reported before, not all age discrimination complaints rise to the level of illegal discrimination. In Cesario v. Jewel Food Stores, Inc., the federal court dismissed the claims of age discrimination, even though seven (7) plaintiffs made similar claims against the grocery store.

What Cesario v. Jewel Food Stores was about

In Cesario, all but one of the seven plaintiffs had spent years with Jewel Food building their careers. When Jewel went through some financial troubles, the plaintiffs allege that they began to “experience significant pressure at work… (and) were eventually forced out or terminated because of their age or disability.” Jewel Food requested summary judgment to dismiss the claims.

The seven plaintiffs made the same type of complaints. Beginning in 2014, store directors were under pressure to improve metrics and customer satisfaction. Cesario alleges that the Jewel district manager asked about his age. Another director alleges that younger store directors were transferred to stores with less difficulties. One plaintiff alleged that Jewel Food managers asked him about his retirement. The EEOC complaints began in late 2015. The plaintiffs retired or were fired and subsequently filed a lawsuit against their company.

Age discrimination is prohibited by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA). The ADEA prevents disparate treatment based on age for workers over 40 years old. However, plaintiffs who allege disparate treatment must establish that the adverse reactions wouldn’t have occurred but for age. Because none of the plaintiffs could specifically point to age as the only determination of their case, the court dismissed the case.

A word to wise businesses

Jewel Food was able to demonstrate their own actions in the case through careful documentation. Although there was no evidence that age played a factor in any discharge decision, Jewel Food could document their personnel decisions across the board. The plaintiffs also didn’t exhaust all administrative remedies. This led to the case being dropped.

Lesson learned – Make perssonel decisions based on performance and evidence. Don’t use age as a factor. Keep documentation to support your decisions.

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