Salespeople: Con Artists or Trusted Advisors?

by Adam Luckeroth, on Sep, 1, 2015

Step right up and get the only product you’ll ever need to cure what ails you. Even if you have one foot in the grave, this elixir will restore your body to its former thunder and make you as spry as you once were. Supplies are limited, so get yours before you lose out on this groundbreaking cure!


Isn’t it hard to believe that people used to fall for snake-oil sales pitches like this one? But old western movies that document frontier life are riddled with instances of the traveling salesman, going from town to town, peddling products that did nothing more than lighten peoples’ wallets.

Although times have changed, and most con artists don’t go about selling products using snake-oil pitches, people still get scammed out of their hard-earned dollars every day. Con men do their research to find out what drives their target demographic to part with their money. They use what they learn to create elaborate schemes that convince potential victims that they are legitimate.

Why the Apprehension?

Con games have come a long way since the traveling snake-oil salesman. Nowadays, they are so elaborate that it’s difficult for prospects to make the distinction between real salespeople and those trying to hustle them out of their money. You see it blasted across the news all the time. Some poor old lady trusted someone to remodel her home, invest her money or help her collect lottery winnings only to find out she’s the victim of a scam. The more creative and elaborate the scams get, the harder it is to recognize con men.

Everything from the way con artists walk, to the way they talk, to the way they dress is scripted to fool people into thinking they have their best interest at heart. The more elaborate con artist’s schemes are, the more difficult it is for potential victims to see through their games.

People are sick of being taken advantage of by scammers, and salespeople are tired of being labeled as cons, but some may not know the difference between real salespeople and con artists.

Set Yourself Apart and Remain Upstanding

Con artists make their money by deceiving people into thinking they have stumbled upon a great deal or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They do their best to convince potential victims that whatever product they are selling, or whatever investment opportunity they are offering is the answer to all of their prayers.


Needless to say, these con artists give those in sales a bad rap. It doesn’t help the way salesmen are portrayed in films. For instance the movie, Wolf of Wall Street, tells the story of a former Wall Street stockbroker named Jordan Belfort amassing a fortune by swindling people. Movies like Glengarry Glen Ross and Boiler Room also highlight salespeople as con men.

Films that feature con artists trying to pass as salespeople and news of corrupt salesmen do not help the reputable salesperson’s plight. In fact, it only makes potential buyers more distrustful than ever. When it comes to salespeople, prospects are so filled with distrust that they scatter when they see them coming.

Have you ever been in the position where you had to endure the shame of watching people grab their children and hightail it into the house when they see you coming? Or getting the phone slammed the second that you start your sales pitch? With the level of distrust for salespeople so high, it’s hard to believe the number of scam victims scattered across the nation.

Sales can be a tough job, and if you work in sales long enough, you are bound to get cursed out, run out or hit in the nose with somebody’s front door. Despite the challenges, you have to commit to holding yourself to a higher standard to prove to buyers that there are plenty of honorable salespeople working across industries.


Never hit below the belt. When potential customers seem apprehensive about your products or services, don’t be tempted to play on their emotional weaknesses. There is no need to dig into peoples’ medical history to try to convince them that they are dead ducks if they don’t buy what you are selling. Obviously as a salesperson, you’re trained to use specific tactics to sway buyers, but these tactics (if reputable) never include using threatening or hurtful life circumstances to force peoples’ hands.

Genuine salespeople do not use lowdown techniques to sell their products. This is something scum... ahem... scam artists do. Once you understand that the product or investment is not something that will benefit a potential buyer, move on.

As a reputable salesperson, you don’t need to rely on secrecy to close deals. In fact, you should encourage people to check your references and verify your affiliation with the company you work for. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful means of advertising, so go ahead and encourage your customers to spread the word about your products and services. The more people who know about them, the better your chance of generating sales.

Sales pros are easy to find. The longer con men remain in one place, the more likely their scams are to unravel. So they move around frequently to avoid getting caught. When people call a scam artist’s phone, it always goes to voicemail, and they never have a physical address or email address to give.

If potential buyers think you are ducking and dodging the question about where your office is located, or what your email address or phone number is, they will start to get suspicious. Legitimate salespeople rely on contact from potential customers to boost their sales. So the easier you are to contact, the better it is for your bottom line.

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Know when to move on. Good salespeople are not going to immediately walk away just because a prospect says that they're not interested. There is always the hope that you can convince the person that the product or investment is a good fit for their situation. At some point though, you may have to thank the prospect for their time, offer your time and attention in the future and move on.

Only a con artist will keep pushing and pushing and pushing until he intimidates or bullies a potential customer into caving into his demands.

Don’t Give in to Temptation

The pressure to hit target numbers and earn enough commission to pay the mortgage can weigh in, and tempt you into lying to customers just to close a sale. The danger in this is that once you do it the first time, subsequent times will be easier. One lie will lead to another, and then another. Before you know it, you’ll be no different than the fast-talking con men who prey on other people.

If you allow yourself to get sucked into the world of a crooked salesperson, your schemes will evolve and become more elaborate to keep people from getting suspicious. Going back to the Wolf of Wall Street, example. The protagonist, Jordan Belfort, did not set out to be corrupt, but when he started permitting himself to partake in certain behaviors, he was pulled into a life of corruption.

Scamming can cause you to lose the respect and trust of everyone you know.

Being an upstanding salesperson, the trusted advisor who always keeps their customer’s best interest at heart may not always be easy – especially when you are desperate to make sales due to company demands, quotas or financial pressures. No matter the circumstances, remember why you do what you do, to help others.

Always hold yourself to a higher standard, so you can represent yourself, as well as the rest of the sales community, in a positive light. Show the world that there are good people out there who pride themselves on acting as trusted sales advisors.

Image Credits: IMDB

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