Trust me, I’m in sales and marketing

If you tried to seal a deal with a handshake and the assurance that “my word is my bond”, how many people would ask for a signed contract and full terms and conditions?

Trust in the business world is, it seems, a casualty of our complex way of life.

I say this because every day consumers as well as businesses are bombarded with dubious offers. It is entirely acceptable for businesses to market and sell their products and services, and even use innovative and entertaining methods to do so, but does it anger you when someone tries to trick you into buying something or parting with your money for nothing?

Frauds and scams are nothing new, but their perpetrators now use modern technology and marketing methods. Some are illegal, while others are within the law, but could be considered deliberately misleading. Here are a few encountered in recent weeks:

Telephone travel surveys – I made one researcher laugh when I told her I wasn’t interested in answering her questions just to be offered a “cheesy holiday” to sell me a timeshare apartment;

Nigerian ‘419’ email scam – yet another opportunity to ‘earn’ 20% of $43.8 million dollars if I help a suspect official transfer the misappropriated money into my bank account;

Fake bank emails – trying to trick me into revealing my confidential banking details on a bogus bank web site;

A look-alike government communication – threatening the penalties incurred by breaking new employee grievance regulations, then offering to sell me a useful guide, which could be mistaken for an official publication, although cleverly not actually claiming to be one;

Dodgy sales calls – one encouraging me to pay for a listing in an internet directory, which doesn’t publish even publish its own address, and one asking for business sponsorship of a school booklet, which is never likely to appear.

These are just the tip of the iceberg. I haven’t even touched on the weird US emails, the calls from New York stockbrokers and other daily attempts to wheedle money out of unsuspecting individuals and businesses by any means possible.

Perhaps most of us think that no one falls for such obvious scams, but the truth is that people do again and again or else the perpetrators would not repeat their efforts.

What is sad is that the people behind these schemes have the creativity and determination necessary to succeed in business honsetly, but instead they risk prosecution, cause annoyance to others and erode what little trust remains in the business world.

At a time when there is so much trickery in sales and marketing – can we believe any utility supplier which claims that its energy prices are the lowest? – any business that advertises its products and services honestly by making realistic claims and actually delivers a quality product deserves to succeed.

Sometimes it is a relief to find that something we have bought is just satisfactory, that expectations have not been raised unnecessarily and that important exclusions have not been hidden away in the small print.

Is the thought of being able to believe a business’s sales pitch a fantasy? Or is it naïve to want marketing and sales practices that treat the customer with courtesy?

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