A Salesman Played Manipulation Games and Lost the Deal

by | General Power Dynamics

A few months ago, an entrepreneur reached out to me looking to network (we happened to be in the same community).

We spoke on Zoom and got to know each other better.

Eventually, later in the interaction, he told me he’d doubled his income working with a high-performance coach (we’ll call him Charles).

When he introduced us, I got on a Zoom with Charles and he started asking some personal questions.

Knowing the psychological model he was using to assess my current performance level, I had a choice to make. I could:

  • Withhold personal information: and lose out on the potential value of his final analysis or
  • Give that personal information: and gain that potential value while also minimizing the chances I’m wasting my time on this call (mainly, if he waited until the end to tell me something like, “Well, I don’t know enough to give you a fully accurate assessment…”)

I didn’t care much if this guy knew my personal life and past. I saw it as a learning opportunity.

So, I opened up.

And, when he heard the awful parts, he didn’t have the social skills to say once, “I’m sorry to hear about that.”

At one point he tried to, looking down as if searching for the right words and saying, “That’s…that’s…”. I helped him, saying, “That’s not a story you hear every day :).” He said, “No,” agreeing, but then moved right back to the sales presentation (a bit too quickly, in my opinion).

I was glad I opened up. The final assessment was very valuable (and that’s not something you see often from a sales call these days).

But, he was also asking for $14,400 which, for me, is a lot to give someone I just met with poor social skills (and, at the time, no website).

So, I thanked him and let him know I’d probably join at a later date (which was true, I was surprised by the level of insight I got from his free value, so I  was happy to join sometime in the future and mainly wanted some more time to get more comfortable with the decision).

I offered for us to reconnect over another call to get to know each other better (he knew a lot about me by now and I knew virtually nothing about him, so on top of the money he was asking, I felt it was fair to have at least one normal chat before the sale).

He agreed and, since we’d been introduced over WhatsApp, he started texting me:

“K” is Charles.

After that last message, he follows up a month later (good timing, not pressuring me):

Notice I said, “I’d be happy to hop on another Zoom call to get to know you better,” and not, “…so we can get to know each other better.”

I think the latter format is more appropriate for 90% of situations, but I also felt that this is one of those exceptional cases where he already knows the 98% about me that I keep private (as well as the professional and surface-level stuff anyone can Google), so there’s not much more to know.

Therefore, while the former format does set a frame of “you’ll be doing most of the sharing now” (which I dislike), it’s also more honest (since there’s far less for me to talk about now about myself).

Now, here’s where things start to take more of a turn:

So, after that large sales text bubble, he wants to know my availability?

Seems like he’s looking for a close, not a (normal) conversation.

So, I ignore him.

And, he follows up with this:

For me, this confirmed my original feeling that he was probably just looking to reconnect for the sale.

And, there’s nothing wrong with that. But, that’s not what we agreed upon (we agreed on a regular, normal conversation), so now it feels like he only cares about me as a customer, not as a person. (It also felt like short-sightedness, only thinking of maybe one deal he could get out of me rather than the massive value I could give if he thought of the relationship. For example, I have an email list I might’ve promoted his free work to if it was a win-win which could’ve led to multiple sales for him. But, he made it seem like he only cared about getting my money which was a huge turn-off.)

So, I ignored that message too.

He recently reached out to me one-on-one, outside the group chat we were introduced in.

So, this time (admittedly annoyed), I give him a response and he proceeds to blow up my phone:

I don’t even remember how much I told him, but now I wish I didn’t tell him anything.

Lucio Buffalmano says on this case study to also note that the pathologizing—which is already very annoying in itself—is also very self-serving:

Pathologizing Manipulation: You are low trust, the problem is you (not me, who’s…doing what instead? Just helping you out of…pure selflessness? Insert “LOL” here)

Also if you accept his lead, then your only way to prove you’re improving and are fixing your “low trust issues” is to take that call with him, show yourself as more open…and show your openness to buying his product.

He’s not a top manipulator though, which may be either a good sign or the sign that he hasn’t grown his skill from very low-level manipulation to top ones.

The top ones would have tried to leverage the difficult past in far darker ways.

You can follow the discussion on this salesman’s manipulations in this thread.

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